Despite the challenges, automotive companies are investing in advancing their E/E architectures because they are becoming an enabler of new business models and new revenue streams. Wiring harness suppliers are expanding their offerings to cover design through manufacturing of vehicle wiring harnesses. Likewise, systems integration suppliers are providing a complete service for the implementation of vehicle subsystems developed from a combination of constraints and requirements defined by the OEM.
Meanwhile, OEMs are also making large investments to bring key areas of development, such as software, in-house. Volkswagen recently announced a new software development group that will create basic uniform software functions across the company’s brands, and eventually consist of five-thousand software experts and engineers (Automotive News, 2019). With their own software teams, OEMs can improve the ownership experience with routine software updates to improve system performance and fix latent issues. The OEM may also offer entirely new functionalities that customers can purchase, thus extending the life or increasing the performance and value of their vehicle.
Amidst large-scale technological change, established OEMs must innovate and differentiate via the E/E architecture. This means creating architectures that are scalable across vehicle platforms, flexible to future technologies, and reliable over extended lives in the field. It also means beating competitors to market with an attractive and advanced vehicle platform (Figure 2). To innovate at the pace required by today’s market; however, OEMs need to evolve their design processes to integrate across domains, automate design tasks, and provide robust data coherency.
Automotive manufacturers and suppliers will face several challenges as they adapt to new consumer demands and advancing technologies.
Consumers want increased freedom to customize their vehicles through optional features without paying a premium price. OEMs are attempting to provide this customization on a mass scale, as their business still relies on making and selling large volumes of vehicles. At the same time, OEMs try to re-use bill-of-materials (BOM) across vehicle platforms to reduce costs in design and manufacturing, which is contradictory to customization. Thus, the greater number of potential vehicle configurations that exist, the more expensive it becomes to manufacture each car. It also becomes more challenging to track and coordinate architectural components, such as the correct version of ECU or software build, as well as corresponding connectors and terminals across the vehicle platform, enabling functional connectivity between devices.