Automotive industry outlook: Software passes hardware on the fast lane

October 16, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automotive industry outlook: Software passes hardware on the fast lane
Car electronics are undergoing massive change. Where in the past new generations of hardware determined development, software will dominate in the future. The focus will be on vehicle data and its use.

The software will be the big "game changer" for the vehicle generations ahead: That was the tenor of the keynote speeches of several thought leaders of the automotive industry at ELIV (Electronics in Vehicles). At the prestigious congress, organized by the German engineering association VDI, top developers from the automotive industry are traditionally looking into each other's pots and pans. Three keynote speeches emphasized the importance of software not only for cars as such in the future, but also for providing new functions, accelerating development cycles and maintaining the competitiveness of the automotive industry. "Software is the game changer par excellence," said Uwe Michael, chief electronics developer at Porsche.

While the value share of mechanics in vehicles is declining and that of electronic hardware is stagnating, Michael sees the value share of software rising drastically in the future. Michael called for a rethink in the development departments of the automotive industry.  "We need open, service-oriented architectures with cross-company standardized APIs," says the Porsche innovator.

Siegmar Haasis, CIO of the R&D department at Daimler, emphasized the value of the data generated by the cars for the OEMs. However, the transformation of car manufacturers from mechanics-oriented companies to software- and data-driven organizations requires enormous investments. These investments can no longer be made by one company alone, Haasis explained. "We have to create alliances because we can't do it alone," he said. The control units of vehicles, dozens of which are now distributed in cars, are being replaced by "host computers" that are supposed to perform more comprehensive tasks. Once all this has been achieved, enormous strategic advantages are tempting: "Then we think about release cycles (for new functions) of days or even hours, not months," Haasis explained. 

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