The automotive industry is witnessing ever-increasing content of electronics over the past few decades, and continues to grow at a rapid clip. Electronics and software have emerged as the core of almost all development work around a vehicle, thus necessitating the requirement for appropriate means to create and improve such systems in a time-bound environment, in a precise manner.
This effectively means that newer forms of electronic systems, which can be customised for each single customer’s specific requirement to offer unique user experiences, need to be developed in shorter times, with more first-time-right results. OEMs and Tier I suppliers have their own design and development teams looking into the needs of their respective end-customers on the type of software updates and electronic systems requirements. However, these systems themselves have a backend that is often developed on platform-based software supplied by engineering service companies.
Companies such as Sasken Technologies and GlobalLogic are offering tools that enable companies (OEMs as well as suppliers) to work on existing electronic systems as well as new areas around in-vehicle-infotainment, telematics, vehicle connectivity and autonomous driving. Auto Tech Review spoke to Calvin Nichols, Vice-President & Head, Automotive Business, Sasken Technologies Ltd (Above), and Puneet Gupta, CTO, GlobalLogic (Below), on separate occasions. The conversations revolved around the way in which automotive electronic systems and features are being developed as well as areas, where such development is being put to use for unique feature offerings to customers.
AREAS REQUIRING DEVELOPMENT
There is a move within the automotive industry from being automotive-centric towards the development of mobility solutions for users. Nichols observed that automotive customers are looking at progress being witnessed in the areas of infrastructure, mass transit and connectivity to everything as a basis for development of their own systems and services. Meanwhile, GlobalLogic CTO Puneet Gupta said it provides design-led, digital product engineering services, and added that traditional IT services models where enterprise software was built does not fulfil the requirements of new automotive systems.
Autonomous Driving (AD) and self-driving vehicles are being seen as an important part of future mobility. From a global perspective, a number of vehicles with Level 2 AD systems are already present, with Level 3 now being incorporated, noted Nichols. The challenge he feels will be in the migration from Level 3 to Level 4 AD, especially since self-driving aids and technologies will be at the forefront for the primary cause of road safety.
There is a requirement to go towards open standards like that of the mobile industry, in order to enable quicker development cycles in the area of connectivity of the entire industry, said Gupta. A key trend is that the Apples and Googles of the world are finding their way into the cars, primarily into the entertainment and application space, he pointed out. However, even the on-board software is moving into open platforms. Therefore, the open standards can address the requirement for vehicles to be connected to the exterior network including the infrastructure, other vehicles, or insurance companies.
Modularity of systems within the automotive spectrum, be it safety or infotainment-focussed in nature, also provides necessary tools to develop such modules. An example of such modularity is the dashboard of a car, which displays a large amount of information that includes the performance characteristics as well as entertainment features. Sasken provides features that enable the convergence of various sensors, networks and control units to populate into a viewable interface. This collated information can be provided to the end-user in a customised format that offers data demanded in a specific interface.
Similarly, the evolution of user experience design is something of a priority for customers designing how an infotainment system should manifest itself, noted Gupta. This would enable companies to offer their customers more personalised connectivity offerings to devices like smartphones. The development of such custom features leverage new-age technologies that enable the machine to collate data, analyse it and then render relevant output, Gupta noted.
The increased load of electronics and the method of various individual components & systems coming together to perform collectively require these systems to be updated rather regularly. It would be near impossible to bring in vehicles to a physical location to carry out updates individually. A precise alternative to this is the process of over-the-air (OTA) updates, which carries out the process of updating the codes and software in an electronic system remotely. While OTA updates solve the issue of keeping systems updated in a timely manner, it does bring up the issue of security. Sasken Technologies and GlobalLogic are also working towards providing customers with a safer form of cloud connectivity so as to avoid any form of risk, in terms of cybersecurity or data leak. Data security is now being looked upon as an important part of future mobility, especially with so many features of mobility being virtual and connected.
NEW-AGE TECHNOLOGIES PLAY LEADING ROLE
The development of electronic systems and components, more so when compared to other segments of the automotive industry make use of next-generation technologies of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Artificial/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and others. Since the electronics functions in a vehicle are expected to read the user and learn their preferences and choices, it is only natural that these components are equipped with such new-age technologies.
Nichols said Sasken has set up a Centre of Excellence (CoE) that works on technologies like AI and ML to support its customers in offering solutions customised for their end-users. There is growth expected around AD over the next 10 years, and the CoE has been set up to support customers with their AD system developments, he added. It also provides its Tier I and Tier II customers with the support required by them in developing new functions to showcase to OEMs for new mobility solutions.
Solutions such as analytics, ML, security data on cloud, and building APIs are important for developments of digitalisation at large, Gupta said. However, in terms of new-age technologies, AI is the biggest theme. Adaptive learning into the automation of systems will facilitate machines to learn the behaviour of users better, thereby resulting in improved performance in AD and vehicle customisation. He further said IoT is the second most important area for electronics within the automotive space, especially with the middle layer gaining importance. This IoT middle layer assists in collecting various data and analysing it to predict the possible outcomes, and finally deciding the necessary actions to be taken.
Sasken believes the major roadmap for the automotive industry will be in the evolution of getting connected and autonomous vehicles from a Level 1 and 2, where they are at today to a Level 5. As part of that roadmap, there will be numerous levels of integration and convergence of systems, which at one point may have been separate, noted Nichols. Sasken is focussing on this point of integration which will be instrumental in helping companies migrate into new areas. It will also employ new technologies that its own partners offer, to address the solutions necessary for development of electronic systems for future mobility requirements.
Technology, design and innovation are the main factors that help companies make products that differentiate them from competitors, and this is true in the case of electronic systems. The large number of electronic assistance, entertainment and information systems in vehicles and their unique offerings are used to draw customers towards brands. The development of such electronics requires backend development tools that are specific to their challenges of offering unique user experiences and secure connectivity. Engineering service providers offering such tools for quick product development are the ones experiencing increased demand for their services in times when the electronics content is only going to increase drastically.
TEXT: Naveen Arul