How Manufacturers Are Driving Automotive Innovation

How Manufacturers Are Driving Automotive Innovation

Guest Commentary Manufacturers Driving Automotive Innovation

RAFIQ SOMANI is Country Manager - South Asia Pacific & Middle East at ANSYS.


The automotive industry in the future will see and undergo radical changes. As autonomous cars gain prevalence over the next 25 years, the market will see transition from B-to-C to B-to-B. Individuals will no longer own vehicles and car fleets like Carline, Ola, Uber and ‘Robo-taxi’ will emerge.

Innovation is a constant buzzword in the industry, directly implying the critical competency needed to transform our vehicles into smart machines. That will be a definitive trend incorporating numerous systems such as guidance (GPS), adaptive cruise control, infotainment, and automatic parallel parking, amongst others.

The one thing that will not change, however, is the need for engineering simulation to design cars of the future. Innovation’s indispensable requirement in meeting new government standards that regulate fuel efficiency or emissions and the market demand for new technologies like electric or hybrid cars will need the physical testing of an autonomous vehicle to current standards, and it would need more than 1 bn road-testing miles over 100 years!

Needless to say, the consumers and the auto industry cannot wait that long. Let us take a look at the key focus areas of manufacturers and design engineers for driving automotive innovation.


At present, we see automotive systems being far more complex than it ever was. No one could have imagined just a decade ago how smarter and autonomous functionalities could be introduced into a vehicle. More and more cameras, radars and other sophisticated electronics are being incorporated with advance sensors and electronics that not only control a vehicle’s speed and position, but also its entertainment and communications technologies.

Today, more than 60 % of a car’s cost accounts for its advanced electronics and software systems. It is now essential for all automotive systems to work together with complete reliability, controlled by tens of millions of lines of software code. This is a challenge for automotive engineers too since many of these systems and components are sourced from different suppliers. Engineers are tasked with creating robust and fail-safe systems architecture to ensure the system’s consistent operation lasting over time. Which is why in 2003, a network of leaders in the worldwide automotive industry came together to create AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) — a set of standards that define an open software architecture for automotive electronics, whose objectives are modularity and configurability. It allows for integration of electronic control units (ECU) with configurability through a layered software architecture. And it enables function reuse from different suppliers. Such a model-based approach to automotive system and embedded software design promises a range of benefits, including a significant increase in the productivity of engineering staff. For such scenarios, the ANSYS SCADE model-based solution for generating control software code is now being applied in the global automotive industry. In the race to perfect autonomous vehicles, the new level of speed and efficiency enabled by such tools can help separate the leaders from the followers.


Simulation has proven to be the key to solving issues upfront in the designing phase. The fine tuning of the auto body and chassis can reduce fuel consumption if done in the design process with simulation. For example, KTM Technologies have incorporated radical composites into a sports car that called for fresh analysis, new design and optimisation technologies in order to strike a fine balance between requirements, costs and performance, while exceeding customer requirements. Leveraging simulation early in the design process helps avoid expenditure associated with multiple prototypes, reworking and tooling changes.


The auto industry was one of the early adopters of the simulation technology. Applying simulation to real-world complex physical interactions help evaluate value added design trade-offs, deal with challenges to reduce engine emissions and improve fuel efficiency. For instance, Magneti Marelli models the complete internal combustion engine (ICE) cycle virtually, reducing the time required to develop innovative components. Toyota’s simulation approach enables it to evaluate more design alternatives for transmission cooling performance in the early stages of the product development process.


The companies that will dominate the future automotive business will be the ones, who bring more fuel-efficient, less expensive HEVs to market sooner. Cost and time are driven out through engineering simulation in the development cycle. The R&D team designing the Chevrolet Volt, for example, used CFD for faster airflow analysis with more geometric detail, which led to meeting aggressive range and fuel economy targets. In today’s connected cars, electronic control units (ECUs) that manage various systems are governed by complex software, which is susceptible to glitches. General Motors, for example, is leading a cross-industry team in developing an efficient cooling system for HEV battery packs. Using system-level simulation tools to design lithium-ion systems and to accurately predict their performance is a vital component of the R&D strategy.


The market for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is on the verge of major developments. Automakers are rapidly incorporating newer technologies and systems designed to provide improved safety, avoid accidents, improve reaction times and enhance the vehicles response to hostile conditions. ADAS involves a complicated control-loop that must function flawlessly over the millions of scenarios that autonomous vehicles encounter.

Simulating ADAS involves drive-scenario modelling, sensor physics modelling, sensor data fusion, human-machine interfaces and more. For example, the German Aerospace Center is applying virtual modelling to correct flaws and gain an understanding early in the design process, which has substantially reduced the time required to produce vehicle automation systems. Also, simulation allows for accurate what-if analysis to determine potential EMI issues caused by electronic communications devices.


Today’s renaissance innovators are dealing with great technical complexity. The car of the 21st century must be fuel-efficient and robust, technologically savvy and affordable, and manufactured quickly on the line without defects. As vehicles become progressively more electronic, engineers must take a systems-level approach that considers not only how a specific component — such as a new powertrain – will perform, but also its impact on other components. In the race to innovate, simulation enables engineers to road-test their designs in a risk-free virtual environment, where anything is possible.