After completing his master’s degree in Computer Science and working for around 5 years as a software specialist, Augustin Onaciu joined Fortech in May 2011. Given his technical know-how and management expertise, Augustin has been a transformation enabler for several companies.
He is responsible for long-lasting partnerships with many of Fortech’s strategic clients. Augustin is a trusted advisor, focused on delivering client success by translating business requirements into effective technical solutions.
1. Could you explain your perspective on the significance of automotive software in the context of today’s automotive industry?
Traditionally, automotive software development was the process of designing, creating, testing, and maintaining the software that controls the vehicle. Automotive software development has become increasingly complex as vehicles become more connected and automated. For this reason, understanding the foundations of automotive software development is imperative to design according to the ecosystem’s latest requirements.
The core of automotive software can be divided into three categories: control systems, infotainment systems, and driver assistance systems. I am confident that these three categories will remain relevant. Additionally, software-driven product and service innovations inherent in this approach will become future market differentiators.
We need to look at automotive software from a broader perspective of mobility, which promises nothing short of seamless, automated, personalized travel on demand. The car of the future won’t be a product anymore, it will be a service we’ll all use; and according to consumer trends today, we opt for services based on the experiences they offer us.
This is why I believe that as cars become more software-defined and interconnected, their value transcends their physical attributes to embrace the increasingly rich and diverse web of services that users can access.
OEMs and Tier-1 companies will have to transform into data-driven technology companies to keep up with mobility trends. Their future success will be dependent on rapid integration of new technologies, something we are able to achieve as a pure-play digital service provider.
2. When implementing automotive software, what are the main challenges that stakeholders face?
Passenger cars already use more lines of code then commercial aircrafts, and this is going to increase exponentially in the years to come. In the current software-defined vehicle landscape, OEMs working independently may find it very challenging to master embedded software development, such as autonomous driving, which is but one aspect of the software-defined vehicle landscape. Additionally, Tier-1 suppliers, who hold strong market positions as integrated system suppliers, may not effectively respond to OEM software-related challenges.
When partnering with OEMs, digital services companies must negotiate and navigate some important roadblocks:
- Quality and safety requirements which need immense verification and validation efforts due to very strict industry-specific, regulation-driven requirements.
- Software value visibility in vehicle’s bill of material – The typical software pricing approach in other industries, consumer electronics for example, works from the top down with a value-based pricing strategy. End customers pay for a product or a feature. In the case of a car there is no clear line between what are considered strategic core areas and commodities.
- Safety and security – How do OEMs and their digital service partners keep safe and secure cars with software with over 100 billion lines of code (and continuously growing)?
- Maintenance – implies keeping software “live” during a car’s lifetime. In the case of cars with a life span of 8-10 years, how do we keep software up to date, secure and aligned with technological advances and best practices? Who assumes responsibility for maintaining the software and the associated costs that increase exponentially?
- Data deluge – Autonomous vehicles generate large amounts of data. At the higher end of Autonomy Levels (currently the most advanced OEM is at Level 3 out of 5) the total sensor bandwidth will be approx. 40 GB/s and approx. 19 terabytes per hour. The question is, how do we manage this kind of data?
As with everything, progress is not without challenges like these. Especially in this case, I believe that through the creative application of technology, we can maximize the value generated. When we discuss automotive players, including OEMs, Tier-1s, and pure-play digital service companies, software innovation in the context of mobility is the strategic direction for enterprise development.
When we discuss automotive players, including Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Tier-1s, and pure-play digital service companies, software innovation in the context of mobility is the strategic direction for enterprise development.
3. What is the role of a tech partner in automotive software development, and how are the industry’s key players handling technology innovation?
A technical partner providing digital services, including automotive software development, must find an opportunity in the software value chain for the software-driven vehicle.
Complex automotive software development is often the result of collaboration among multiple teams within a company or across numerous, different suppliers.
To enhance the integration of concurrent developing outcomes from all these parties and ensure reusability across projects, software modularization is a practical solution. Virtualization alongside building micro-service-based architectures are widespread solutions in the IT industry to realize this.
It is true that OEMs are moving away from traditional old-style companies relying on waterfall methodologies and V-model development processes. But they have also benefited greatly in terms of innovation and actualization of SDLC by embracing and adopting Agile development brought on by their software technical partners in many cases. However, Agile development is not the terminal point.
Automotive software modules should go through the necessary test, integration, and release cycles to become deliverables. This is called Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/ CD). This approach makes updates to software design more flexible and development quality more reliable and controllable while drastically shortening release cycles.
There are other sweet spots that digital service companies, acting as tech partners for OEMs, can follow to bring value and speed up innovation:
- Capability development – focused on joint ventures of strategic partnerships ensuring OEMs benefit from latest SW innovation trends and that software value in visible in the vehicles bill.
- Core Business focus – tech partners can help OEMs optimize their operations through service-based offerings or development tools offering to strengthen business focus and reduce costs.
- Commodity – mostly in the infotainment systems there’s space for digital service companies to provide products and solutions relying on license pricing models.
- Increase flexibility of workforce – as OEMs are looking for growing without hiring new internal employees, tech partners can provide a significant array of software development service on a time and material basis to extend OEM workbenches in a flexible and scalable manner.
4. Considering the skills and mindset of the team, what do you think it takes to successfully deliver value to enterprises in automotive?
Value is driven by many factors.
Considering that we are dealing with complex multi-vendor environments where automotive software is developed, we believe the most important components of driving value are a right mindset, a principles-based working ethic, and finally, relevant experience, a portfolio of capabilities, proven expertise, a team of skilled individuals, and co-location.
A leading digital service provider must align with OEM business needs, understand the value for end customers and provide the appropriate tools, platforms, and working methods that can improve software development efficiency in a significant and holistic manner.
A practical, qualitative, and efficient environment setup will be integral to the future success of automotive software development teams.
5. In the near future, what trends are you anticipating will be prominent in the automotive industry?
The current innovation pace is set to radically transform the driving experience, from how we access and operate a vehicle, to how it interacts with its users and environment. In terms of predictions, I believe that the following trends will gain momentum.
- Advanced software defined vehicle – The software in a vehicle will be as important as its logo. Data collected from millions of vehicles will be used to provide more intelligent mobility services within a vast automotive ecosystem. Data exchange will facilitate the creation of applications for smart traffic infrastructure, vehicle lifecycle management and digital twins for autonomous vehicles.
- On Demand upgrades – In the same way that the software on our phones is regularly updated with upgraded versions that include new features, apps, security enhancements, and bug fixes, the software on the car of the future will renew itself. To also help with one of the previously mentioned challenges – Software value visibility in a vehicle’s bill of material – OEMs are seeking to monetize software upgrades to unlock enhanced performance in some cars or pay-per-use services – for example heated seats.
- Car ownership – The way we live and work has changed. In this context, traditional car ownership models can become inflexible and expensive due to their high responsibility. An alternative approach would be to look at cars as services, paying for them only as needed. And many models are picking up steam, including subscription-based, car-sharing, long-term rental, vehicle hire, peer-to-peer rental services, etc.
- Predictive maintenance – The car will schedule an appointment with a mechanic before we know it has a problem. Using connectivity integrated into vehicles, IoT will allow vehicle diagnosis in real-time, permitting for the planning of increasingly convenient and complex predictive maintenance schedules. Mechanics will receive diagnostic information in advance so that they can order the parts that are needed.
- Hydrogen based cars – Current challenges with the cost of EV batteries, waiting times, issues with scaling charging infrastructure and lack of integration for EV batteries in the circular economy are already impacting adoption. Testing of hydrogen fuel cells has shown promising results and as vehicles become more software-defined, the automotive industry will likely develop alternative fuel sources more extensively in the future.
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