Delivering the Promise of the Software-Defined Car

Delivering the Promise of the Software-Defined Car


As we continue towards a more connected and autonomous future, designing a car is increasingly about creating quality experiences; and software is at the center of enabling that reality. Driven by intelligent software, these experiences must make going from point A to point B safe, secure, efficient, entertaining and convenient, and ultimately, autonomously. The current acceleration of new technologies is leading to unprecedented changes for the automotive industry.

With all this change, a new reality arises for OEMs —  they are racing to keep up with demands for technology in which they traditionally have limited expertise. A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) discuss how OEMs face a “double whammy” in the years ahead because margins will decline while growth areas will require new investments. It estimates that total car sales volume will stall by 2025 as self-driving, on-demand models emerge. Additionally, profits are slated to grow in data and connectivity pools – which creates both a challenge and an opportunity.

Being able to effectively manage software and ensure it lasts throughout the lifecycle of the vehicle is key. So the question becomes: How do you keep up with consumer expectations and continue upgrading old technology without constantly adding cost, weight, power consumption, and complexity that eats away at your profits?

The answer involves taking ownership of software to deliver superior in-vehicle experiences. OEMs will need to begin seeing the car as a deployment platform for new software innovations. This translates to:

  • Becoming faster and more innovative in creating software-driven services delivering great experiences
  • Delivering more nimble and secure ways to update software, without inconvenience or disruption to consumers
  • Breaking software to hardware dependencies, such that software and hardware can be introduced and updated independently
  • Introducing new technologies/software that doesn’t require adding more hardware, thereby minimizing additional cost, weight, power consumption, and complexity
  • Finding new ways to increase scalability, lower costs, and reduce timeframes between releases

Simply put, OEMs must prioritize owning their software strategy and the consumer experience, and be able to manage this process over the entire lifecycle of the vehicle, from ideation to end of life. This means thinking about the implementation of software in a way that lets the OEM fully control the inputs and the outputs. And, the way to do that is by focusing on four core capabilities: the ability to abstract, consolidate, reuse, update, and extrapolate or “ACRUE.”

ABSTRACT: Minimize hardware and software dependencies; maintain supply chain integrity

CONSOLIDATE: Lower overall system cost; use less weight and more security

REUSE: Reduce costs of deployment; faster time to market,

UPDATE: Rapid response to software threats; efficient development

EXTRAPOLATE: Learn from other domains

Software has emerged as the common control point for the three top trends impacting the auto industry—connectivity, electrification, and the rise of autonomous vehicles. This means there is no longer any question that software must become a central focus of the OEM business model. The ACRUE model addresses this reality. I’ll be exploring each of the ACRUE capabilities more in-depth in subsequent blog posts.

Step one in the ACRUE model is to recognize that consumer demands for better digital experiences in the vehicle will continue in an upward spiral. The time to start preparing a software strategy in order to stay competitive is now.