Will 2020 be The/A Year of Major Change for the Automotive Industry?

Well to start with a change this blog is going to start having content. We kick off 2020 with an overhaul the VLAB Works website to make it possible to learn about the product … but that isn’t why you are here.

It is entirely possible that someone has predicted that every year since 1886, when Karl Benz patented the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, would be the year for revolutionary change in the automotive industry. 2020 is certainly staring out looking to be another banner year for change. CES started the year with announcements from the useful Bosch Smart Sun Visor and Harman Stereos for Electric Cars to the fantastic Hyundai Flying Car and Segwey wheelchair for airports.

Great car gadgets are fun to dream about, but they probably aren’t as indicative of a major change in the industry as the self-driving cars and the consumer electronics as cars on display. While self-driving is often not quite ready for prime time and it is entirely possible that Sony won’t actually start selling the Vision-S at your local electronics store, these do suggest that major companies are ready to upset the status quote of the industry.

Taking a step back from the hype we can start to consider what it would mean for these concepts to become product available to the consumer. While a smart sun visor might not look much like a self-driving card, both are indicative of the shift from hardware based products to software defined products. If you don’t see this a major change go ask Motorola if streaming music has affected the number of car radios they sold this year.

Superficially, these changes simply suggest that a computer science degree is still a good idea. This simplistic view ignores the entry of new players into the auto industry many of whom have a totally different set of expectations about how you build software. While all will have to comply with safety regulations, few developers used to writing apps for cell phones will find Classic AUTOSAR on a 32bit ECU an obvious choice for their next project. Further, many of these developers will have had formal training in security and may find the unauthenticated nature of CAN Bus somewhat odd.

It is unlikely that the preferences of a bunch of young engineers will be enough to overturn the established relationships of the automotive supply chain and shift the industry to high performance multi-core applications processors. It is more likely that their preferences will add to the pressure for higher performance from ADAS and lower weight and power from the CAFE standards to begin pushing the industry towards transformation.

Before this transition from dedicated ECUs to general purpose applications processors can happen the industry must address the question of how to maintain safety. While AUTOSAR Adaptive is making good progress the industry would do well to review the similar transformation of the aviation industry. In the transformation from Federated Electronics to Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) the aviation industry chose to create the highly complex (read expensive) ARINC 653 system to ensure safety. While this system is probably not idea for automotive applications the underlying principals of how hypervisors and separation can be used to build safe and reliable systems should be considered.

No mater how and when the industry goes through this transition it is clear that there will be substantial new software projects employing new techniques and concepts, likely on new hardware. For all of these changes I invite you to consider how VLAB can help speed your transformation and reduce the costs on your path to safe, secure, and efficient automotive software and systems.

Thanks to Gear Patrol for their great CES coverage.

Posted in Opinion and tagged , , .