Automotive software, quo vadis?

Automotive software has always been a differentiating factor in vehicle development. In the meantime, however, the software has become a key success factor. The challenges have increased accordingly and competencies and capacities in the vehicle industry are constantly being extended and expanded.

At the vehicle level, the megatrends of electro-mobility and autonomous driving could not be realized without suitable software or software platforms. In the field of information technology, the main topics are "Over-the-Air-Updates" (OTA), artificial intelligence (AI), connectivity and user interface (HMI). With these functionalities and objectives, security aspects in particular become a central task.

Where the car used to be a self-contained unit, updates, interventions and data access took place exclusively in the special environments of authorized workshops, data exchange and communication now take place anywhere and at any time via networks that can also be used by other devices. New functions even require interaction with other devices; the smartphone or the charging station are examples here.

Keyword smartphone: In 2020, around 6 times more smartphones were sold than cars (sources: Smartphones, Pkw). Numerous control units are built into modern vehicles, so the factor turns in favor of the vehicles when all control units are considered. The connection of smartphones in the vehicle is now standard. Be it via Apple Carplay or Android Auto, the software on the cellular devices has created prerequisites and standards. And the automotive industry is meanwhile supporting that.

Now the automobile manufacturers and their suppliers traditionally each have their own software and operating systems. On the other hand, if you look at the smartphone market, two operating systems dominate the global market: As of March 2021, Google's Android with a market share of approx. 72% and Apple's iOS with approx. 27% market share (source Statcounter GlobalStats). Together that's 99%! The situation is similar in the area of desktop computers, Windows with a market share of approx. 76% and Apple OS X with approx. 17% (Source). Together that's 99%! The situation is similar in the area of desktop computers, Windows with a market share of approx. 76% and Apple OS X with approx. 17% (Source).

How will the software in the automobile develop? Are the approaches to create common standards such as AUTOSAR and Open Automotive Alliance (for Android integration) sufficient? Or has the era of proprietary software become obsolete? There are already articles like "Android Automotive OS: Is Google still giving automakers a chance? (Android Automotive OS: Lässt Google Autoherstellern noch eine Chance?)“

It is clear that the vehicle as a self-contained unit will no longer exist in the future. Connectivity is a must. The car will certainly not be a smartphone with wheels, but when I am in the car, I will no longer need a smartphone, the user interface has to take over all functions. This also turns the car into a fuel, charging or credit card. And since a smartphone can already do this today, the question is whether it has to be redeveloped. Customization for smartphones is common practice. In the case of cars, it will be necessary in a similar way; colors, interior options and wheels will not be sufficient in future.

Just as there is a market for third-party applications for smartphones, this will also develop for vehicles. No manufacturer will be able to permanently ignore the future added value for the user of the vehicle. And such third-party applications can only be implemented with one or very few standardized interfaces. A gigantic challenge that can only be mastered with joint efforts.


Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer: Man tut es Erich Kästner

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