Updated: Dec 5, 2022
By the year 2020, an entire new generation will have grown up with mobile phones, high-speed broadband, cloud services and apps for everything at their fingertips. This is mainly due to the ‘digitalization’ of services fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT), which has the power to disrupt every industry and everything around us. It will completely change the way we live, play, work, pay, travel and drive. As connected and software-defined cars become common on urban roads, there will be a considerable number of software devices installed in the vehicles. IoT will offer a stimulus to the car industry by connecting and making use of data through the cloud for the 250 million cars on American roads.
The Convergence of Automotive and IoT
IoT is rapidly transforming the automotive industry from connected cars to autonomous cars, enabling new consumption and monetization models such as car sharing, ride sharing, usage-based insurance, data marketplace and others. Through this convergence, graphical displays, touchscreens, computer graphics, voice control and human gestures are quickly becoming the car’s interface, with electronic sensors and algorithms determining much of the driving experience. The software-driven features coming down the road have new auto infotainment apps but brand-new features such as personalization, Advanced Driving Assistance System (ADAS) and extensions for car sharing, region-specific adaptations, car-to-home integration, new vehicle safety options and remote mobile control have become a reality because of connectivity and IoT. The increasing scale of data from the vehicle and connected devices represents a remarkable revenue opportunity for the players that can provide insights from data, the value from transactions and new innovative aftermarket services.
Commonalities between Connected Cars and Smartphones
We are constantly updating the apps and the software of our smartphones for various reasons – bug fixes, better security, app improvements, software enhancements and so on. Because smartphones and tablets are mobile and follow us everywhere, it is easy for phone makers to send these update requests. We are compliant because we want the latest and greatest features our phones offer us and are willing to “follow the rules.” We log into our home or work Wi-Fi and, presto, our phones and tablets perform even better for us. Today, the focus is not just on the software needs of mobile gadgets, cars are becoming the next extension of digitally connected devices in our lives. In the mobile and telecom industries, “software” is never a noun, it is a verb, a continuous evolving process through the next release, the next update, and so on. The previous automotive model has been – “sell the car, and it is done.” But today, a typical connected car can have more than 100 million lines of code. When there are so many lines of code, a certain number of bugs are bound to be present. We need to have the capability to deliver the next set of software updates that would not only fix bugs but also provide software and security improvements.
As vehicles take on more electronics and engage with machine learning, behavior learning, ADAS and the like, such features will see continuous improvement in algorithms and software. Putting these improvements to use will require Over-The-Air (OTA) software updates, and automotive grade OTA is the foundation that this practice needs to thrive and survive. Without OTA, there is no connected car security, there is no autonomous car, there is no driverless car because if you cannot improve it using OTA technology, you now have a situation where car owners must go to the dealer and everybody will be out of sync. Take for example, recalls. A study found that around 25 percent of those who receive notice of a recall do not get the repair done, so how do you make sure that vehicles comply with the latest government regulations with regard to security, privacy, certification of interoperability and making sure they have the latest firmware/software? This requires a foundational technology like OTA software and firmware updating capability.
The Era of the Software Defined Car
The Software Defined Car can enable a whole host of revolutionary changes and stretch the adaptability of the car all the way to the end of its physical lifespan — new innovations and feature improvements to meet changing consumer demands the entire time the car is in service.
The Software Defined Car is not just about downloading new apps to the car. It is about letting the car’s function be defined by software components that stitch together the environmental sensors, safety systems, mechanical linkages and visual interfaces to build a vehicle where the function can be redefined after it has shipped. This enables new business models. For example, car-sharing services could allow members to store their preferences in the cloud and then download them to the vehicle, not just streaming music or apps but the way the car drives or how much horsepower it has. The OEM can offer its customers an upgrade for higher horsepower or more mileage per battery charge for an upgrade fee, just like Tesla does.