Demand for personalisation, connectivity driving SDV shift
Software Defined Vehicles that will bring an unprecedented shift in vehicle architectures will transform them from mechanical to personalised digital devices.
Software Defined Vehicles or SDVs are the next megatrend in the global automotive industry, which is already witnessing a major transformation with the increasing foray of electric vehicles, or EVs as the leading technology to enable a shift to a more sustainable future. While the EV transition is bringing about major changes in the automotive value chain that is getting reconfigured globally, the advent of SDVs is set to herald a colossal shift.
SDVs, which would see a vehicle getting designed around the software, will mark the shift of its core architecture, away from a mechanical entity. Satish Sundaresan, Managing Director, Elektrobit India says “Instead of designing the vehicle around a mechanical setup, SDVs will reimagine the vehicle, which would now be designed around the software, with a platform concept in mind.”
“OEMs will define the respective features to be offered on different models, and connect them with a common software platform. It is then a matter of making changes to the software to extend or expand the vehicle functionalities,” he explained.
Concurring with Sundaresan’s views, Nikhil Iyer, VP, Software Engineering, Digital Cockpit, Harman India, said, “The concept of SDV is no longer a futuristic idea, but it is happening right now, and bringing about a huge change in vehicle architectures. Software is increasingly eating up hardware in a vehicle, and more functionalities are getting enabled through software.”
“While it is exciting and opens several new avenues, it also increases the complexity, and therefore, the industry must find ways to manage that. A modern car currently has around 100 million lines of code, whereas an airplane does about 50 million. Over the next few years, we are talking about an ecosystem with a staggering 500 million lines of code in an automobile,” pointed out Iyer.
As per Sundaresan, the growing consumer demand for personalisation and connectivity is the key driver of this mammoth shift towards SDVs, which perfectly complement the consumer needs, and allow them to seamlessly carry their digital lifestyles into their vehicles. “SDVs will be completely consumer focused, and allow for an unprecedented technology evolution in the automotive industry."
“The vehicle will transform into a digital device in such a way that it will allow consumers to seamlessly move between their cars, phones, and homes, while carrying the same digital life experience,” Sundaresan added.
“The consumer has become more tech savvy, and demanding, and is now asking for more life-size experiences within the automobile. Vehicle owners want their commutes to be more enriching, be it through entertainment, information dissemination, or by enabling productivity on the go. Therefore, the car must recognise their needs, and smartly address them by virtue of hyper personalisation,” explained Iyer.
“The concept of SDVs will also entail the car to seamlessly integrate into the rest of the ecosystem being created by the IoT disruption, which is blurring boundaries between a home and an automobile, which is increasingly becoming the third living space. The whole concept of the automobile becoming smarter with the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) to offer customised solutions for individual customers based on their needs, is coming to life,” he added.
Increased collaboration, shift of control
The advent of SDVs is also set to drive increased collaboration within the automotive ecosystem, that will expand significantly with more stakeholders, including telecom operators, software, and technology companies, and hardware providers joining the space, where vehicle manufacturers, and component makers have historically been the key pillars of this globally intertwined industry. Partnerships and alliances will be crucial to navigate the complex landscape of software development, connectivity as well as data management. According to Iyer, “It gives an opportunity to everyone, as no single player would be able to offer a full solution. Therefore, we will see collaborations happening at a greater scale, and with service-oriented architectures demanding the need for interoperability, multiple suppliers and stakeholders will work together to realise complex features in vehicles.”
Moreover, while the automotive industry has traditionally been an OEM-driven sector with several global players making their own engines, and chassis, and realising a strong control over the supply chain, the foray of SDVs is likely to see the control shift away from automotive OEMs. With heightened levels of electronics and semiconductors inside an SDV, the chip manufacturers are going to emerge as the key determinants of the industry’s trajectory in the future. According to Sundaresan, “Automakers, Tier 1 suppliers, telecom players, and chip manufacturers are going to be the key stakeholders of this transition, and the chip manufacturers are going to determine what chips are going to be used inside vehicles. So, the control is slowly shifting from automotive OEMs to the chip manufacturers, and the balance of the game is changing.”
Sundaresan further explained that economies of scale, which plays a huge role in the traditional automotive ecosystem, will no longer remain as crucial in the SDV world, wherein the role of Tier 1 suppliers is likely to be redefined from being systems suppliers, to now offering engineering, or built-to-print services. Sundaresan said that with the inclusion of more players, including telecom companies and software players in the automotive value chain, the OEM margins are likely to shrink dramatically, pushing them to devise other avenues of revenue. “This is where the end-consumer behaviour will see an evolution towards paying for various services and subscriptions that make sense for them,” he pointed out.
Emergence of subscription services
With SDVs primarily catering to the consumer’s needs, they will also bring a huge shift in the relationships that vehicle owners share with their prized possessions. “SDVs will enable high levels of consumer convenience by virtue of a cloud-based customer profile that would store all the preferences of the driver/passenger(s) and allow them to seamlessly switch between cars and feel right at home within a matter of a few seconds,” explained Iyer.
With growing dependence on such high-on-convenience features, customers will be slowly driven towards paying for the activation of a certain feature in the vehicle, which comes pre-equipped with the desired hardware for the same. “With SDVs, functionalities like predictive maintenance are possible, and are likely to see a big uptake. Consumers will be willing to pay to enable such features and others like online maps for live traffic, or a range calculator on an EV when going outside the city. The space will evolve significantly,” said Sundaresan. “However, with customers paying for a feature over a period of 3-5 years, the bigger challenge for the automotive industry will lie in recovering the upfront investments made into technology, particularly the software of these vehicles,” he added. “As the software in an SDV will be updated rather frequently, “From the smartphone industry’s experience, a hardware is only able to support such changes for a maximum of 5-6 years. And that springs another underlying challenge for the automotive industry with SDVs, which would also need to serve a 15-year service life,” Sundaresan explained.
However, while the automotive industry is expected to find answers to all these questions as the SDV space evolves, Sundaresan believes India has a tremendous opportunity to become the global hub of SDV development with its prowess in software and manufacturing. "As we talk about local electronics manufacturing in the country, India will not just play a crucial role in the software development of SDVs, but also in the manufacturing of these systems, including components as well as complete vehicles.
“India will be the fulcrum of the global SDV transformation and emerge as a global hub for SDVs in the future,” Sundaresan said, while Iyer agreed and said that the SDV concept is enabling a mega transformation and there are only exciting times ahead.
Mitigating cybersecurity challenges
While the SDV future promises plentiful possibilities on the fronts of vehicle performance, consumer convenience, and industry’s revenue potential, there lies an equally large threat of cybersecurity with a humongous amount of data being generated and transferred between a vehicle and the cloud on a regular basis. Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures will, therefore, be critical to protect vehicles from hacking, data breaches, and other malicious activities.
Therefore, deploying secure channels for delivering over-the-air (OTA) updates, implementing secure boot processes, and utilising encryption, and robust authentication mechanisms are some of the ways to ensure cybersecurity with respect to the highly connected SDVs.
According to Hitesh Garg, VP, and India Country Manager, NXP Semiconductors, “We are rethinking the vehicle architecture from an SDV perspective, and therein, cybersecurity becomes critical more than ever before. We are making OEMs understand the criticality of a partitioning the vehicle architecture into various zones. While there are various functional standards – SLA, SLB, SLC, and SLD – with the latter being the highest standard for functional safety, we strive to achieve it to ensure that even if something wrong happens with the underlying chip, it should not cause a hazard for the vehicle, or its occupants.”
Beyond cybersecurity, SDVs will play a pivotal role in the development and realisation of full autonomous driving, with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) functionalities being the starting base. While ADAS features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and autonomous emergency braking are already prominent in modern-day vehicles, SDVs will further see the evolution of sensor-fusion algorithms that are driven by software to interpret and make decisions based on the data collected by sensors. These vehicles will also leverage AI and ML-based deep-learn models to recognise objects, pedestrians, road signs, and other complex traffic scenarios, and make real-time decisions. According to Sundaresan, “While AI and ML form the backbone of ADAS, they will also enable user experience inside a vehicle, and become an indispensable tool for the software engines used to develop such UI and UX systems for SDVs.”
“The automotive industry which is transforming into a digital industry at an accelerated pace, will internally feel the power and capabilities of AI much earlier than the outside world,” he added.
India’s global opportunity with SDVs
With a strong and growing IT industry, India ranks high among all nations to be the next global destination for the design and development of SDV solutions. The country is already the preferred location for various global OEMs, which have opened their technology centres in India’s cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune.
“The country’s talent pool is therefore going to play a crucial role in shaping the software architectures, and systems that underpin SDVs. We are already enabling global players in their need for software, and by default, India is set to play an immensely critical role in the SDV shift,” said Sundaresan. He further highlighted that Indian vehicle manufacturers are in certain cases already ahead, or at the same level with respect to the development of SDVs compared to their American or German counterparts. “India is not lagging behind,” he mentioned.
From a local manufacturing standpoint, Sundaresan explained that since SDVs also have a direct relationship with intelligent manufacturing or Industry 4.0 tools, and with the Indian manufacturing ecosystem evolving with technology to now boast state-of-the-art manufacturing setups, as well as the government’s push towards local electronics manufacturing in India by virtue of the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes, the country will play a huge role in the production of not just vehicles, but systems and components for SDVs.
“We are well placed to manufacture such components that will make India a great export hub in the future. The Indian software and automotive industry will lead the SDV transition for the world, and India will be the fulcrum of this mega transformation,” Sundaresan pointed out.
This article was first published in Autocar Professional's December 15, 2023 issue.
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