Today’s vehicles are highly sophisticated machines with hundreds of Electronic Control Units (ECUs) providing critical functionalities. In addition to being well networked internally, modern vehicles have also extended their connectivity to the external world, allowing for services like navigation, infotainment, telematics, diagnostics and software updates from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to be delivered over-the-air (OTA).
Infosys has developed a viewpoint on connectivity-based features from hundreds of client conversations and research.
Connectivity as a catalyst
The requirement to manage aftermarket processes remotely is becoming a critical component of customer service strategy to meet the objectives of cost reduction, revenue enhancements, workshop productivity and customer satisfaction.
The traditional method for diagnostics and repair requires the vehicle to be present in the workshop, in a controlled environment and under the supervision of a skilled technician to meet a specific customer demand, whether fixing an issue or providing new functionality. A diagnostic routine is executed to identify the fix and, if a repair is needed, plan for a repair activity. The repair is generally performed at a subsequent visit and could include ordering of parts or software, special tools, and assignment of correctly-skilled technicians. This traditional diagnostics and repair process is inefficient, time-consuming, expensive, and inconvenient for all parties. Customers who must bring their car into the shop multiple times are not pleased, and shops must bear the cost of repeated visits.
Vehicle software content is increasing exponentially every year, and software-only recalls are continuously increasing in proportion to overall warranty and recall campaigns. This makes the traditional repair model for software- only recalls unsuitable for costs, risks and customer satisfaction.
The ability of vehicles to connect to the internet blows up this outdated model. In vehicles with connectivity, workshops can remotely connect and diagnose problems, then begin preparing for repairs if they are needed. Software-only fixes can be done remotely over-the-air (OTA), dramatically reducing costs and repair time, and providing customers with a better experience.
While many OEMs are discussing this new connected opportunity, the infotainment domain has captured most of the attention. However, to fully exploit the potential of connectivity-enabled aftermarket processes, OEMs will require comprehensive process re-engineering. This transformed process should include a quality and risk management framework along with decision support mechanisms, particularly with respect to OTA updates given the high risks involved.
Overcoming barriers to adoption
The automotive industry lacks a holistic approach to this problem, and it is a major obstacle that keeps OTA updates from being fully implemented. OEMs have added technological features to vehicles without an integrated approach with the aftermarket processes which must leverage these features. In retrospect, this was the wrong approach, as it created a disconnect between the parties involved.
Transformation roadmaps should include quick successes to bridge this divide. Redesigning aftermarket processes with all stakeholders involved – and parties not operating in isolation – will enable these exciting new technologies to be fully leveraged.
The value of remote diagnostics and OTA updates must be clearly articulated to all parties for the rate of adoption to increase. Aftermarket providers need to understand how increased efficiency will improve their processes and generate more revenue, not less. OEMs need to be shown how OTA updates can remedy large-scale recalls in a matter of weeks, not months, and save them millions (if not billions) of dollars.
The automotive aftermarket remains a highly attractive domain, and connected capabilities like OTA Software updates offer challenges but significant opportunities.
Companies willing to envision the new possibilities and transform their business and operating models will be in the driver’s seat to realise the benefits.