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Intellias Sees Software Shaping Major Changes in the Global Auto Industry

Technology is driving profound changes in the automotive industry as car makers and their suppliers focus on the development of complex software ecosystems to provide customers with new and unique driving experiences.

Vehicle sensors, local wireless networks, navigation-system technology and network connectivity, coupled with software-defined architectures are resulting in unprecedented levels of in-car innovation according to a recent article by Intellias (, a provider of consulting and software-engineering services to the mobility industry.

A growing number of electronic control units (ECUs), sensors and lines of software code also is increasing vehicle-manufacturing complexity and costs. Complex software ecosystems can cost billions of dollars to develop and maintain.

Systems integration, testing, verification and validation alone now can comprise 40 percent or more of a vehicle development budget, according to Deloitte.

"To take full advantage of new-car computerization, it is especially important for automakers to get the vehicle's human machine interface (HMI) systems right," says Oleksandr Odukha, vice president of Delivery, Mobility at Intellias. "HMI design is a challenge because you need to create a virtual harmony between the physical elements of a car and driver gestures."

Odukha notes that today virtually every automaker has a vision for a fully computerized car, including plans by Mercedes-Benz to offer "supercomputer-like performance" in every car with automated driving sensors and advanced navigation technology; Ultifi, a software platform developed by General Motors to enable in-car subscription services and over-the-air software updates, and "Dare Forward 2030," a Stellantis plan calling for digitalization across its brand portfolio.

With next-generation HMIs, carmakers aim to reduce complexity and optimize efficiency while creating a unique driving experience for their customers.

The Intellias executive also believes vehicle connectivity is more than a given. Approximately 60 percent of U.S. car owners had a connected vehicle by 2021 and the percentage is expected to increase to 70 percent or more within the next several years.

A BearingPoint study of European consumers found that premium-brand owners are especially interested in receiving updates on new connectivity features. For example, 62 percent of Audi and BMW owners as well as 55 percent of Mercedes owners surveyed expressed interest in being notified about new features.

"Drivers are growing more connected to their connected vehicles," Odukha says. "As driving becomes more autonomous, customers come to expect more lifestyle features for comfort, entertainment, commerce and business – and OEMs will address that with highly efficient HMI ecosystems."

Modern automotive systems consist of more than 100 sensors and up to 3,000 chips of different types. To deal with complexity, modern electrical/electronic (E/E) architectures are being created for specific ECU zones responsible for features such as infotainment and navigation.

Zone architectures drastically reduce the total number of ECUs required. Bosch, for example, is developing a new E/E architecture that contains 20 percent fewer embedded control units without a loss in performance.

"For further E/E performance improvement, we are recommending embedded virtualization at a hardware level," Odukha adds. "This way, OEMs can maximize the value of available hardware by augmenting its power with best-fit digital technologies."

"Middleware" is becoming increasingly important in the development of today's cars and light trucks. Middleware is the connective tissue between applications, data and vehicle hardware.

A middleware layer can dramatically reduce the duration, complexity and cost of developing new digital car systems, resulting in more standardized, maintainable and higher quality hardware and software systems.

Many middleware solutions include off-the-shelf user-interface components, application libraries and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which further reduce the complexity and increase the speed of automotive software development.

"Instead of fiddling with standardization and system testing, software engineers now can focus on higher-value tasks such as developing new features," Odukha explains.

Software, the final layer of HMI design, can provide user-facing applications on the dashboard, on heads-up displays and rear-seat screens, including features for in-dashboard navigation, entertainment and advanced driver-assistance systems.

A car's operating system for consumers must feel familiar, offer meaningful icons, support familiar gestures and provide easy navigation between individual apps and screens.

OEMs have different strategies for operating-system development. Stellantis, for example, is building a custom OS, while automakers including Ford, Volvo, GM and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi have gone with an open-source system. Other popular operating systems include Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), AUTOSAR Classic and Adaptive OS, and Green Hills INTEGRITY.

"Today carmakers don't necessarily need to choose just one car OS," explains Odukha. "With a zoned E/E architecture and a strong middleware layer, they can use different operating systems for independent subsystems. In other words, you can have a collection of operating systems that maximizes memory along with network and application management."

To show how fully functional and efficient HMI ecosystems operate, including integrated hardware, middleware and software layers, Intellias has built one in a suitcase. The Intellias Automotive Portable Kit is powered by industry-grade hardware and has all the features of a modern in-vehicle HMI system. With its portable kit, Intellias is able to exhibit its multiple-layer skills and capabilities for creating cutting-edge digital cockpits for electric vehicles.

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