Jun 12, 2014 Automotive

The Future of Automotive

By Jeff Gowan

J.Gowan - small-blog.jpg

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a networking cocktail party sponsored by Chrysler, Harvest Management Partners, NVIDIA, and Wind River. The event was a gathering of ~70 executives from some of the key Silicon Valley companies in the automotive technology space. The topic of conversation was, “The Future of Automotive.” I have to say it was fascinating and inspiring. It also included a great story of a drag race between a Chrysler executive and R&B artist, Will.I.Am, but more on that later.

First the inspiring part. As we all know, the U.S. Auto industry has had some major struggles in recent years. The representatives from Chrysler were very candid about this and actually advised that everyone should experience bankruptcy at some point (although they are not particularly interested in doing it a second time.) It’s really a Phoenix from the ashes story. When a company fails that large, they are forced to take a hard look and make some big decisions. Chrysler has done this and are going bold.

As one executive said in his presentation (paraphrased), “Fundamentally, cars are all safe, they all get good gas mileage. What is important about the selection of a car is the emotional connection. How does it make you feel? Does it represent the image of how you see yourself, or how you want to see yourself?”

A focus on this sort of emotional connection is evident in some of the designs that are coming out of Chrysler and were shared at the event. The inspirational part is when we look to the future of how we connect with our automobiles. The ideas are inspirational, the complexity is staggering.

When you sit in the cockpit of one of Chrysler’s current cars, you might see up to 400 different screens depending on what you are doing in the car. Each car has its own branded versions of these screens. Behind those screens and elsewhere in the car, is over 10 million lines of code! As we heard a few times at the event, “This is not your father’s Chrysler.” And this is just the beginning. Looking into the future our cars will do things that we never imagined outside of a science fiction movie.

In today’s world when you use park assist, you see a diagram to help you get into your space. What if you had a voice saying, “That’s good…little to the left…good now straighten up…great!” Or, instead of your speedometer flashing when you exceed the speed limit, what if you heard a voice saying, “Just so you know, the speed limit here is 65, but the average ticket written in the past 6 months was for 75 and above.” Instead of your car having buzzers, bells, and flashing lights – you get your own personal concierge. It makes K.I.T.T. from Night Rider seem not so far fetched!

So, if today’s cars have 10 million lines of code, what will tomorrow’s cars have? What kind of data needs to be collected? How do you collect it? How is it used? Where does it go? And perhaps most importantly, how do you stay safe in your car, and keep your data secure? This is where companies like Wind River and others in the audience come in.

Building the cars for next generation will not doubt be a challenge. Our children, and their children will have much different expectations than we do about how to interact with technology and their automobiles. To meet those challenges, Automotive manufacturers and their suppliers will need to meet requirements for: security, connectivity, integration, consolidation, performance, cost, supply chain complexities…the list goes on. Cars will need to interact with Bluetooth, mobile, cellular, multi-media, sensors, video, cloud, big data, etc. The days of only needing a big engine and a kickin’ stereo are over. There is much more that we have grown to expect.

And what about the risk? How do you prevent vehicle attacks? Denial of service, owner tampering, or even things we think of as simple such as downloading applications? Essentially we are talking about a rolling network and data center but it’s likely you won’t have an IT professional riding around with you if something goes wrong.

Wind River is uniquely positioned to help make the future of automotive a reality. When it comes to operating systems, network connectivity, driving down Size Weight, and Power – we’ve been doing it for years. Wind River has a long history of helping things work and stay connected from commercial airlines, military jets, satellites, and the Mars Rover. We are confident that if we can help get a vehicle to another planet and facilitate inter-planetary software updates – we can certainly handle such things here on earth.

Another key component in this story is the complexity of not only the actual systems, but the relationships and dependencies between suppliers.  It’s not just the Chryslers of the world who make a car. They rely on multiple partners and vendors to supply the components needed. So the question is, how do you ensure everything works together the way it should and production schedules stay on target? Wind River Simics is a tool that allows you to model full and complex systems with multiple components so you can design, test, and support the software on your vehicle. Not only that, it allows for collaboration inside and outside of your development organization. Imagine being able to find a bug, reproduce it on demand, easily point a partner to it and have them access a system to fix it immediately? This is what Simics does. Then if you layer in our Software Integrator and Lifecycle management offerings you can not only simulate the complex systems you need to, you also have tools for improved management and risk reduction of actual execution.

Consider this real life example, Toshiba is using Simics to develop automotive application software on image recognition system-on-chips (SoCs). By using full system simulation and the unique development techniques possible with Simics, Toshiba’s automotive customers can increase productivity by changing their software development processes to be faster and more efficient.

In conclusion: the future of automotive starts now. The expectations of consumers, the need for safety, and the complexity of delivering a solution is only going to grow. Wind River has the tools needed to make the future of Automotive a reality.

Oh, and on that drag racing thing, I won’t tell the whole story but here’s the punchline: “In Detroit, we know how to meet a challenge at the stop light. What Will.I.Am didn’t know was that you shouldn’t bring a 4 wheel drive to a drag race…”

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