EVs First to Reap Benefits of the Software Defined Vehicle

The software defined vehicle is here and proving most of its benefits in the BEV space.

That’s the opinion of automotive software specialist Altia’s CEO Mike Juran. Speaking to TU-Automotive, Juran points to the vital role a BEV’s software has in improving both its performance and range for the benefit of consumers and automakers alike. He said: “Software is not a small contributor to electrification because you can burn a lot of wattage because of poorly developed software especially when it comes to display screens. Flipping millions and millions of pixels on a screen at 60 frames per second done incorrectly can be the difference between having a range of 400 miles or 250 miles to a charge all based on the software choices that you make.

“That’s why General Motors, Chrysler and Ford are focused on software because that’s where you get a kind of freebie. Unlike trying to mine different metals for the batteries you just write better software and you just gain extra range. Combine this with over-the-air updates you are going to be able people to continue to make those efficiency changes without too much cost.”

Juran also believes software itself can increase brand differentiation at a time when electric powertrains are unable to do so. He disagreed that software would be standardized in the way that electric powertrains have, so far, become modular. Juran explained: “Personally, I think software opens the door for a lot of brand differentiation to suits different demographics. That’s not just in sizing but in features from the software and the displays within the vehicle as well as the depth or shallowness of the features related to connectivity. So, if you have a demographic that wants a smartphone on wheels, you can give them a smartphone on wheels. If you have another demographic that just wants to get from point A to point B, you create a different experience for those people.”

Finally, he has seen a silver-lining for the automotive industry despite the pressures of the pandemic thanks to the increased importance of software in the modern motor vehicle. He expanded: “Software in automotive is at a really interesting inflection right now. We are almost at an existential crisis right now with all the added complexity in a car. Add to that managing electric vehicle software and control the, of course, autonomous vehicles, ADAS features – all of those have just multiplied the complexity.

“Yet the availability of software developers has not multiplied to match. It’s only growing at a very linear pace and we can only produce so many software engineers and we are being limited by our ability to do that. Then, of course, there has been Covid crisis.”

It was the adoption of home or remote working for many software engineers that has shifted the paradigm for automakers struggling to find technicians to cope with their increased software needs. Juran explained: “Yet this has not all been negative as automakers figure out how they cope with a lack of software engineers and also allowing them to work remotely. At first I was really nervous about taking an extremely traditional industry where the management wants to see you in the office and you have to get your hands on hardware. Then saying: ‘Now we’re going to let you work remotely’ – that was a tectonic shift for the industry.

“It turned out that it worked. Much to my pleasant surprise, it not only worked but we actually gained productivity. We found that the teamwork actually got better because everyone, wherever they were, were treated on an equal footing. Now engineers can stay where they are or move back to their home town with a reasonable cost of living while working for a premier automotive company that’s doing cutting edge work.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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