Industry Voices: Five Ways How Software Will Transform our Relationship With Cars

Opinion piece by Matthias Bauhammer, Global Offering Lead for DXC Robotic Drive

How we experience mobility in our cars is changing. Several exciting innovations in automotive software are set to transform the driving experience, from how we access and operate a vehicle, to how it interacts with its users and the environment. Over the next five years, we believe that these five trends will gain momentum.

The software in your vehicle will be as important as its logo.

Tomorrow’s cars will be software-defined vehicles (SDVs), with their features and functions controlled by software. SDVs will be known more for their user experience than their physical attributes. Software will create a direct connection between the car manufacturer and the customer, enabling platform-driven auto businesses to seamlessly deliver personalized services to customers via their vehicles.

“Crowd data” from millions of vehicles can be used to provide more intelligent mobility services across an entire automotive ecosystem. For example, Gaia-X 4 Future Mobility is a European initiative to enable close interconnectivity among car users, service providers, manufacturers and suppliers. Applications that will result from this data exchange include smart traffic infrastructure, vehicle lifecycle management and digital twins for autonomous vehicles.

Your car will renew itself and offer on-demand upgrades.

We can expect SDVs that are connected to the web to evolve in the same direction as phones, becoming more self-healing, self-renewing and flexible. Most of the world’s automakers are already experimenting with on-demand services which flow as software to users. BMW delivers downloadable upgrades via the My BMW App or the SIM card built into the vehicle. Volvo offers customers over-the-air (OTA) software updates sent directly to its vehicles in two phases: a download phase while you are using the car and an installation phase when the car is not in use.

Some car companies are looking at monetizing software upgrades. Mercedes recently introduced an annual subscription service to unlock enhanced performance in some of its cars. BMW has experimented with a heated seat subscription service and, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, the CEO of CARIAD, the automotive software company of Volkswagen Group, even suggested that pay-as-you-go autonomous driving could be in scope.

For Generation Z, owning a car may be a thing of the past.

Hybrid working reduces the need for many employees to commute by car every day. Many younger people may want the convenience of a car but not the traditional ownership model, which is typically expensive and inflexible. A different approach to getting on the road is paying for a vehicle only when you need one, perhaps through a subscription-based, car-sharing or peer-to-peer rental service. With their on-demand and remote-control features, SDVs lend themselves to this type of service.

Car leasing has existed for years as an option for avoiding personal ownership, but car subscriptions are different. Terms are generally shorter, more flexible, and often include insurance and maintenance. Several car manufacturers are experimenting with car subscription models, including Audi, Lexus, Nissan, Porsche, and Volvo. Many third parties also offer subscription services, including car rental companies for whom this is a logical service extension to existing services.

Your car will arrange an appointment with a garage before you know you have a problem.

Feedback from advanced analytics powered by artificial intelligence (AI) will enable the car to flag imminent issues to the garage, dealership, or direct to the manufacturer. The diagnostic information will be shared with mechanics ahead of time so they can order the necessary components. This technology will lift some of the responsibility off the driver to spot car maintenance issues while enhancing road safety. For example, US electric car manufacturer Rivian, which offers at-home car servicing, states that they have the capabilities to perform “comprehensive diagnostics from afar through our connected vehicle platform… we can often notify you before you even sense a problem”. Furthermore, data from individual cars will be aggregated into a manufacturer’s errors and maintenance log. As the body of data grows, manufacturers will be able to more accurately spot trends and identify issues earlier in the lifecycle of a vehicle and its component parts.

Your future electric vehicle may be fueled by hydrogen.

The rising cost of EV batteries, long waiting times for cars and parts, and issues with scaling recharging infrastructure in line with growing demand, are already impacting adoption. In many cities around the world, today’s drivers have to wait for over an hour to charge their vehicle at public charging points.

With their smart routing and energy optimization capabilities, SDVs can mitigate many of these issues; however, the hunt is on for viable fuel alternatives to power them. Germany’s DLR Institute for Vehicle Concepts in Stuttgart has already trialed a hydrogen fuel cell for cars. Initial tests show that with a tank capacity of 6.3 kg of hydrogen, a vehicle can generate somewhere in the region of 100 kWh of electricity. That’s equivalent to around the average monthly consumption of a one-person household. With the rise of SDVs, we anticipate further development of alternative fuel sources across the automotive industry.

In the new SDV world, automakers need to pivot to become software companies. While they are eager to add skilled software engineers to their ranks, there is a global shortage of such talent. One way for them to overcome that challenge is by partnering with others who have years of experience in the field.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *