Connectivity, Innovation and Trust: The new automotive future

What’s defining the exciting new era of automobility?

Software, personalisation, and automation. It’s a thrilling time to be buying a new car in the UK. One million electric vehicles (EVs) have been brought into the UK since 2002, but the shift to electrification is taking time with public scepticism and lack of trust in new technologies among the challenges that automakers face.

In fact, electrification only scratches the surface of automotive opportunity and exciting software-powered service and feature innovation, and the creation of new in-vehicle experiences, are set to challenge buyers’ reservations.

What will connected automotives look like in the year ahead? Here’s my view:

Q: Are consumers able to place their trust in new automotive technologies?
A: Yes – if automakers get it right!

As every part of our lives becomes more software-defined, our cars are no exception. The past decade of automotive developments has hinged on vehicle, driver, and sensor data, to increasingly sophisticated ends. Now, with our cars creating and sharing more data points than ever before, scrutiny increases. Fears of data breaches, reduced privacy, and the integrity of new connected insights like autonomous features have led to diminished trust in connected vehicles – just look at the recent recall of 2 million US Tesla vehicles in the US, in which its driver assistance system was found to be defective.

However, even in this scenario, the ability to fix issues via an “over the air” software update still illustrates the major convenience benefits of software-defined vehicles. Less stress and inconvenience for the owner.

Building trust must be a focus for automakers this year, working with tech partners to ensure trust, safety and security are proven and paramount, as well as keeping regulators and the public informed to restore confidence in vehicle advancements.

Q: What are the secrets behind these exciting new capabilities?
A: One of the most exciting developments is in cloud-based digital twin development platforms

We kicked off this year Stellantis announcing its world-first virtual development platform built on QNX technology, that enables Stellantis’ developers to work around the world in a digital twin environment. It speeds development 100-fold, cutting the time and cost of bringing innovation to market significantly.

Advanced, cloud-based digital twins will help automakers not only to identify integration issues sooner in the development process but also to enable more developers to participate earlier in the development cycle, long before hardware is available. This helps manage project risk and foster collaboration, so development teams can engage the best talent from anywhere in the world.

The importance of creating a true-to-life virtual development environment for embedded software cannot be underestimated. Soon, virtual cockpit high-performance compute (HPC) simulation will allow automotive companies to virtualise graphics, audio, and other inputs in the cloud, enabling earlier prototyping, scaling of developer teams, and a reduction in time-to-market. With this addition, in 2024, we’ll see the world’s first whole-vehicle simulation become a reality.

It will allow the automaker to accelerate the delivery of software and fully harness the cost, collaboration and time efficiencies of developing in a cloud environment. The true-to-life virtual development environment for embedded software will reduce complexity, accelerate innovation, and cut costs on in-car software development throughout the entire product lifecycle.

Q: What does the evolution of automotive software look like in the year ahead?
A: Safe, secure, reliable systems will make upgrades seamless

Can you imagine technology that can judge how worn your tyres are, personalise your in-car entertainment, message you if your teenagers are driving without seatbelts, score your driving for better insurance premiums, analyse incidents, recharge or refuel your car without a bank card or phone, or ensure you’re staying alert while driving? Even if you can’t, automotive developers can. And, using the latest operating systems, they are building exciting new capabilities for OEMs to update cars with innovative experiences and revenue-generating services.

Taking advantage of today’s scalable, high-performance real-time operating systems (OS) enables embedded software engineers to design safe, secure, and reliable systems in a way that fully harnesses the benefits of CPU advancements way into the future. When in-car technology is based on these innovative systems, automakers can seamlessly upgrade the electrification, e-commerce, safety and security, vehicle lifecycle and operations, and the in-cabin experience in the electric, connected vehicles of the future – or even the one you already own!

Q: On the ever-evolving playing field of auto innovation, what should we be looking out for?
A: Audio is one to watch!

Great audio shapes experiences – think about the best noise-cancelling headphones or announcements on trains that you can actually hear! A sure-fire sign of quality, innovative in-car audio is a core feature of the software-defined vehicle, not least because of how important it is to the user. When software is decoupled from hardware, audio designers and engineers are rewarded with complete creative freedom to deliver new and exciting in-vehicle sound experiences. It includes everything from basic audio functionalities such as hands-free telephony, sound alerts and active noise control as well as innovative new infotainment and safety features.

Looking ahead, software will not only provide more control over the quality and functionality of audio services, but it also unlocks new revenue streams from the activation of optional features. Upgrades to premium, branded quality, like on-demand or subscription services, bring new, value-added features into the vehicle. This innovation in audio will provide new business opportunities and exciting collaborations that will truly appeal to and excite the end user. Automakers who truly differentiate themselves through sound could well steal a march on competitors.

John is responsible for the planning, design, and development of QNX Software Systems (embedded software) and Certicom (cryptography applications).

John has been an integral member of the BlackBerry QNX team since 1993. He has held a variety of roles within the organisation, including Vice President of Engineering and Services. He holds a Bachelor’s of Engineering, in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa.

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