Building The Software Dream Car

Dr. Dominique Massonié, Head of Innovation, Elektrobit

Dr. Dominique Massonié, Head of Innovation, Elektrobit

Dr. Dominique Massonié is head of innovation at Elektrobit. In this role, he serves as a catalyst bridging together internal ideas and projects with external industry trends and innovation to ideate and build the next generation of software that will power the future of mobility.

Dominique joined Elektrobit in 2006 and pioneered the first voice destination entry feature for after-market devices in Europe. Since then, he has led many successful innovative speech and voice technology projects for various premium car makers, while also being actively involved in the development of Elektrobit’s software offerings as a product manager.

Dominique holds a Ph.D. in the field of automatic speech recognition and dialog systems from Avignon University, in Avignon, France.

While software is transforming and enhancing car capabilities, it is simultaneously creating complex challenges for carmakers and their suppliers. At the heart of these challenges is vehicle architecture…the operating system that controls all the functionality in a vehicle. Every carmaker is now focused on creating the new vehicle architectures required to enable the real-time connectivity, communications and updates required for advanced ADAS and AD systems, as well as for enabling an awesome in-vehicle user experience.

Vehicle architecture is morphing from complex distributed systems to high-performance domain and zonal architectures. The newest platforms are communicating via service-oriented paradigms that allow flexible updating and personalization. This transition allows IoT technologies to become part of the vehicle. In addition to scalability, these architectures have a focus on updating and upgrading capabilities. At the same time, they must meet the high demands on reliability and quality for use in safe and secure automobiles. I told you it's complex.

The Challenge: Starting from scratch…sort of

In most cases, we’re talking about a major undertaking. Whether you’re a startup or a legacy carmaker,you’re starting from scratch to piece together these new automotive architectures. The end-result is your car’s unique operating system, comprising nearly 60 percent of its software. At Elektrobit, we call the various components of an operating system the “non-differentiating” software. It doesn’t differentiate one brand from the other but does provide the essential framework for the brand-unique applications that sit on top of it. These brand-unique applications—the differentiating software—makeup only 40percent.

Carmakers are taking ownership of the operating system and design of entire software platforms running on their vehicles. HOWEVER, while they may be developing their own in-house operating systems,they are not necessarily building everything from scratch. Many are open to exploring new concepts of “open innovation,” in which the sum of the components is greater and more innovative than its parts. They are looking outwards, sourcing software and services from expert third parties like Elektrobit and putting together operating systems consisting of a mix of closed-source, open-source and third-party software solutions

Related to this is another trend associated with open innovation: hardware and software vendors working more closely together to provide more complete solutions that make it easier for OEMs to build these new systems. An important trend we’re seeing is that semiconductor vendors, in part as a “lesson-learned” from the ongoing chip shortage, are becoming more active in the software space in order to make it easier for carmakers to adapt their latest silicon designs. They’re offering their silicon with dedicated software. This coupling includes safety-security components so it’s a winwin for the customer. A couple of examples are Qualcomm’s acquisition of Veoneer, and Renesas offering a gateway solution including software packages. For a software expert like Elektrobit, this is good news as it gives us opportunities to work more closely with system-on-a-chip providers. We recently issued an announcement about Ethernet firmware, which we are providing to a number of chip vendors, including Marvell.

A key driver of this more collaborative, outsourced, modular and dare I say, semi-standardized, approach is that there just aren’t enough engineers to go around to enable every carmaker to develop the required platforms and software stacks in parallel. In the absence of resources, we need a model where systems are modular and interchangeable and that encourages more sharing of resources among all players. 

Opportunities & Collaboration

To meet these sourcing needs—and to help carmakers accelerate development time and reduce costs while dealing with high levels of complexity— we’re starting to see increased interest in standards and collaboration.

One example of collaboration for the greater good that has been around for many years and appears tobe gaining more and more traction is AUTOSAR, both “Classic” AUTOSAR and the newer Adaptive AUTOSAR standard for new-generation architectures. AUTOSAR is an open system architecture enabling automotive OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers to improve ECU software quality, reduce development costs, and avoid redevelopment of similar ECU software components repeatedly for the same vehicular applications. It is a growing standard defining a layered architecture for software that continues to evolve.

Elektrobit has worked with customers and partners in a collaborative fashion for many years. Two examples are our work with AUTOSAR for customers such as General Motors and our joint venture. solutions with VW Group. However, we’re now starting to see evidence of this kind of open innovation on a broader scale, and I applaud these efforts. The recently announced Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge (SOAFEE) organization is an industry collaboration driven by Arm. This group—comprised of OEMs, Tier 1s, technology vendors—endorses a cloudnative development environment that can make software development more efficient and portable.

In addition, we’re seeing startup carmakers tapping into long-time industry experts to make their vision a reality. An example close to home is my company’s collaboration with Sony on the development of its VISION-S vehicle. Based on Sony’s vision for an intuitive and seamless in-car user experience, Elektrobit developed a cockpit system that brought together Sony’s UX design, infotainment software and a high-performance computer for the cockpit with fullyfeatured,customer-specific software.

The industry will receive real benefits to collaboration on software and systems over the lifecycle of a vehicle. From prototyping (as in the Sony VISION-S) to development and production (as in AUTOSAR) through post sales services. This latter category is one my company is focused on today, with a powerful,cloud-based and collaborative solution that gathers, analyzes and manages data, enabling OEMs to deliver new features and functions to fleets of vehicles.

Building the software dream car is testing our industry in ways we never imagined. It’s also giving rise to myriad new opportunities. I believe the opportunities outweigh the challenges and that we will emerge from the next decade a stronger, more innovative industry. Through continued innovation, collaboration and standardization, we will make the dream car a reality.


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