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Future look Embedded systems and In celebration of SAE’s Centennial in 2005, industry executives discuss the future of mobility technology.

vehicle innovation

Embedded systems and vehicle innovation by Daniel Blake, Global Automotive Leader, IBM Business Consulting Services

86 JANUARY 2005



nnovation is a continual process, and embedded systems represent a huge part of innovation in technology today. Embedded systems are found virtually everywhere—in everything from flight-control guidance systems, automobile engines, and braking systems to mundane home appliances such as washing machines. The shift from mechanical to primarily software-and-electronicsbased vehicle innovations has the potential to transform the entire industry. And although most vehicle models have raced through this transition, many automakers’ innovation models, methods, and processes have not. How effectively manufacturers and suppliers adjust their products, business processes, and core competencies to adapt to this change will determine future success. The adoption of embedded systems in the automotive industry has increased exponentially in the past 10 years and now represents about 25% of the value in a modern vehicle. This metamorphosis from being mechanically controlled to software-driven represents a fundamental industry shift in all processes from innovation to service. As a result, embedded systems account for a significant amount of complexity and a marked increase in quality issues. A recent study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value suggests there are five key drivers within the automotive industry that are leading to an increase in the use of electronics and

software in the vehicle: • Competition—Auto manufacturers are competing intensely for the consumer wallet, and the consumer has definite ideas about what they want. • Product differentiation—Companies are working to differentiate their products from their competitors’. By 2010, it is projected that 90% of the innovation and 35% of the vehicle value will be electronics-related. • Legislation—Safety and environmental issues are promoting the use of sensing technologies in vehicles. Features like smart safety systems, pedestrian sensors, and new emissions standards create greater demand for embedded systems. • Customer expectations—The desire to have a more personalized driving experience is encouraging the use of embedded systems. • Technology innovations—New technology innovations such as electronic navigation systems, online monitoring, and alternative fuel sources are developing quickly, with the capabilities supported by the growth of electronics and embedded systems. With the stated goal of producing a desirable, safe, efficient product that customers really want to buy, the automotive industry continues to increase the features and functionality of their vehicles. Our research suggests the consequences of increased complexity include lifecycle mismatches, skill shortages, low reuse of

Embedded systems and vehicle innovation

components, quality concerns, and increased warranty costs. These consequences have significant impact on the creation, implementation, and deployment of embedded systems, and represent issues and challenges that all companies face when developing embedded systems. To implement a robust embedded systems life cycle, automotive companies will need to implement changes in their design, development, and manufacturing processes. Some of these steps include: • Adoption of standard architectures— The industry is interested in developing standards that the industry as a whole can adopt, rather than proprietary systems for each manufacturer or brand. One way to accomplish this is for manufacturers to solidly support the implementation of standard, industry-wide architectures rather than specific, component-driven requirements • Collaboration and cooperation through the value net—A significant amount of the innovation in the automotive industry is coming from the supplier community. Suppliers are continuing their investment in research and development, but are becoming more discriminating about sharing their breakthroughs. Our study found that suppliers are re-examining their client base and choosing to share their innovations with manufacturers that are perceived to be more interested in collaborating for the longer term, rather than those that are focused on a transac-

tion-based relationship. • Separation of hardware from software— Separating software components from the hardware platform allows more reuse of software among multiple hardware components. This can ultimately lead to a reduction in complexity and the number of engineering control units (ECUs) in a vehicle. • Reuse, recycle, but don’t reinvent—The key for reuse is effective knowledge management. Appropriate security measures and incentives that encourage distribution and exchange of information between design, development, service, quality, and reliability teams—whether manufacturer or supplier—will speed up usage and acceptance. The result is that it is easier to find than invent. The vision made possible by software is lofty: vehicles that are practically trouble-free thanks to electronic diagnostics and repair; vehicles that are safer for both drivers and pedestrians due to smart safety systems; vehicles that are recyclable, with ECUs that can be easily reprogrammed to provide new model features and functions; and vehicles that are “at your service” providing in-route assistance to their drivers. Although no one can predict exactly what tomorrow will hold, automotive companies that make these changes today to address the unique demands and opportunities from an increasingly softwaredriven product will be in the driver’s sear as the future unfolds. aei

Five key drivers


JANUARY 2005 87


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