Evolution instead of revolution

In the roughly 100-year history of the automobile, manufacturers have become component integrators: Today, manufacturers focus on assembly and components are only picked and assembled from a large shelf of suppliers. Today, about 80% of the complete value added of a vehicle is outsourced to suppliers who take over the entire development and production. The remaining 20% is limited to final assembly, engine production and quality control.

It made sense

These grown organisational structures make sense for analogue components, such as headlights, because they have a very low integration effort (e.g. plug for power supply). Today’s vehicles on the other hand are equipped with hundreds of sensors and dozens of control units (ECUs) embedded in many components. These intelligent systems are only interconnected when viewed as components.

But not for software

The use of sensors integrated in components or even new ideas for the interconnection of ECUs are very difficult or even impossible. For example, if the driver wants the music to automatically fade when the power window is operated, the window regulator manufacturer (e.g. Valeo) would suddenly be required to talk to the infotainment system (from e.g. Harman). This communication simply does not take place if the manufacturer has not written it into the specifications for the supplier. It is technically not possible to make a subsequent change (such as an app) these days. Furthermore, manufacturers have no possibility to recognise and implement system-wide optimisations according to the current state of the art, as each individual component has been encapsulated and outsourced. Likewise, components of the suppliers show a high degree of complexity, since all conceivable analogue and digital connections of all customers must be supported.

No multiple Software Sources

Each ECU is always produced by only one manufacturer, who has complete control over which software runs on it. In particular, it is not possible to run software from different sources simultaneously, isolated from each other, on the same ECU. The result of today’s state of the art is that the manufacturer alone decides which functions a vehicle can offer and the customer can only decide once, at the time of purchase, which pre-defined packages she wants to purchase.