Carmakers today languish between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they face a dizzying array of new technologies (Connected cars, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) to adopt, while they must comply with new regulations (emergency call, lower CO2 emissions, fuel efficiency). On the other, they find no shortage of help and pressure in these endeavors, from non-traditional automotive players such as Google, Cisco, and Tesla.
EE Times recently talked to a number of chip companies who supply key technologies to automakers. We asked them to look ahead, and what they see as major technology/business challenges facing carmakers in 2014 and beyond.
Items in the following top 10 list are random. But our conversation with automotive technology suppliers pointed one clear direction: It’s high time for carmakers to change the way they design and market their cars.
1. The software-defined car
Rapid U.I. design with Nvidia's UI composer
Car OEMs used to spend a lot of time designing, prototyping, and tinkering with knobs and dials for dashboards. They still do, but their design process has gone digital. In software, they can now change the graphical user interface of their instrument cluster or infotainment screen on the fly.
And that’s just the beginning.
“Software capability of a car (or car’s computer) is also redefining what people can do inside a vehicle,” said Danny Shapiro, automotive director at Nvidia.
A recent Accenture global consumer survey found “drivers are twice as likely to choose a car based on in-vehicle technology options, rather than its performance.”
Apple’s iPhones and iPad, or Google’s Android phones and tablets brought into a car by consumers are beginning to dictate the technology options OEMs should include in their next new models.
In short, the iOS vs. Android battle is speeding head-on toward the automotive industry in 2014.
Are car OEMs surrendering to this trend, driven by consumer devices and defined by their software?
Some are, others aren’t. We’ll hear more car OEMs talking about commitments to invest in software and hiring software designers in Silicon Valley.
The race will start in earnest next year, with every OEM trying to figure out the best way to display and run smartphone apps on in-car infotainment screens.