The future of the automotive industry is being written – and it’s being written in code. Software, rather than hardware, has become the focus of manufacturers as digital technology disrupts the status quo of the sector.
Under pressure over emissions and sustainability, manufacturers are focused on transitioning from the internal combustion engine to a future of connected, shared, autonomous and electric vehicles. Traditional supply chains are changing dramatically as new technology providers force manufacturers to rethink where value can be created and by whom.
To assess the level of opportunity this disruption offers OEMs and supply chain partners, Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, asked a panel of experts what they think lies on the road head.
Rethinking the car
Dr. Engelbert Wimmer, CEO and founder of German specialist automotive management consultancy and investment company E&Co (Entrepreneurs and Consultants), believes that traditional players will have to adapt and make room for the entrants from non-automotive backgrounds.
“We are reconsidering every piece of the traditional car,” Dr. Wimmer said. “That means a whole new supply chain because the concept and characteristics of a vehicle that you want to operate 90,000km a year on a shared mobility or on an autonomous platform will be completely different because the durability and ownership will be changing.
“This could be an ideal road for Ireland’s fantastic software capability because software will ultimately be the driver of all these new functions, and you need to have a tool chain that brings those software components together – integration, testing and then deploying and maintaining them in the field.”
“Every time you have a disruption of this size and with this technology scope, new entrants will have a super chance.”
Hiren Desai, Head of Strategy and Innovation North America for Continental, believes that forming new partnerships with technology and software specialists is vital for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
Hiren said: “The supply chain is going to undergo disruption over the next 10 to 15 years significantly when it comes to software coming in and replacing all the hardware that companies are used to producing.
“Companies like Continental are experts in industrialisation, which essentially means manufacturing. Now, what we’re really talking about is having software factories able to produce intelligence, able to write code, able to produce artificial intelligence, that’s where it’s heading.”
Consumer trends in automotive
Barry Napier is the CEO of Cubic Telecom, an Irish company that provides global mobile connectivity solutions for automotive manufacturers including Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen. He said that changing consumer trends mean that manufacturers are focused on software that delivers technology, which is leading to a leaner supply chain.
“Increasingly when people are buying a car, they’re not asking what’s the horsepower and does it have a sunroof and air-conditioning? They want to know ‘is it connected and what’s the range I can get?’. The mindset has changed,” he explained.
“Historically when you went to an OEM and you said to them, we want to do something, there was panic in their faces because they had to go and change the hardware and then there were multiple partners they had to talk to in order to do that.
“It’s easier to change software, so now they are looking to do as much as they can via software solutions, putting mainframe concepts into vehicles and then seeing how they can run that through the cloud. The mindset is there with the OEMs to make the car lighter, faster and doing it all via software.”
Driving the future
With two billion cars expected on the world’s roads by 2035, the need for more sustainable transport is greater than ever. The ability to develop innovative solutions that help OEMs meet the demands of consumers and regulators can help drive the future.
Irish companies are already providing applications for automotive OEMs in areas such as sensor technologies, motion and position control systems, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud services, connectivity and cybersecurity.
Meanwhile, CAV Ireland is bringing together stakeholders from industry, academia, research, transport authorities and expert agencies including Enterprise Ireland to collaborate on opportunities in the connected and autonomous vehicle supply chain.
CAV Ireland’s members include Jaguar Land Rover, who has its Centre for Networked and Autonomous Vehicles in Shannon, and French vehicle technology giant Valeo, who has a large facility in Tuam in Galway, and there are even plans for the development of a future mobility campus near Shannon Airport where new technologies can be tested and proved.
Dr. Wimmer agreed that collaboration is the key: “It is not about one company producing all this,” he says. “It is about collaboration and partnership. The tool chain has many, many links that need to be linked together.”