Automotive software and data engineering in the driver’s seat of car development and manufacturing

Never in its 100+ year history has the car industry had to handle as much change as right now. Electrification may seem the most fundamental change in the industry yet. But that paradigm shift looks rather modest compared to the overall impact of digitalisation.
The electric drivetrain is sending the combustion engine into retirement. If a car were a human being, you could compare it with a heart transplant. But the patient is having a brain replacement as well, together with a new nervous system. And on top of everything, loads of extra sensory organs are being added.

Digitalization lies at the root of all this. Software and data are radically changing the modern car, extending its capabilities, and enabling it to interact with its surroundings in radically new ways. It is morphing into a living room on wheels, including an entertainment and communication center, and becoming a node in the hyperconnected Smart City infrastructure of the future.
Truly, looking at the vehicle industry of today, it is an understatement at best to say, that cars have come a long way since the 1950’s. In that decade the first vehicle feature integrating mechanical and electrical systems was the Cruise Control.

Now integration has really taken center stage. A modern car merges mechanics, electronics, and software into a super complex rolling device with typically 25 or more computer modules, running millions of lines of code.

Cars are changing, so are customers

Enabled by digital technology, the car is taking on new roles in people’s lives. However, at the same time people themselves are changing also, and consequently their expectations of what a modern car should offer.

Why is that? Well, having become accustomed to interacting with computers, smartphones and digital gadgets of all sorts, consumers expect the speed of innovation in the automotive industry to be similar to the speed of innovation in the digital industry.

And they expect a modern car to deliver a user experience like modern consumer electronics, providing a wealth of options regarding personalization, seamlessly integrating services such as films, games, and music, new features, and much more. Not least, users expect to do business with car manufacturers as they do business in the world of online services, so, new digital economy business models are redefining car ownership as well.

Imagining the future

Where will all this end? Who knows, but if you indulge in the futuristic concepts of premium automakers, the car will soon look like a trendy loft on wheels, with wood and soft fabrics, a cosy extension of home, all about leisure and comfort. Gauges and switches are gone, the steering wheel nowhere to be seen. Screens are replaced by interactive projections, for you to plot in a destination, order lunch at your favourite restaurant, and play the music of your choice.
This is how the Audi Design Center in Ingolstadt sees the future. The Audi grandsphere concept car, launched in 2021, is a luxury sedan of the future, or as Audi puts it “the automobile as experience device and as a platform for experiences that appeal to all the senses”.

Autonomous driving leaves behind the airplane-like design of the past, full of buttons and switches, for a minimalistic look with projections on wood surfaces. Controls are operated both manually and via touchless response, relying on a combination of eye tracking and gesture control. Akkodis played a key role in the construction of this concept vehicle, which features the highest levels of comfort, immersive experiences and Level 4 autonomous driving.

Products, development, production – all digital

Digitalization is increasingly in the driver’s seat on all levels in the car industry. Not only are the industry’s products themselves – as mentioned – becoming increasingly software and data driven. At the same time, development of new features and models is being accelerated with digital tools and processes. Manufacturing is heading in the same direction. In short, never in its 100+ year history has the car industry had to handle as much change as right now. As Smart Industry is arriving at the car industry’s doorstep, car development is embracing digital concepts.

Physical testing and prototyping are, typically, time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to scale. The answer is digital acceleration, for instance a stronger focus on model-based engineering and virtualization, both of which are important Smart Industry features. It is estimated that over 50% of car prototyping activities may be virtualized by 2025, in the quest to shrink development costs and improve time to market.
Akkodis has implemented an exhaustive and seamless design, simulation, and calculation framework to secure digital continuity in car development. That includes tools for crash simulation, passive safety, and pedestrian protection. Also, multibody simulation is performed to test the ride and handling of new car models, and various fluid dynamics tools are used to analyse aerodynamics, internal airflow, and to perform thermal validation.
Not only the development of new car models, but also car manufacturing is being heavily digitalized. Concepts from the Smart Industry toolbox are improving agility, quality, and efficiency. For instance, modeling and simulation of new production lines save time and cost, and production equipment is being enhanced with sensors sending real-time data to a central system overseeing production and performing analytics. To push the boundaries of manufacturing, new technologies within robotics, augmented reality, and 3D printing are being tested and implemented as well. favourite restaurant, and play the music of your choice.
For Europe’s largest car manufacturer, Akkodis has worked as a key partner across the whole car development journey. We’ve done sensor and electrical design, data products for sensor management in different (e-) drivetrains, complete component design and manufacturing quality assessment through virtual and physical testing on benches. These functions were performed both remotely and onsite at company HQ.

Looking for experienced partners

Software and data engineering is the new centerpiece of car development and manufacturing. Consequently, manufacturers are on the lookout for partners able to bridge mechanics, embedded systems, connectivity, backend, and frontend in a holistic approach to product digitalization. Akkodis is such a partner. Building on decades of automotive experience, we are providing the managed services needed to assist the automotive industry in developing the car of now and for the future, connected, autonomous, shared, and electric.
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