The stage and the audience at the Automobil-Elektronik Kongress 2021

Due to the pandemic, the Automobil-Elektronik Kongress 2021 took place at the Carl-Benz Arena in Stuttgart because it was easier to implement the Corona-related hygiene and distance rules at his venue. (Bild: Matthias Baumgärtner)

In his LinkedIn post, Ricky Hudi, CEO of FMT and Chairman of the Advisory Board, summed up the 25th Automobil-Elektronik Kongress with the words "What an epic event!" and received a great deal of approval for this assessment. Indeed, the anniversary congress in November 2021 featured presentations by extremely high-ranking representatives from OEMs, suppliers and others in the industry–all contributing towards the general theme dubbed "The Automotive Industry on its Way to the Software-Defined Car."

In addition to Ricky Hudi, Volkmar Tanneberger (former Head of E/E at Volkswagen and former Executive VP of Technical Engineering at SAIC Volkswagen) and Christof Kellerwessel (Director Ford MEB Office) skillfully guided the audience through the program. Software topics were clearly dominant, but above all the shortage of qualified personnel was mentioned in very many presentations. The topics "Promoting young engineers" and "Finding talents/capacities" were present at almost all the presentations and coffee break discussions at the networking congress.

People applaud at the Automobil-Elektronik Kongress
After the long Covid-19 break everybody was happy that networking was possible in person again. All participants had to be fully vaccinated and had to pass a daily rapid antigene test. (Bild: Matthias Baumgärtner)

Although his opening speech lasted only 15 minutes, Ricky Hudi, CEO of FMT and Chairman of the Advisory Board, pointed out virtually all of the current issues, construction sites and trends in the industry - from the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the supply chain to CASE, which stands as one of the symbolic words of our time. CASE stands for Connected, Autonomous, Shared/Service/Subscription, Electric. His credo: "The era of the software-defined car is born!" For this to happen, the industry would also have to change, because the "ability to form reliable partnerships with tech players, suppliers and even competitors will be crucial; the automotive industry hasn't learned it yet, but they are learning it right now!"

The thinking comes from the software

In line with the general theme of the congress, "The Automotive Industry on its way to the software-defined car," Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen, placed his presentation under the motto "How the SW-defined car is changing ZF."  Scheider said: "The real shift: we are moving from signal-based architectures to SW-based architectures... The thinking comes from software. Software defines hardware." That's why ZF's stated goal is "for the middleware to be agnostic of the hardware" - and "we want to be in series production with this middleware in 2024." One point is very important to the ZF CEO: "We are always open to partnerships!"

25th Automobil-Elektronik Kongress at a glance

Focus on after-sales packages

Markus Schäfer, member of the Board of Management and COO at Mercedes-Benz, referred to "software as a key enabler for electrification and digitalization" already in the title of his presentation. By 2025, he said, Daimler will "master the battery itself on the systems side," hold a stake in a cell manufacturer and have its own BMS software. Daimler also wants to "make over a billion in sales with after-sales packages", for example around rear-axle steering. Daimler's stated goal is to be "the first in Germany or Europe to certify a Level 3 vehicle with redundant systems" that can drive up to 60 km/h on the autobahn, which Markus Schäfer describes as, "That's our personal moon landing."

Living software as a central element

Frank Weber, CTO and member of the supervisory board at BMW, recalled the introduction of the first BMW 7 Series with iDrive 20 years ago, calling it the "toughest ramp-up in BMW history." Since then, he said, digital electronics have been "present as a central element" at BMW, and that's why "software and E/E should not be spun-off but lived as a central element." For example, in the new BMW iX, "50% of the haptic controls have been eliminated" because "the best operation is the one you don't have to do at all." However, he acknowledged that there is "not the universal form of input," only to mention that "98% of navigation system input is by voice."

He sees a great danger that "we get bogged down in a lot of places that don't add value to us," bringing the issue to non-differentiating elements, "For what is not competitively differentiating, this community should make sure we don't do anything stupid... Open source is not a crime - On the contrary, open source is an opportunity!"

Software needs hardware

With the words "Every great piece of software eats a great piece of hardware," Harald Kröger, in November 2021 (still) a member of the Bosch board of management, began his presentation on the race toward the software-defined car. With that, he directed the focus to semiconductors, because the demand for computing power would increase by at least a factor of two by 2025. 90 % of the software running in the vehicle would not come from the automotive sector but from the world beyond the car, he said. "It would be complete madness to develop everything all over again." For Bosch, it's clear: "We see the zone architecture as THE game changer." Scalability across different models, vehicle types, and continents is also of central importance, he says.

Save the Date: Automobil-Elektronik Kongress 2022

Thinking ahead!

Infineon's CEO Reinhard Ploss introduced the new practice: "The times when we went to the Tier-1s and asked for a spec are over." New solutions can only be worked out together, he said, and for server semiconductors, "we will see processors optimized for different tasks. The days of 'one size fits all' are over." Therefore, it is necessary to think ahead, he said. For him, it is certain that many standard applications will find their way into cars, however, scaled up to the car. But "will it be absolute real-time capability at every level?" A "certain defined response time will be."

In particular, he pointed out the importance of a resilient power grid: "The backbone of the power architecture is going to be a very significant concern for us," because even in the event of a short circuit, steering and braking should still work - and restarting after a short circuit is much more difficult than just shutting down in the event of a short circuit. So the car will "definitely have two to three voltage domains" - and one of them is 12 V, he said.

"We won't be able to make separate software for each model," Mr. Ploss continues. For him, this congress is "a fantastic platform" to put aside corporate thinking for five minutes for once, and in technical terms, the following is certain: We must not think tomorrow's concepts with today's architectures.

Panel discussion by Kurt Sievers (NXP), Harald Kröger (Bosch), Christoph Grote (BMW) and Chris Urmson (Aurora) moderated by Ricky Hudi.
In the first panel discussion, Kurt Sievers (NXP), Harald Kröger (Bosch), Christoph Grote (BMW) and Chris Urmson (Aurora), chaired by Ricky Hudi (from left to right), talked about the opportunities and challenges on the road to the software-defined car. (Bild: Matthias Baumgartner)

Quotes from the panel discussion "Opportunities and Challenges on the Road to the Software-defined Car

Christoph Grote (SVP Electronics at BMW): "In the past, we had to do really heavy sprints when the SOP was approaching; now we can add functionality later."
(Bild: Matthias Baumgartner)
  • In the future, software will no longer work in isolation; the connection to the cloud is essential (Christoph Grote, BMW (pictured right)).

  • If we don't pay adequately for software, we won't get good software anymore. (Harald Kröger, Bosch (l. in picture))

  • Defect classes are quite different from what we've had before; SOTIF is now making its way into the automotive environment. (Chris Urmson, Aurora)

  • Reuse to the highest degree possible is just common sense because we don't have enough software engineers. In other industries, it's common to pay for software. (Kurt Sievers, NXP)

  • How do we get new and qualified personnel? (all)

Potential with End2End software

Oliver Seifert, VP R&D E/E at Porsche, dealt with the "key to success during the transformation." Because electromobility has "the very highest priority" for Porsche, he said, Porsche will invest around €15 billion in e-mobility by 2025 (and a further €3 billion every subsequent year), as 80% of the vehicles delivered are to be purely electric by 2030. In terms of software, he notes the following: "We can already do software very well in the closed shell of the vehicle," but we simply still need to work on end-to-end software quality."

The ultimate edge device

Kurt Sievers, CEO of NXP, answered the questions around "bridging ecosystems to unlock the software-defined car" by pointing out that automotive semiconductors account for less than 10% of the overall semiconductor market, while the have very high requirements. Therefore, he said, it's not a matter of reinventing the wheel, but of looking intelligently at what's available: "I do believe that for those consumer experiences the automotive industry needs to open up and cooperate with other industries." But one thing is "incredibly important: semiconductors are not commodities," and they require a lot of lead time. "Standardizing semiconductors completely will only stifle innovation." Instead, he said, we need to move closer together - especially in the supply chain.

Ways of the OEM

Chuck Gray, VP Vehicle Embedded Software and Connectivity at Ford, showed how the American OEM has reshaped its development organizations and expanded its business models. A key element of this has been partnerships. For example, about Ford and Google's collaboration on GAS (Google Automotive Services), Chuck Gray enthusiastically said "That's pretty much a 2 + 2 = 5 type equation.

From map to services

"We see ourselves not only as a map company but also as a location technology company" explained Jorgen Behrens, Chief Product Officer at HERE Technologies right at the beginning of his presentation on "Driving Innovation Forward with Location". He emphasized that navigation maps and maps for autonomous driving (AD) are "completely different products" created by completely different teams. The electronic horizon is also different for AD, he said, because it has to learn from other drivers' data. Routing in AD requires "a lot of machine learning - and a lot of sensor data" while maps need to be lane-accurate, he pointed out. It is also about enabling additional content and services with data-driven location platforms, he said.

Highlights of day 2

How will robotaxis make their way through Chinese traffic with lots of pedestrians and two-wheelers? What are the 3 main challenges facing the industry? Answers to these and many other questions can be found in the article on the 2nd day of the 25th Automotive Electronics Congress. This will follow shortly - stay tuned.

Reducing TCO

Glen De Vos, Senior VP &CTO at Aptiv, titled his presentation "Vehicle Architectures: the Software-Defined Period." In doing so, he addressed a number of factors that need to be carefully considered to ensure competitiveness in the future. His credo: "Only if OEMs develop flexible, scalable architectures with connectivity to the outside world they can efficiently support the capabilities enabled by software, paving the way for the ultimate application, autonomous driving." With the appropriate multi-tier system approach, a lower total cost of ownership could then also be achieved.

Software as the driver

For Chris Urmson, CEO of Aurora, the very title of the talk was about delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly and broadly - and he brings a lot of experience to the table: "We were the world's first, we drove several 100,000 miles autonomously before anyone else did." Aurora's goal, he says, is to provide access to safe and reliable drivers. To do that, his company is (also) taking a step-by-step approach with the motto, "First put in everything you need for an operationally safe system and then look at what elements are really needed." That means Aurora is currently using signals from the FMCW lidar, radar sensor and camera. The "driver software," by the way, is expected to have its official release as early as the end of 2023.

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