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News Link • Transportation

How Auto Industry Is Becoming a Software Business

• Maurizio Pesce via WIRED.com

The growing role of complex software in a wide range of products provides increased functionality and value for consumers. From gadgets to cars to the power industry, we’re seeing more industries embrace software that tailors products to our individual needs.

This is especially true in the auto industry as cars grow more reliant upon software to manage everything from advanced drivetrains to elaborate infotainment systems. The Chevrolet Volt offers an excellent case in point: The plug-in hybrid relies upon 10 million lines of code, which is 2 million more than you’ll find in the F-35 fighter jet.

Given the increasing prevalence of software, it’s no mystery why Toyota signed a deal with Microsoft to bring telematics to cars from the cloud. Microsoft worked with Ford on the groundbreaking Sync system.

Google, IBM and Cisco also are moving into the automotive space. According to one study, 90 percent of the innovation we’re seeing within the auto industry is driven by advancements in software and gadgetry.

“This is having a huge impact on every traditional area, because all the functionalities you might have in electronics or mechanical (systems) are being shifted to software,” Dominic Tavassoli, director of IBM Rational, said. His outfit helped assemble the code in the Volt. “There’s a lot of rethinking going on.”

Software is today the heart of many systems, and it will allow cars to do more than ever. Instead of being islands in a sea of traffic, cars will communicate with each other, with the road and even with the grid. Automakers realize this and are scrambling to develop unique systems that offer greater utility and convenience than their competitors.

“The competitive difference is today in the software, for cars just like for mobile phones,” Tavassoli said. “The difference (among phones) is no longer in the screen, or the battery, or the antenna. It’s in what sort of apps I can put on it…. It is no longer about the car itself but it’s about possibilities like remotely opening and closing doors or start the engine with an app.”

The big automakers get this. They are embracing smartphones and developing apps that allow drivers to do everything from lock their doors to program exactly when their electric car starts drawing power from the grid.

 

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