I just read an interesting announcement on autonomous connected vehicles. Dassault Systèmes and AKKA Technologies have announced a long-term partnership aimed at promoting innovation in the self-driving connected vehicle market. Their plan is to offer high-end engineering services and solutions to help the global automotive industry.
Interestingly, Tesla Motors recently unveiled new automated driving assists in their Model S luxury electric cars. Think auto-pilot rather than autonomous as driver input is still required to get from point A to point B. According to CEO Elon Musk, the systems use radar, sonar and cameras to navigate around obstacles and traffic signals.
Here is a video highlighting this recent announcement:
As the idea of everyone using driverless vehicles to get around gets more popular, the automotive manufacturing industry has to adapt in response.
In light of this news, it’s interesting to take a look at how vehicles today rely on electronics, and how this will increase with driverless vehicles.
Vehicles today have a far greater level of complexity than ever before. They have a tremendous amount of electronics in them already—and not just the infotainment system. We’re talking about everything from sensors in the brakes, in the wheel hubs, to engine modules, to the radar buried up in the grill for collision avoidance.
There is already a tremendous amount of technology in vehicles today. But this is going to take complexity to a whole new level – starting with new product introduction and continuing through the lifecycle of these vehicles. There will be even more control modules doing many more complex processes within the vehicle. Think about tuning up a car in the old days – it was primarily focused on just mechanical things. Tuning up a car today requires a computer doing an extensive diagnostic, with hundreds of potential “fix it” codes tied to various systems that might need adjustment. There’s nothing mechanical about it. A good laptop is more important to a tune-up than a wrench today!
The manufacturing industry must ready itself to support a new level of synchronization across these complex systems. Not only must new driverless systems be integrated into design, engineering and manufacturing requiring considerably more details and coordination across the vehicle, but the potential for “error” now carries with it far greater risk. One can only imagine the headlines when the first auto-pilot or autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident.
In other words, manufacturers need to accept a much greater responsibility to synchronize the right control modules with the right programming to the right vehicle based on what the customer ordered. Unlike putting a wheel on the vehicle, you can’t visually tell the difference in option programming between one control module and another, so there has to be a far greater level of synchronization and control in the core code. Identifying option programming within the manufacturing Bill of Material (BOM) is the most obvious way to handle this. Then, you will have to be able to validate test results against expected results based on the BOM selections.
In my next post, I’ll explore this topic a bit further, taking a look at the safety implications as well as the customer acceptance challenges that lie ahead, before self-driving cars actually become a part of our future.