Technological evolution has highlighted a strong dependence of the automotive industry on electronically controlled systems that are
increasingly present in vehicles.
The possibility of introducing highly innovative functions thanks to the use of sophisticated electronics and connected systems combined with the need for a serious and effective response from the point of view of environmental sustainability are imposing radical changes both in the way vehicles are developed and in the business models used : progressive abandonment of the heat engine in favor of alternative propulsions; assisted and autonomous driving; shared mobility linked to specific services.
The automotive industry, like all modern companies, wants to create highly scalable, flexible and resilient applications, easily and quickly upgradeable, to meet the needs of customers by creating a better and more efficient relationship with them.
If until a few years ago the software was part of the car for specific functions and additions that did not modify the essence of the product, today the controlled and connected systems are an integral part of the product and of the value of the car itself, surpassing the evolutions in importance of mechanical systems.
The cloud-native approach – a combination of techniques and technologies capable of developing and distributing quality applications and obtaining shorter software life cycles driven by continuous user feedback – is what allows us to meet new security, comfort and , performance and entertainment as well as the commercial imperative of offering consumers dozens of options, for every make and model, in order to transform cars from simple means of transport into real terminals on wheels, work and leisure environments with of mobility.
The possibility of having new functions through software updates brings to mind what has been happening for decades in the after-sales of smartphones: and it is precisely towards these devices that the automotive industry is addressing itself, integrating their use to improve and transform the performance of the car.
These technologies make it possible to offer additional services that are selected after the purchase of the car and also for limited times, unlike the model in which the configuration of the car is defined upon purchase and is largely untouchable afterwards. We are not just talking about ancillary services such as seat heating, navigator maps, infotainment contents, but also key car contents such as engine power (why not rent more engine power just for the weekend?), driver assistance systems and stability control, functions related to computer security and not, etc.
The same technologies also introduce another fundamental paradigmatic change in the automobile market: if historically the value of the automobile defined as a new product is inexorably destined to decrease with use and obsolescence (obviously excluding collector’s items), the possibility of updating the contents in a simple and automatic way after the sale gives new life and value to the objects over time.
But, apart from a few forerunners, is the automotive industry really ready to face this profound change?
The most significant complexity of innovation lies in human capital: companies will need to invest in resources and training or use external developers to shift the focus from a hardware-based approach to a mindset focused on product development over deployment and maintenance of software, where the real protagonists of this revolution, as well as elements of differentiation between competing OEMs, will be the developers themselves.
It is magnificent to imagine the potential of cars that improve over time, where performance, safety and comfort can be changed and improved by simply updating the application or by using a common mobile device, allowing each driver to be able to choose between different engine, driving and safety options whatever the configuration of the standard equipment, also adapting to the different regulatory regimes present in the individual countries where the cars are marketed.
In conclusion, it can be said that the ever increasing digitization of vehicles, the cloud-native design models, the scalable approach to the complex management of automotive IT represent still new challenges to face which, for the automotive sector, are only the beginning of a software-defined world.