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The Future of Automotive: Driven by People, Powered by Digital
By Raman Mehta, CIO, Visteon Corporation [NASDAQ:VC]
Electric and clean-energy vehicles are becoming more prevalent, and with companies such as Tesla leading from the front, this is a trend that is going to stay. It’s not just about the electrification of the power train, it’s the electrification of the entire vehicle system in terms of consolidation of multiple electronic control units. The game is shifting on how we can make vehicles more efficient to provide the most optimum driving range.
Another trend that’s currently prevailing in the automotive industry is connected vehicles. Connectivity is right in front of us, in terms of smart vehicles and the Level 3+ automated driving, and a lot of companies are embarking upon these trends. As there is an increased adoption of software and artificial intelligence (AI) in vehicles, they are acting as an enabler for the entire connected and autonomous vehicle revolution. There will be a new set of applications that will be essential to keeping the driver occupied while cars become an extended part of home or office life.
Please elaborate on the challenges that organizations will need to address related to automotive technology.
Cybersecurity is going to be one of the challenges. The more vehicles and infrastructure become connected and interdependent, attack surfaces and vectors are going to be increasing exponentially. Security must be built from the ground up, not only in the infrastructure but on the product development side as well.
The cloud has enabled new paradigms, but in the end, there is a lot of computing and decision making that must happen on the edge. So, making the cloud and edge coexist to solve the complex problems of autonomous driving is an interesting challenge. If this problem is tackled, a lot of less-complex industries would automatically get a boost from all of the R&D that is happening in this space.
Also, organizations have to be prepared for the digital transformation. The use of AI in digital transformation is all about doing different things and doing things differently—creating products and services that were not possible in the analog world. That’s about creating new markets or extending the revenue cycle beyond a product that you sell, and getting share of the wallet through service— taking control by providing over the air upgrades so the consumer continues to have brand loyalty and an enhanced experience.
The second challenge of digital transformation is doing things differently. We cannot survive with an old IT infrastructure and business flows riddled with manual, disparate processes.
The use of AI in digital transformation is all about doing different things and doing things differently. It is about creating new products, services and experiences and extending the revenue cycle beyond the initial product sell
So, the way of the modern workplace has to look a lot different. We need to adopt cloud and AI to make the infrastructure and business processes more robust, reliable, and scalable.
The automotive revenue pool will significantly increase and diversify toward on-demand mobility services and data- driven services. What are your thoughts on this growing trend?
There will be more players designing the apps that can address the spare time that the driver will have; the driver needs to be engaged inside the vehicle, and it can become a workplace extension. Depending upon what mode you’re in, you could be conducting business or watching a movie. Personalization is also essential, and that’s where AI is serving the needs of customers’ preferences based on their history, experience, and interactions. A whole new set of applications will be emerging in the driver monitoring area— monitoring physiological conditions, fatigue, and attentiveness before we attain the full autonomy.
What are the major tasks for organizational CIOs at this point in time?
The level of software usage in the vehicles is on the rise, so we need to support our product development organizations and bring in agile methodologies, traceability and CI/CD to develop faster turnaround times for reliable, scalable and secure software development. For a CIO, the next step is to bring AI into the company infrastructure. Even for a simple task such as ensuring networks are up and running optimally, there should be machine learning algorithms that know that on any given time of the day, this is my traffic pattern.
One other thing that CIOs have to do is to adopt cloud for their software and infrastructure, because it is cost effective and much more scalable. Most importantly, the cloud is changing the organization culture, where, traditionally, we would deploy big software like ERP, CRM, and PLM on premise, and tend to customize them with little governance. Once customized, you lose the ability to upgrade periodically and keep up with product vendor innovations.
How can the convergence of disruptive technology-driven trends transform the auto industry?
There is still a bit of hesitation to fully adopt to the cloud, as the traditional automotive industry has very strong safety requirements such as ASIL. So, we need to prove that we are ready for prime time when it comes to functional safety.
The second thing is, there are a lot of people who have skills in the traditional automotive paradigm. But there is also a new breed of programmers who are good with newer skills such as deep learning and reinforced learning. We need to bridge this gap by creating an innovation mindset where these skills can be combined to work on sensor fusion, object detection and classification, path planning and control. If people see a career path and can grow into these functional expertise roles, it would be a significant accomplishment.
What is your advice for budding technologists in the automotive space?
To become more product and platform centric. We need to align with the transformation of our industry. Visteon started out being a seating, climate control, and cluster manufacturer, and now we are a top-notch player in the autonomous vehicle space.
The transformation, the business, is not waiting for us. We need to do three things in the automotive space—become energized, take care of our infrastructure, and make sure that our platforms enable innovation. We need to adopt newer trends, such as smart factories, so that we can provide complete traceability to the products that are ending up on the road. We need to make ourselves more efficient by improving plant operations, aspiring to control quality, and predicting issues much sooner in the life-cycle so they don’t become much more expensive problems later.