Caroline Bergmann

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From car manufacturer to software developer?

The automotive industry is under enormous pressure: supply chains are breaking down, energy costs are rising, and skilled workers are in short supply everywhere. At the same time, the industry has to cope with digitization. Perhaps it was precisely this pressure that led to a change of mind.

Vehicle Software.

Cars become rolling computers - industry joins forces with open source. © Deutsche Telekom

Today, a car is much more than just a means of transportation. The times when mechanics and hardware defined the core of a car are over. Today's car - on its way to autonomous driving - is more than ever an automobile (Greek: self-moving). And what is the basis for this? Exactly: the software.

Cars are becoming rolling computers. Software-based functions in vehicles are becoming more and more important.  The car provides entertainment, information and a working environment all at the same time. It is a means of transportation. And at the same time a user interface. According to Roland Berger, software spending by manufacturers and suppliers will jump from $26 billion in 2021 to $59 billion in 2030. Understandably, the industry is looking for new approaches to cut costs.

Here, a new software-defined approach to car design has emerged: Cars are being built around software platforms, rather than integrating software into the car as has been done in the past.  This approach requires not only new technology, but also new thinking, new business models and new forms of collaboration.

Joining forces with open source

Does every manufacturer really have to develop all software components themselves? Some software components concern the "brand core". They control functionalities that make the difference in competition for customers. Others, such as control units for turn signals, central locking or the rear window heater, are important, but they do not serve the purpose of differentiation. This is where open source can show its strength.  Open source refers to software whose source code is public. It can be viewed and modified by third parties and can usually be used free of charge.

Open source thus enables cost-efficient technology management and reduces the investment required by individual companies. In addition, a car based on a software-defined vehicle concept can be optimized years after delivery. Vehicle functions are updated or updates and upgrades are installed.

Of course, this requires a cultural change in the companies: Only when stakeholders share information with each other does everyone win. Competitive thinking, on the other hand, only slows things down. Today, more and more companies are willing to collaborate. Together with suppliers, the tech industry and even the cempetitors, they are tackling the most pressing problems. For example, in initiatives such as Cofinity-X, Catena-X or the Eclipse Foundation.


Future Mobility

What will it look like? connected – electric – software defined.