For most automotive electronics groups, the role of software has expanded rapidly over the past few years. As this shift evolves, many companies are devising new strategies to cope with growing demand.
Continental is currently altering its development teams as software engineering goes global. These changes are occurring as staffing ramps up steadily.
“We already have more than 10,000 software developers working on new algorithms. Software will play an increasingly significant role for the industry,” said Helmut Matschi, member of the Continental AG Executive Board. “Over the next few years, we want to hire an additional 1500 software developers around the world to meet these future demands.”
As these new hires come on board, Continental will also be changing the way it works collaboratively. Software teams are structured with two pillars. The first pillar establishes a global footprint for software development.
“Every software developer must be able to cooperate in a global environment. For the software staff in high-cost countries, there’s a skill shift from coding to requirements engineering, management, and validation,” said Stefan Rathgeber, Head of Software Development.
Software engineering is distributed far more than hardware engineering. Continental’s teams are widely diversified to take advantage of different skill sets and the availability of engineers. The company has almost 80 development sites in more than 23 countries.
“Software engineers need to be able to cooperate over locations. Software is more and more based on standards allowing abstraction and thus distribution of tasks,” said Ulrich Schrey, Director Software Engineering.
Platform development is the second focus for software engineering teams. Instead of responding to each requirement, teams now create platforms that can be used for as many products as possible.
“Platform development requires excellent skills in software architecture,” said Stefan Bunzel, Automotive Software Technology Manager. “The required skill set also changes—instead of pure software developers we need more requirements engineers, architects, and integrators to be able to manage the complexity.”
Continental’s managers noted that software complexity is rising rapidly, doubling every three years. For example, software engineering in the Body and Security Business Unit accounts for a third to half the overall engineering staff.
Another change comes in complex human machine interfaces. When interaction with humans is involved, there’s a need for more interaction between different disciplines.
“Our HMI engineering teams include software engineers, 3-D graphic experts, screen designers, experts in ergonomics, and technical artists having expertise in design as well as technical aspects. Problems or errors in the HMI area are directly visible to the driver, the focus on quality is also extremely important in the HMI sector,” said Gerhard Müller, Head of Graphics and Architecture.