Diverse factors such as safety, infotainment, and connectivity are altering the design landscape, prompting a growing use of contract design services. These service providers are helping automakers meet changing user expectations in many areas.
The need to integrate consumer products into infotainment systems and connect users to cloud services are forcing many automotive companies to look for help beyond their existing suppliers. The increasing complexity of safety systems is also driving increased use of design service providers.
This change was evident at the recent 2012 SAE Convergence event, where companies such as iGATE Corp. were active on the show floor and in sessions. The company focused on the aerospace industry since the 1980s, until executives saw a growing need from the automotive industry. It started building up expertise and establishing relations in 2004 that are now being used to help automakers keep up with rapidly changing markets.
“In the last few years, we’ve seen a convergence of three generations of technology: the electrification of the car, the trend we’re in now to move to a flat world, which is where the concept of the connected car came from. Now we’re in the third generation, with cloud computing and social analytics, where any content stored in the cloud can be downloaded at any time,” said Sanjay Salunkhe, Senior Vice President, Product and Engineering Solutions at iGATE.
The ability of connected cars to download content from the cloud will alter the infotainment field, he continued. The boundaries of automotive capabilities and the expectations of drivers are both changing rapidly, which may alter the landscape of the auto industry.
“A new set of players is becoming involved in this industry. Normally, you wouldn’t see design companies like iGATE being involved,” Salunkhe said. “But all OEMs and Tier 1s are challenged with their own R&D. They need help to accelerate their development cycles.”
Areas other than infotainment are challenging existing design teams. One primary focus is safety. Beyond designing systems that prevent crashes or mitigate their impact, design teams must meet the requirements of ISO 26262. This functional safety standard is altering design phases for both components and systems. It also impacts the design tools used to create these systems.
“The ecosystem is one of the biggest aspects for ISO 26262 compliance,” Salunkhe said. “These tools are being used with two business models: one-time sales and by-use license. More tools are specialized standalone products, companies may not need them very often.”
He also noted that model-based design is becoming a significant factor throughout the industry. As designs become more complex and more simulations are run so engineers can test their designs, the amount of data they must sift through is growing exponentially. New tools are being developed to alleviate this challenge.
“We’re starting to see analytics come into the world of data models, helping designers understand what’s happening,” Salunkhe said.
As outside design firms play a bigger role in the automotive industry, OEMs and Tier 1s are changing the way they interact with these outside firms. The focus is shifting to outcomes for a defined project rather than simply a few hours of assistance during a crunch time.
“Automotive OEMs want to challenge the existing business model, which is built upon billable hours," Salunkhe said. They’re looking for guaranteed outcomes. When you’re trying to migrate from one technology to another, you want improved deliverables. We feel that if we hadn’t made the change to that model, customers would soon be asking us why we hadn’t.”