With the introduction of new applications and services, automotive manufacturers have significantly changed how vehicles are developed and designed, with code and computing becoming a fundamental focus for the next generation of vehicle. This software-defined vehicle focus is disrupting a traditional industry with the promise of better experiences beyond when the car leaves the showroom.
In this episode, Geof Wheelwright is joined by Dipti Vachani, SVP and General Manager of Arm’s Automotive and IoT Line of Business. The pair will discuss the importance of the software-defined vehicle, the opportunities and challenges it presents, the announcement of Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge (SOAFEE), and Arm’s involvement in the future of the automotive industry’s growth.
Arm Newsroom: New Arm technologies to transform the software-defined future for the automotive industry
Arm Solutions: Software-defined vehicles
Geof Wheelwright: We’re back with another Arm Viewpoints podcast. Our episode today looks at the future of the car, we’re going to dive deep and look at the opportunities and challenges of what’s become known as the software defined vehicle. We’ll explore Arm’s involvement in the growth of the software defined vehicle, and a new initiative to help drive standards in this area. With me today is Dipti Vachani, SVP and general manager of the automotive and IoT line of business at Arm. Dipti’s organisation is responsible for the proliferation of Arm-based solutions within the transformational opportunities of autonomous driving and IoT. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.
Dipti Vachani: Thank you for having me
Geof Wheelwright: I’m going start by asking you what the Software Defined car is, and why it’s important?
Dipti Vachani: It’s a mouthful, isn’t it software-defined car. So it’s quite simply that the function of the vehicle is upgraded, and or improved by an automatic download of software. So the hardware of the car is built to keep that in mind, so we build a car to have the cameras and the sensors with the idea of what the future can hold and then once that car is on the road, we can download and upgrade its features through software. That’s quite simply what the concept is and you can imagine that that concept is already at work with your phone, you get new software downloads, you get new features, you get new apps, it’s very similar to that. But now we’re talking about our car and our vehicle and taking advantage of all of the functions that we can have within the car and our user experience as well, or where safety is concerned, or new features are concerned. And this is a huge opportunity for the car brands. This allows for them to have a lifetime direct relationship with the drivers. Because imagine now you go through a lot you buy a car and that’s really your only experience. This allows for an experience with the OEMs that we haven’t had before where were features start to come to life over the lifetime of that car and, you know, for me, I have a software-defined vehicle and it’s like Christmas morning when there’s a new software loaded. I go to my car, and now I’ve got all these new cool things and new toys to play with and that’s the experience we’re trying to create with the software defined vehicle.
Geof Wheelwright: And why would you say that that’s particularly important right now?
Dipti Vachani: Well, we’re at a major inflection point within the automotive industry, right? Electric vehicles and the rush and the reinvention of the car for the whole vehicle to be electrified is pushing the OEMs to redefine how these models are built. They’re all being redefined at the same time, multiple models are being built the same time and there’s a lot of investment going into what does that mean? the electrification of the vehicle. New autonomous features are being deployed and as such that’s also creating an opportunity to redefine the vehicle as it is. And then consumers are just demanding more features from the cars, right? They’re getting used to this experience that we’ve had and like the mobile phone we’re seeing this demand for this experience in the car. On top of all of that, so we’re talking about a perfect storm, we’ve got the importance of chip technology, there’s a global chips shortage and that’s making all the OEMs start to reconsider what their supply chains are and they’re increasingly scrutinising how they build these vehicles, how they how they create supply chains, and the complexity of these supply chains. So there’s an intense focus on electronics and semiconductors and then software within the auto industry. So if you think about the electronic architecture of a car today, it has about 100 electronic control units. This is 100 ECUs and it’s extremely complicated. I can imagine the supply chain of something like that being complicated as well. It’s not flexible and it’s quite frankly expensive and heavy, right? and heavy means something when you’re talking about miles per gallon (MPG) or how you use your battery, right? And so they’re looking to centralize that architecture with a higher performance CPU. Something that’s more high efficiency that allows for a heterogeneous level of compute. And this now starts to open-up this opportunity to create a vehicle that’s more software defined. They need to take advantage of the 1000s of dozens of lines of code that we’re writing, and how are we going to robustly create that code? How are we robustly going to deploy that code? And then how do we maintain and upgrade that code over the lifetime of the car. And so this perfect storm of reinvention of the car, the electrification of the car, new autonomous features, as well as a supply chain concern, has propelled this entire industry into a new way of thinking, This opens up the opportunity for OEMs to create a feature that can be upgraded over time. And that’s what we call the software defined vehicle.
Geof Wheelwright: Well, that all sounds great. And it probably begs the question, why aren’t all cars software defined? What’s holding the industry back?
Dipti Vachani: Well, you know, if you look across the industry there, every OEM at some point or another has as announced that they’re doubling down on software, they’re hiring of software (engineers) so there’s no lack of momentum or lack of interest. They are convinced that this is the future. You’ll see it in every one of their announcements. Now, it’s really a question of how and when and they’re looking taking advantage of the other markets that are out there. So data centre today, right, you’ve heard the concept of data centre on wheels, and the ability to use cloud native applications in the vehicle, because the car is a quote unquote of layers through wheels? Well, it’s it’s really not that simple, though, right? It is from a performance standpoint. But we have to think about real time, we have to think about functional safety and we have to think about security. And so it’s about taking advantage of all the features that are already available in the industry, the technologies out there. But how do we augment what’s out there with what’s really required in a car, like the functional safety, the real time and the security? And so that’s where the investments are happening today, and the momentum with our OEMs is right on the right trajectory? Right, we’re solving the problem together.
Geof Wheelwright: And it sounds like that’s definitely an area where Arm can help. Maybe it can tell us a bit about how?
Dipti Vachani: Yeah, absolutely right. And, and that’s the value Arm brings to this ecosystem, we have strong relationships across the board of the supply chain, right? tier ones, operating systems, software, vendors, OEMs, and all of those, and most importantly, the cloud service providers. And so as we can, we are engaged with all elements of the supply chain. In addition to that, we have an expertise in specialised compute processing, functional safety, real-time control, and cloud native software development. The expertise and our relationship across the supply chain allows us this unique opportunity to bring these players together to solve the problem across the ecosystem because it’s going to require all of us to look at this from our different angles to truly propel, extend and scale this new technology. And we believe that the benefits to the consumer is evident and obvious, right? We were just looking that one analyst deployed some estimates that we can expect a margin enhancement of $2,600 just for a high volume vehicle per car. That’s three times that for a premium model. So you see the opportunity, not only new features, but a savings to the consumer and so the demand is there, we have all the members of the ecosystem and the supply chain to engage with and we have the technology so we’re taking advantage of our position to bring those players together.
Geof Wheelwright: And I think you’ve got an announcement that you wanted to talk about in that area?
Dipti Vachani: We do, we do, we have a big announcement we announced SOAFEE, SOAFEE stands for Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge. We’re working with all of these leaders from the automotive supply chain, like I mentioned earlier, to develop open standards and reference software stacks and bring the real time and safety needs automotive together with the advantage of the cloud native approach. We’re deploying this today and it’s available for download free of charge today. It builds on the success of arms Project Casini, which we defined standard boot and security requirements from Arm architecture and data centre and edge computing, we take advantage of what we built with Cassini, which I mentioned earlier, is a data centre, an edge architecture and we build on top of it the real time functionality, the functional safety and security required for software defined vehicles. And that’s what SOAFEE is, so we have great engagements from leading cloud provides along with several leading automotive OEMs, tier ones, other software vendors, operating systems and partners which we’ll hear about over the next few days as we release this announcement across the press and the wire and our ecosystem. We’re really, really excited about this engagement because it propels the industry and expedites this technology.
Geof Wheelright: And I understand there’s a hardware component to this as well.?
Dipti Vachani: Yes, it’s freely available software today. But developers need hardware to develop on. It makes it makes it real and easier for the ecosystem to develop on. And so that’s right, we have developers with a high-performance development platform, they can explore that today with automotive workloads on Arm and System Ready, which means the solution developed on this can be easily ported to production silicon from our silicon partners, we’ve been working with a partner called named at ADLink, which is a close partner of Arm’s to deliver platform for lab development of software alongside a ruggedized version. We also have a ruggedized version with additional capabilities for in vehicle prototyping. So not only do we have the software that’s freely available and downloadable, we now have the hardware one, which is a developer platform, and another which is a ruggedized version that you can put into your vehicle for prototyping right away. We believe that the initiatives that we’re announcing today will bring efficiencies throughout the whole supply chain time and cost savings, reduce complexity, better portability, and reuse of code. So we’re unlocking this future of software defined vehicle across the industry and across this ecosystem with these new deployments.
Geof Wheelwright: And I also understand that this isn’t just about cars, that you’ve got other implementations of this technology. So what does that future hold?
Dipti Vachani: Cars are easily something that we see today and it’s here and now. But this technology is also here and now in many other markets. I mentioned the mobile phone, right, we’ve gotten comfortable and used to it being software defined. It’s something we’ve experienced for quite some time. And now we’re starting to experience that in the car but we’re also experiencing in our homes, and in retail, in industrial and medical, this concept of hardware that is easily upgradeable with new features, downloads of new data, new models all downloaded by software, is going to transform multiple industries. And I truly believe that and already is, right. There’s an there’s a company we’re working with right now called Zing Robotics and this is just an incredible robot that serves multiple functions on an airport tarmac. It pushes back planes, shifts baggage, they have very powerful compute within a very tight space constraint. And of course, this is right in the wheelhouse of what Arm does really well, high compute and tight space where we have whole functionalities of robots that are just software defined. And as they learn more, they deploy these functionalities into these robots. And so that’s an example of somebody that’s not automotive but again, I think this is going to transform multiple industries, it already is, you see component to your home, that’s already software defined, right? Whether It’s Your Alexa or other parts of your house. So this is going to continue to happen.
Geof Wheelwright: Well, as a huge fan of both cars and robots. I’m excited by the future, you’ve outlined, Dipti. It’s definitely got me thinking hard about what I’ll be looking for in my next car. And I’m sure our listeners will be thinking about that too. Thanks to you for those insights. And thanks to our listeners for joining us today. We look forward to bringing you more glimpses of the future in the next episode of Arm Viewpoints