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Four Reasons the Next 3 Years will Determine Automakers’ Fate for the Next 30 Years (Hint: IoT is One)


It used to be that automakers looked to things like engines and supply chains to gain a competitive edge. Now powerful trends, led by hyper connectivity and the Internet of Things, are reshaping the industry. It’s a Darwinian moment, underscored by Ford CEO Mark Fields’ comment that, “We’re transitioning from an auto company to an ‘auto-mobility’ company.”

In the coming hyper-connected world, cars will soon carry the highest concentration of IoT edge nodes and sensors, generating large amounts of valuable and actionable data – data that can be stolen, and cars that can be hacked (above).

The automotive industry has been making money by building cars for over 100 years, but the next 30 years will look drastically different, as the vast amount of data produced by connected vehicles will become the core economic value driver for the auto industry (and will need to be secured).

The next three years will determine the winners and losers of this revolutionary transition, and automakers must decide now which path they will take.

1) Co-opetition with High-Tech Companies

The entry of high-tech companies like Tesla and Apple into the automotive industry, and the emergence of the shared-car economy, mean traditional car manufacturers must reinvent themselves to compete. With Uber and Lyft, the shared-car economy has been tied to cellphone apps, and has produced a complex series of partnerships and alliances between automakers and tech companies.

For example, GM has invested in Lyft, which partnered with China’s Didi, which just received a $1 billion investment from Apple. Tech giants Google and Microsoft, and automakers including Toyota and Tata (Jaguar Land Rover) have invested in Uber. VW has invested $300 million in Israeli taxi-hailing startup Gett, while Daimler founded Car2Go and acquired MyTaxi and RideScout, both of which make mobile apps focused on transportation in cities. The lines are blurring and creating co-opetition between automotive and technology companies, as automakers re-create themselves from makers of cars into developers of technology for urban mobility. Where the line between cooperation and competition gets drawn will determine the winners and losers.


2) Millions of Lines of Code … and Growing

Already, the amount of software in a high-end sedan contains over 100 million lines of code, while the latest Ford F-150 truck contains more than 150 million. Both figures dwarf the amount of software in the space shuttle, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and Microsoft Office combined. The electrification of cars and prevalence of microcontrollers and microprocessors powering electronic control unit (ECU) modules is leading to an explosion of software in automobiles. Carmakers must be able to control software development if they have any hope of controlling their own destiny.

3) More Electronics Means More Complexity

ecu-consolidationNot long ago, the number of ECUs per car numbered in the low double-digits. Today a car has 60 to 100, and one high-end 2018 model sports 130 ECUs. This is mainly due to the surge of automotive electronics, but it has also escalated because of the siloed approach to car making, where different groups design different parts of a car, using different design methodologies, different suppliers, and different approaches. A vehicle may have over 70 ECUs, seven to eight operating systems, multiple communications networks, and rivers of data flowing through them, which results in extra cost, complexity, and security vulnerabilities.

The industry can deal with this by unifying car networks, centralizing functionality, and swapping multiple ECUs for super-ECUs, or domain and area controllers (see right). By replacing 60 to 100 ECUs with just 10 to 15 super-ECUs, automakers can decrease cost and complexity, as well as vehicle weight and emissions. Another fix is trading bulky, heavy, expensive, and slow low-voltage differential sign¬¬aling (LVDS) cabling for IP-based communication over unshielded twisted-pair Ethernet. Ethernet provides in-car bandwidth of 100 Mbps, cuts cabling weight by 30%, and reduces connectivity costs by 80%, further decreasing costs and emissions.

4) Competitiveness Depends on Software-based Differentiation

The amount of software in cars has grown exponentially, and it won’t stop as connected mobility becomes a reality and autonomous vehicles (robots on wheels) enter the market. To be competitive, car manufacturers must use the data these vehicles generate to differentiate their offerings. And, in order to do that, they must partner with software providers that allow them to control their own destiny, promote their own brand, and own the customer relationship. This point cannot be stressed enough. Yesterday’s announcement between Ford and BlackBerry is a perfect example of this.

This is one of the reasons why many automakers have already chosen BlackBerry QNX software as their trusted software and security platform. You won’t find a BlackBerry QNX logo on their car or across their infotainment screen; instead we work behind the scenes so the customers’ brand, not ours, is tied to their customer relationships and so they own their customer data.

Other reasons auto manufacturers trust BlackBerry software include:

• We have been supplying safety-certified embedded software to the automotive industry for over 20 years, with over 60 million cars actively using BlackBerry QNX.
• For years, millions of Infotainment (IVI) units on the road have been using BlackBerry’s Certicom subsidiary’s security technologies, making them not just secure, but BlackBerry secure.
• Our new portfolio is built from the ground up to enable car manufacturers and large automotive suppliers to provide software for connected and autonomous cars within a single platform. All parts of the portfolio – true type-1 hypervisor, functional safety, IVI, telematics, ADAS, and Cluster instrumentation – use the same full-car core OS platform with the latest embedded software and security innovations to simplify product development.
• BlackBerry security and privacy have been trusted by world leaders and by high-security industries for over two decades. We have more than 80 security certifications, the most of any vendor. We’re plugging that expertise into everything we develop for the car industry.
• Our secure automotive over-the-air (OTA) managed services are based on BlackBerry’s technology (with over 40 million OTA updates per year). It is optimized to deliver non-chatty battery-operated applications and automotive software updates securely, and can scale to address hundreds of millions cars on the road.
• Our Certicom asset management systems (AMS) have been securing manufacturing supply chains for millions of devices. AMS addresses the vulnerabilities of the automotive supply chain from the birth of a car to the junkyard.
• We’re also incorporating Certicom’s public key management security technologies, that have been proven effective in hundreds of millions of devices around the world, for authentication and securing the CAN bus in today’s cars.

Automakers’ ability to use data for competitive differentiation may be the most important little secret of the emerging smart, autonomous, hyper-connected automotive platform, formerly known as “the car”. With the core attributes of safety, reliability, and security available from QNX’s software (see the infographic below) and BlackBerry’s range of proven real-world security technologies, carmakers can use the data securely and privately generated by the car to provide their customers the features and experience they want most.

Kaivan Karimi

About Kaivan Karimi

Kaivan Karimi currently serves as Senior Vice President and Co-Head of BlackBerry Technology Solutions (BTS). He is responsible for driving growth of embedded software and cybersecurity-related solutions for mission-critical applications in automotive, medical, defense, and industrial markets. His responsibilities include sales and Go-To-Market, channels and partner ecosystem management, and operationalizing growth strategies.

Kaivan has over 23 years of operational and leadership experience in the software and semiconductor industries focused on automotive, telecom, and industrial markets. An avid blogger, he has been a recognized IoT evangelist since 2010. He has advised multiple startups in the IoT space and has grown IoT businesses at Fortune 500 companies. Prior to joining BlackBerry, he served as the VP and General Manager of Atmel wireless MCUs and IoT business unit. Earlier, he served in various leadership roles at Freescale Semiconductor and Cadence Design Systems.

Kaivan holds graduate degrees in engineering (MSEE) and business (MBA).