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Get In: The Connected Vehicle Podcast From BlackBerry (Episode 8)

AUTOMOTIVE / 04.18.22 / Steve Kovsky

Exploring the Art and Science of Automotive Integration with KPIT Technologies

How many people – or companies – does it take to design a modern automobile? It may sound like the setup for a joke, but in reality, it’s no laughing matter. Today’s cars are marvels of complexity, the synthesis of myriad discrete systems that must come together harmoniously – and perform to perfection – while hurtling down the highway at high speed. That’s a lot easier said than done.

Welcome to the eighth episode of “Get In: The Connected Vehicle Podcast from BlackBerry.” This series explores the possibilities created by – and technologies behind – the revolution in global transportation we are witnessing today. In this episode, we meet Bhaskar Dani, Head of Cloud Alliances at KPIT, a leading company driving the shift toward the software-defined vehicle.

KPIT has carved a distinctive niche for itself as a master of automotive integration. In our podcast, Dani explains how KPIT specializes in choreographing the complex process of uniting the efforts of a global ecosystem of suppliers and engineers, and how the new generation of connected vehicles is challenging them to sharpen their skills.

Click below to listen/watch the full Episode 8 podcast. Additional episodes can be found here.

Like most people in the automotive industry, Dani’s passion for cars started at a young age. But growing up in India, Dani came of age in a markedly different environment for motor vehicles than in the United States, where he lives now. “India is primarily a two-wheeler place, and I got on a bike before I got behind a wheel,” he says. Back then, only two car models were widely available in India: A Fiat, and the Ambassador, both of which are now discontinued. “My family had the Fiat, and that's where I learned driving on Indian roads. It was a very interesting experience. The gear shift was on the side of the steering column, there was no power steering, no power windows, no car radios, no AC. But driving was fun.”

Since moving to the U.S., Dani has seen his own car needs change as his life requirements evolved. As an engineer, he gravitated to designing many of the systems and “creature comforts” that his family’s Fiat sorely lacked. As his career progressed, so did the role of the infotainment systems he designed. In fact, it’s not a complete exaggeration to suggest that that much of the highly advanced technology in today’s software-defined, highly connected vehicles had its beginnings in those early infotainment systems.

“With my role in infotainment and car radios, I got to see the whole move from single-line LCD displays to display audio information, to today’s connected services and software defined vehicles,” he says. This has been an inexorable drive toward an increasingly user-focused experience for the driver. “Car makers have tried to personalize cars for a while now. From the features and functions that touch the customer directly – interaction and nowadays voice – there is even more demand for personal features for a car.”

This trend has become perhaps a fundamental force for change in the automotive industry. “Consumers want their cars to be the ‘latest and greatest’ at the point of purchase,” says Dani. But what's now changing is they also want those cars to remain up-to-date over their lifecycle.

“As their personal digital lifestyle changes and evolves with technology trends, they want the car experience to be continuous with that. The traditional software development systems and methodologies that were being used by car makers cannot address that problem fast enough.”

The solution has required entirely rethinking the focus of vehicle development. “It’s led to this whole initiative in the industry for what we are now calling the ‘software defined vehicle,’ which is fundamentally rearchitecting the car as a platform, and not as a fixed feature set that remains monolithic over the life of the car,” says Dani. “There's a fundamental change happening in the core software architectural foundation of the car. This is the ability to add adaptability and portability to the data and the applications, leading to a menu card of features that customers can pick, add, and subtract over the ownership of the vehicle – not just at the point of purchase.”

KPIT as a company is working closely with numerous automotive manufacturers to support and enable this fundamental design shift. Unbeknownst to most consumers, many “car makers were primarily system integrators, and the suppliers brought in multiple dedicated, one-function-only systems,” says Dani. KPIT made its name helping car makers integrate these disparate systems, which typically required copious amounts of custom software that KPIT provided.

“There is a significant shift in how software integration with third-party hardware is happening. And that's where standardization is coming in,” says Dani. “As car makers are building software more and more in-house, there's an element of integration now required at a scale which has not been seen before.” The trend of favoring in-house software development could have reduced the role of KPIT, but the company has instead seen growth in this part of its business. “Our traditional role of providing software to a set of requirements, testing it out and delivering at a certain quality – that is changing to a very loosely defined set of variables that are constantly changing.”

At the same time, KPIT has seen development cycle times come down to as short as 18 months. “KPIT is emerging as a player with the software integration capability that is bringing all of these variables into a common baseline ‘software factory,’ and delivering it as the production happens.” This means bringing together all the disparate elements of a vehicle’s software stack, from noise reduction and Bluetooth® infotainment-related features to over-the-air automotive updates.

This is also where the BlackBerry IVY™ automotive software platform is proving crucial. “One of the requirements of the software-defined vehicle movement is the ability to run applications and services, both at the edge – which is on the vehicle – but also on the cloud,” says Dani. “BlackBerry's hitting a lot of right notes with the IVY initiative.”

Overcoming Obstacles

“The major obstacle today is that there are too many variants in car sensors,” he says, from tire pressure monitoring systems, to cameras, battery, and any of the dozens or even hundreds of discrete functional domains that are instrumented in today’s modern automobiles. The systems, sensors and data they produce can vary greatly, “by OEM, by supplier, by program, and by geography. There's more time spent in standardizing those data sources and their formats, and then exposing them to third-party developers, than actually building the applications,” Dani says.

“IVY is the only initiative where there's an element of standardization across all of the sensors, across all of the types of car maker formats,” says Dani. “It abstracts the developers and also the car makers from having to worry about a car-by-car, program-by-program, variant-by-variant integration effort.”

This standardization can greatly accelerate time-to-market for new products and services, and removes a lot of challenges, too. However, as the amount of data produced by the vehicles explodes, securing that data becomes increasingly important. Managing that data efficiently and reliably has also become a critical safety consideration, particularly as features are integrated and consolidated among fewer electronic control units (ECUs) within the vehicle. With discrete systems, if one crashes, the others will carry on. But with greater integration, it’s important to ensure that a failure in one area doesn’t affect others.

Exploring “the Next Big Thing”

KPIT has been exploring what new services can be made possible by the integration of vehicle systems. One of these, called Connect, allows multiple device users in the car to interact with the vehicle in interesting and useful ways, such as controlling the music playback, or sending an address to the car’s navigation system. “In order to do that, we built a many-to-many platform that can bring in any device. It could be a phone, a tablet, a garage door opener, and all sorts of heterogeneous devices, but integrating them with the car in a very homogeneous, single-API fashion.” KPIT has also created a solution where actions of the car affect parameters of a game an occupant is playing, perhaps via a virtual or augmented reality headset. “One of the features we built on similar lines was taking a feed from the camera on the car and feeding it wirelessly through to the phone. There's another one that we built where the instrument clusters, the speed and the gauges are replicated on a smartphone display.”

These capabilities fall under the heading of vehicle-to-everything connectivity, also known as V2X, which also brings interoperability with cloud-provisioned services into the frame. This can have further “knock-on” benefits for system development. “One of the major trends in this is virtual validation,” says Dani. “The entire ECU at a functional level is getting virtualized and being hosted in the cloud. With that, you can remove dependence on hardware availability, and make that whole development process global. Initially people thought cloud was primarily about delivering services, but it's making a very big change on the product development side as well, especially in software-defined vehicles and other connected autonomous pieces.”

Chips Aren’t the Only Shortage Affecting the Auto Industry

The key to taking advantage of this opportunity is having enough of the right software developers on board. “Those car makers that can invest and build teams with thousands of engineers for doing the software are already doing so, and those that aren't are already on their way to partner with others who can bring that,” says Dani.

While there are plenty of developers able to generate apps and the content cloud, the emerging area of autonomous systems is a different matter,” Dani says. “For the entire development cycle from data ingest to the modelling, training and then simulation validation, this is a particular feature set.” These are not common skills for software developers, and it’s creating a talent shortage that is becoming increasingly evident across the automotive industry.

“The second challenge we are seeing is car makers saying that they are still not where they would like to be in an integrated vehicle-level validation cycle,” says Dani. This is where developers like KPIT and platforms like BlackBerry IVY can smooth the process of developing for the software-defined vehicle. “We are going to see a real step up in refinement of how things come together in the car experience in the coming years.”

Listen to Episode 8 of “Get In: The Connected Vehicle Podcast From BlackBerry.”


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Video Transcript

Steve Kovsky: 
Hi, welcome to Get In, the connected vehicle podcast from BlackBerry. I'm your host, Steve Kovsky. And in this series, we'll be diving into what the future of transportation just might look like. Today I'm very happy to be joined by one of our partners and guests on the show. And I'd like Bhaskar to introduce himself, if you would.

Bhaskar Dani: 
Thanks Steve. Happy to be here. My name is Bhaskar Dani. I am with KPIT Technologies, which is a leading software solution provider and integrator for the automotive industry. I've been with KPIT for 18 years now, and I've been in a role where I've led primarily our automotive infotainment connected vehicle and outside technologies coming into the car, running in a variety of field roles. So happy to be here and looking forward to our discussion today.

Steve Kovsky
Bhaskar, you're there in the Detroit area, in the heart of North America's auto row. I'm interested in starting out with what your experience has been with cars and with transportation. If you can think back to when you first got behind the wheel of a car, and how that has changed to today, I'd like to get a little bit of your perspective.

Bhaskar Dani:
I grew up in India, which is primarily a two-wheeler place, and I got on a bike before I got behind a wheel. Today India has the latest and greatest cars and features and all that. But at the time there were basically two cars you could buy, there was a Fiat and there was an Ambassador. Both are highly iconic nostalgic brands, now discontinued, but from Bollywood stars to Bombay taxis, if you wanted a car, you had to get one of them. My family had the Fiat, and that's where I learned driving on Indian roads. It was a very interesting experience. The shift was on the side of the steering wheel, no power steering, no power windows, no car radio, no AC, but driving was fun.

We basically got in the car for the experience of just driving. Over time, as my education career progressed, I came to the U.S. to study and settled here. I went through that curve of, value for money cars, and family cars. Then I had one exciting car, then a dog-friendly car. And this year my daughter will start driving. I'm probably going to be in the market for a highly safety fortified electric car just in about a year. It's been an interesting journey and it's purely a stroke of luck that my profession ended up in the same industry. Like I said earlier, with my role in infotainment and car radios, I got to see the whole movie – from single line LCD displays to display audio to projection to connected services and software defined vehicles. So it's been very interesting relationship with the car industry.

Steve Kovsky
One of the trends that you're really at the forefront of is, I think, personalization, because you are creating systems that the user is going to interact with directly. These are not embedded somewhere in the function of the automobile, where they might not be aware of it. They're actually going to be controlling this and it's going to be something that can help sell the car, can certainly differentiate the automobile. What are some of the trends and the challenges that you're facing in this age of personalized transportation?

Bhaskar Dani
Well, you bring up a very interesting point. Essentially car makers have tried to personalize cars for a while now. And from the features and functions that touch the customer directly, interaction and nowadays voice, there is even more demand for even more personal feature pack for that particular car, but not just the car, but also the user, the occupant, and what driver profiles are there. And actually it is this trend that has now reached its hype or peak, that is driving the most fundamental change in the industry today from a software architecture standpoint. Consumers want their cars to be latest and greatest up-to-date at the point of purchase. And that's a fair expectation, but what's now changing is they also want those cars to remain up-to-date over the life of the cycle.

And by that, it means as their personal, to your point on personalization, as their personal digital lifestyle changes and evolves with technology trends, and initially we had content and apps and then favorite music. Now it's a lot more preferred devices and feature that are coming in. They want the car experience to be consistent with that and continuous with that. And that is leading to tremendous proliferation in the amount of software variations or variants that you would launch, and the traditional software development systems and methodologies that were being used by car makers, they cannot address that problem fast enough, they cannot catch up.

And so that has led to this whole initiative in the industry for what we are now calling software defined vehicle, which is fundamentally rearchitect the car as a platform and not as a fixed feature set that remains monolithic for 10 years or over the life of the car. And to be able to build a platform like that, there's a fundamental change that is happening in the core architectural foundation of the car, software architecture foundation, ability to add adaptability and portability to the data and the applications, and all of it leading to almost like a menu card of features that customers can pick, add and subtract over the ownership of the vehicle, not just at the point of purchase. So, it's very interesting question you asked, and it's actually linked to one of the most fundamental changes in the industry.

Steve Kovsky
This is a good point to talk a little bit about KPIT, and some of the listeners may not be familiar with the food chain of how cars come to market, and the role of the original equipment manufacturers, and then the rest of the community that takes part in the design and manufacturer of that car. Where does KPIT fit in?

Bhaskar Dani
Leading automotive magazines use to, and perhaps still do publish a blow up of a car's picture, every few epic editions. And they would show which part came from which supplier. Steering came from a particular supplier and infotainment came from somebody, instrument cluster came from somebody. And the traditional development process was like that. So car makers were primarily system integrators and the suppliers brought in multiple dedicated one function only systems, that would be built to the car maker specification. So KPIT actually found its growth in that space. Our reputation is that of automotive embedded software developer provider of solutions and services.

As suppliers would create these, one function or multifunction systems, we would engage with them as well as some of the OEMs in building that software. And there would be either a software development activity going on, where we would take the features and build that software, test it out and deliver to the supplier. The supplier would then integrate that into the hardware integration, deliver to the car maker. Car maker has their own cycle of full integrated system test. And then that will go to production and launch. Over time, and by that, I mean, in the last, I want to say about 10 years, the balance is shifting. So more and more of the software portion of this activity is being brought in-house by the car makers, the OEMs as we call them. 

With that transition, what is now starting to happen is a pretty significant shift in how the software integration with third-party hardware is happening. And that's where the standardization is coming in. We've been automotive company for more than 20 years, and very well reputed for providing both solutions and services in multiple subsystems of the car. We had expertise and powertrain body chassis, of course, infotainment, diagnostics, automotive architecture, AUTOSAR as we call it. But it's now all coming together. And as car makers are building the software more and more in-house, there's an element of integration that is now required at the scale which has not been seen before. 

Our traditional role of providing software to a set of requirements, testing it out and delivering at a certain quality, that is changing to a very loosely defined set of variables that are constantly changing. And OEM is defining the requirements of what car they want to launch, in parallel with the development of those requirements, which are in parallel with the multiple software components that are coming from a variety of outside suppliers, who are also looking to launch their software component versions. And so those components are also in development and the OEMs need to cram this whole development cycle from traditional three years to 18 months to even six months at a feature level that's causing tremendous, I want to say that's really galvanizing how it's done. 

KPIT is really emerging as a player with the software integration capability, with the knowledge and domain expertise of each of those subsystems and being able to run software factory bringing all these variables into a common baseline and delivering it as the production happens. It’s interesting how our role has changed, and that's going to be our positioning as a software integrator, as the industry evolves into these new connected autonomous and electric vehicles.

Steve Kovsky
It is very interesting, and there was a potential there during this shift that company like KPIT could have been disintermediated, or as the OEMs increased their numbers of software developers and their ability to develop software, we could have seen KPIT have their role shrink, instead it's shifted. I wonder if you could give us an example from maybe a current car that's in development and where you add value to that. And some of the cool features that maybe you're helping bring to life?

Bhaskar Dani
So I can think of a major OEM program we launched, the OEM launch for an infotainment system, that used our platform, but also used us as a software integrator. So this was a very unique case where this would be a platform that would go into powering more than three million vehicles in their infotainment system. This would use our own Linux-based infotainment platform, which over time we have migrated to a full eCockpit platform that can drive multiple displays. It had, as I said earlier, variety of varying OEM requirements, there was a certain baseline which ran into thousands of pages. But as the rest of the world around us is changing, especially the smartphone experience, these requirements kept updating. And there was a hardware manufacturer, which was the tier one supplier as we call it.

But there was also an independent set software providers. Somebody was providing the echo cancellation noise reduction. Somebody was providing a Bluetooth® stack. Somebody else was providing an over the air update stack. Those things work really well in isolation, but their implementation on a particular platform for that OEM's requirement is a distance that has to be traveled for every single program every time. KPIT came in as a software integrator. Not only did we have our own core platform, but we actually ran the baseline software across multiple geographies worldwide, across multiple SOPs, or start of production dates, and actually integrated on a weekly basis then on a monthly basis and upgraded set of software versions that is getting validated in parallel as this software is getting developed. It's a very, very dynamic process.

The science part of it is easy to understand and easy to replicate. It can get the right tools, get the right DevOps and other practices that large companies use. The art portion of it is where KPIT shines, that cannot be accelerated. That's just years and years of doing it and knowing what's the right validation methodology? At what granular they would want? So eventually this program actually went in production. At the time of launch it was the OEMs, I think it was the highest quality program at launch. To your original question, yes, there was a chance that companies like us role would shrink, but actually OEMs have seen that as the software variants and the components, and the requirement, and the speed of it is all changing and coming together, they need a software tier one, if you will, that's sitting next to them. That is bringing all the software practices, best practices of software development at large scale and at automotive rate. KPIT is actually seeing growth in that part of our business now.

Steve Kovsky
You've given me an appreciation of how complex the process is, and we’ve seen it in the production vehicle that comes out and it's beautiful. And it does all of these things that we wanted our cars to do for so long. What is the role of software platform? You're obviously very familiar with QNX. You're very familiar with BlackBerry IVY™, with Linux®, with all the different platforms that OEMs are using in their vehicles. What do you see as some of the major trends at that level in the cars of the future?

Bhaskar Dani
One of the trends and requirements of this whole software defined vehicle movement is the ability to run applications and services, both at the edge, which is on the vehicle, but also on the cloud. There are certain distinct benefits to that. Most importantly, portability of applications, which can speed up product development, but also real-time health monitoring of the vehicles, as well as providing new content services and applications that can be possible because now a real-time version of that car is available on the cloud for a developer. 

BlackBerry is hitting a lot of right notes with this IVY™ initiative. The major block today comes down to the car sensors – tire pressure monitoring or what have you, by OEM, by supplier, by program, and by geography, there are too many variants. There's no standardization. And there's more time spent in standardizing those data sources and their formats, and then exposing them to third-party developers, than actually building the application. And even if that is done by a given car maker, they have tried app stores or equivalent approaches but haven't been very successful so far. What's happening with IVY is, it's the only initiative where there's an element of standardization across all of the sensors, across all the types of car makers’ formats.

It (IVY) abstracts developers and car makers from having to worry about car by car, program by program, variant by variant integration efforts. Once that's there, the ultimate vision of making a car available to multiple third-party developers as a platform, to launch new ideas, new use cases, new services, new applications, is possible and accelerated. I think it's coming in at a very interesting time in the industry, and if anything, it'll accelerate the adoption of the car as a platform by the developer community. That has been a challenge in the past for the car industry, because of the sheer volumes of phones versus cars, but an initiative like this will accelerate that and take out a lot of challenges in the process.

Steve Kovsky
Well, of course I'm gratified to hear that, but it's also something that we feel very strongly about at BlackBerry. Another thing that is a foundation of this company is certainly safety is the number one priority and security ranks up there very high as well. Are these things that we need to continue to be concerned about and to prioritize?

Bhaskar Dani
Since BlackBerry provides the foundational components, it has a good chance of pretty much defining the flavor of the system, safety, and security as it goes. We frankly think BlackBerry's best days are right ahead of it, because now is the time multiple, traditionally separate functions of a car, are getting consolidated on a single, central compute – that need of the safety certification as well as isolation and especially functional safety related requirements is extremely acute. Doing that right requires somebody actually developing their software to that safety certification. Simple example: if on this central compute we have an eCockpit platform today, which does both instrument cluster, central infotainment, head unit and rear seat entertainment on a single SOC or system on chip. The instrument cluster is a safety critical piece of equipment in the car.

If I'm trying to skip a song and I'm frustrated that it's not getting skipped, I start hitting the screen multiple times, and then it hangs the infotainment head unit. Traditionally, if this was an entirely separate system, it could reboot. With the consolidation on central compute, things are different now. One subsystem crashing or rebooting can affect the safety critical systems such as the instrument cluster, which is supposed to show you all sorts of real-time data. This one element is getting very critical. And of course, you and I read about cyberattacks. That's the other element. The foundational software defined vehicle views a few things like, upgradability, adaptability, and so on. It's all under the umbrella of safety and security.

Steve Kovsky
Speaking of that, so you're going to be in the market for a car for one of your young family members, who's going to be climbing behind the wheel. What are some of the cool features that they're going to enjoy in their driving experience? And what are some of the things that even as a parent you wish were available today to help ensure their safety? That's the most important thing. 

Bhaskar Dani:
Interesting you asked that. Clearly they want the latest features. Essentially the thinking is they want the driving experience, but they don't want to compromise on what they do outside of the car all day. And that's their favorite content and apps. That's the view they are taking. As a parent, I'm just looking at safety as the foremost feature. In terms of what you are going to see, in the next five to 10 years, you're going to see an extreme refinement in how things come together. We may get new content apps and features, but today it's on overload. It's a cognitive overload, even with the best infotainment systems. I have an old car and a new car. Sometimes I drive the old car just for the fun of it.

The cognitive overload is a real deal. A lot of that being taken over by voice systems and AI is going to be a major change. Today it's better than it was yesterday but it's still not at the level where it can go. That's a major change we're going to see. The other thing which is a little bit far away is 5G and eventually 6G type. Low latency communication between vehicles and infrastructure. That's something that's going to come, it's a little bit far out today. On the safety side, of course, level three AIDA functions are starting to come in most mainstream vehicles. That will only increase. 

From the autonomous standpoint, until people really experience how good that is, (only a small portion of the market has actually seen how it feels and how comfortable it is), once it becomes mainstream, we'll be able to see how it evolves.

Steve Kovsky
Bhaskar, tell me about some of the recent engagements that you've had. Some of the technologies that your team has been able to bring to market that you're particularly excited about?

Bhaskar Dani
One example, where we built a very interesting product as a software framework, that would let the car bring in third-party, we call it nomadic devices, occupants’ devices into the car. We call the product Connect and have actually launched it with a car maker now. That car maker is using it for letting kids in the back use their phones to do remote control of music navigation, send an address to car, do family jukebox. All occupants can send their favorite song, say on a family trip, and it works seamlessly. One of the cool things about KPIT is our core team is very passionate about these user experiences in the car. We've done a long set of solutions and ideation, then we go ahead and build it.

This was one example. To do that, we built platforms that basically bring many devices that are not consistent; a phone, a tablet, a garage door opener, and what have you, all sorts of heterogeneous devices, but integrate them with the car in a very homogeneous, single API type fashion. It was very, very versatile solution. To push the limit on that, we went ahead and built an in-car gaming experience. We brought in a game studio essentially, once you have a secure point to point way to exchange data between the car and a third-party device, you could stretch the limit. So that's what we wanted to do. 

Essentially, this is a new group of use cases that are starting to come on the horizon, which is customers or car occupants bringing their own mobile devices, or we see almost even virtual reality headsets that are integrating with the car through a platform like ours. At that point, based on the real-time braking, accelerating, cornering that, perhaps your dad is doing, you could be a kid in the back playing a game and the parameters in the game are affected in real-time. So that's something that we proved out. It didn't reach production yet. We are continuing to do many things around that. That's an example of a use case that we've actually launched. The remote control piece is already in production for a few years now. And very, very appreciated by both users of... the drivers, as well as the passengers.

Steve Kovsky
It's come so far from the games we played in the car as a child, looking for out-of-state license plates or, I spy with my little eye or some people remember Mad Libs and these other games, anything to entertain the children and keep the parents' blood pressure down. Right?

Bhaskar Dani
One of the features we built along a similar line was taking a feed from the in-car camera and feeding it wirelessly through to the phone itself. This way, the car’s rear seat passengers can see the view from the front of the car while remaining in the back. Another one that we built another one around where the instrument clusters, the speed, and the gauges, they get animated and the real-time replication of that on a phone, because once you have a secure way to exchange data between the car and a device, you can do wonders. And that's what we built. And some of that got launched in production. It was very exciting.

Steve Kovsky
That is very cool. You also, it makes me think about, as cars become connected to each other, and as they become connected to infrastructure, we have all of these smart devices. You might be playing games with people in the next car or somebody heading the other way on the road. That could be really exciting, new capabilities that we can't even dream of today, perhaps your team can.

Bhaskar Dani
Our industry calls that the V2X, vehicle to everything. That's going to open up an entirely new gamut of things, not just these more consumer centric features or fun centric features. Let's imagine an autonomous environment where multiple autonomous cars are communicating. You have a particular situation where a car, a child, and a deer, all cross at the same time, some unique situation like that. That's new learning for the algorithms. That data or the learning from that needs to go back to the models running on the cloud and there's additional learning there. That needs to be deployed to all the cars. You have uplink with low latency that's required, which 5G and such technologies will enable.

Then you need over air updates and downlink making that learning part of the entire fleet, so that next time a vehicle encounters that scenario it knows how to handle it. And an extension of that is vehicle to vehicle communication, and then vehicle to infrastructure communication. Those things are going to expand the realm of possibilities significantly more – and will need even more software integration.

Steve Kovsky
Bhaskar, the cloud is playing an increasingly important role in the development of new cars, new features. How do you think that's progressing? And what are some of the areas where it's going to have the biggest impact on car design and the delivery of these exciting new experiences?

Bhaskar Dani
Cloud's bringing an interesting element. Delivering services from the cloud to the car has been around through telematics for a while. It was on on-premise systems. Now we have very large public cloud providers, and they are expanding their infrastructure at breakneck speed. What's happening with that is not only delivery of these services in real-time and capturing data has become easier, but they are also bringing the true benefit of the cloud, which is scalability, elasticity, all of those things to the product development side as well.

One of the major trends in this is virtual validation. Car makers with the amount of software that's coming in, and the amount of the sheer scale of it has reached a point where if they want to shrink the cycle time of development from requirements to launch, they cannot wait on first getting the chip makers to design the right chips, then the tier one supplier is building hardware prototype, then testing that, and then waiting six months later finding out that there are these issues and the old sequential product development, they cannot afford to go there. So now what's happening is the entire ECU as we call it, or at least at a functional level is getting virtualized, and that's being hosted in the cloud. With that, you can remove dependence on hardware availability and testatrix availability and make that whole development process global.

You can go where the talent is, put it all on cloud and parallel development. Thousands of engineers plugging into one single platform, building an entire vehicle unified software that has become a reality now. It's a new trend, it is happening. OEMs are making an investment, but we are seeing something that is unprecedented. Cloud is enabling that. The other piece cloud is enabling is the services that are getting delivered. Having a replica of the car in real-time, that's been tried out in manufacturing under the digital twin terminology, but for cars with the dynamic system, with so many more variables, it's going to be very interesting. And without cloud-based data collection and intelligence, I guess, generation with AI and distributing that, it's not possible to give that experience. 

The cloud is making a very, very fundamental change. Initially people thought it was primarily about delivering services, but it's making a very big change on the product development side as well, especially in software defined vehicle and other connected autonomous pieces.

Steve Kovsky
We've talked about these new platforms and capabilities and the ability of operating system in middleware to take out some of the granularity of bringing new features to life in cars. What are some of the obstacles? What are some of the sticking points with the auto manufacturers? A part of bit perhaps is build it versus buy it? Do they want to do it all internally? Do they trust a third-party to come in? Will that perhaps erode their ability to make their cars distinctive and differentiate them in the market? What kind of feedback are you getting from manufacturers?

Bhaskar Dani
So I think a couple of things we are seeing from car makers, there's a very strong desire to take greater control of the entire software process, as well as software components in the car, so that's writing on the wall, that's an irreversible trend. Those car makers that can invest and build thousands of engineers worth of teams for doing the software are already doing so, and those that aren't are already on their way to partner with others who can bring that. So that's an irreversible trend. In doing so I think fundamentally what is coming in the way is the speed at which that can happen because some of the core technologies in automotive, those are very specific to automotive. They're not of general IT or it's hard to find that talent. 

There's apps and content cloud development, which is there, but the core engineering of it, if you take autonomous development, if you see the entire life cycle or the development cycle from data ingest to the modeling, training and then simulation validation, this is a particular feature set. It's not general software, general IoT, general IT, in fact. And so one major trend is bringing the right amount of talent fast enough. The second challenge we are seeing is car makers saying that they are not still at where they would like to be in an integrated vehicle level validation cycle. What I mean by that is they have great integration and focused software test validation frameworks, as well as development methodologies for each subsystem in the traditional development cycle. 

Everybody in a global OEM will say, this part works infotainment, this works great in our lab, with an integrated vehicle, we don't know. The brake systems, the chassis systems, the steering systems and so on. And it is on the OEM, especially the teams that launch that software, it is down to them to really bring it all together and sign up for production worthiness of the software we are releasing. The number of releases are increasing, the complexity of software that's coming together is increasing. The time to validate is even lesser. And so that's a challenge where some new frameworks and new methodologies are coming. We have one ourselves, we have looked at these problems, hearing from the OEM, we've looked at these problems multiple times. And as I said earlier, having gone through building those solutions, I do think that if we are going to see some really step up in refinement of how things come together in the car experience in the coming years.

Steve Kovsky
I'm excited to see that level of integration. And I gained a new appreciation of how difficult it is and the resource it's going to take as we turn the page to this new chapter in automotive history, which I think we're very lucky to be here, to have a front row seat for. And Bhaskar, I want to thank you very much for giving us this deep dive into what KPIT does, how cars come together and how you're able to deliver these next generation experiences that we're so excited about.

Bhaskar Dani
Thank you for having me. This was very exciting, and we look forward to working together.

Steve Kovsky:
Well, that's the end of our episode for today, but if you'd like to get more information on the topics or our guest, check out blackberry.com/podcast. Get In the connected vehicle podcast from BlackBerry is available wherever you get your podcast. And don't forget to subscribe, to keep up-to-date with our latest episodes.

Steve Kovsky

About Steve Kovsky

Steve Kovsky is Editorial Director at BlackBerry.