Carmakers need more software competencies, BMW expert says

October 19, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
For automotive OEMs, software - and the related competence - are increasingly becoming a decisive factor in the competition. At the recent VDI congress on automotive electronics, a major event in Germany's automotive engineering scene, BMW explained why and how carmakers can differentiate through software.

For several years, BMW regards the ability to define, develop and integrate embedded software as a strategic necessity, said Reinhard Stolle, director software architecture and development for the carmaker. "We are constantly broadening our own developments", Stolle said. But not just any kind of software: Stolle sees the value of software as a differentiator. For this reason, software components such as data communications protocols or basic functions will remain within the responsibilities of tier ones or tier twos. "But wherever software is controlling a function that differentiates us in the market, we develop this software in-house", Stolle said. "Also the integration of software into the vehicle is clearly a responsibility of the carmaker."

This does not mean that ECUs - the microcomputers controlling specific functions inside the vehicle - will become a commodity, Stolle explained. But the industry needs standardized runtime environments. Examples are Autosar for the body, undercarriage and powertrain domains as well as Genivi for infotainment.

The necessity to dominate the software definition and design process calls for new models of cooperation between OEMs and suppliers, Stolle said. BMW has developed a range of models how this cooperation could look like, representing a tiered involvement in definition, development and integration of software.