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6 top tech trends in automotive engineering

For as long as cars have incorporated digital technology, automakers have focused on the bricks and mortar mechanics, mainly mechanical aspects of the car and outsourced large proportions of the electronic hardware and software/systems to other suppliers. But as the industry is shifting gears, and vehicle manufacturers are increasingly relying on technology with the move towards EV, driverless vehicles, etc. key differentiators begin with hardware, software, and systems in and around a car.

This changeover toward automakers developing proprietary software and OEMs getting out of the automotive niche and becoming more general tech brands, is the driving force behind most of the top industry trends identified by the consulting firm Gartner this year.

Trend 1: A search for more flexible hardware sourcing

Like many industries, automakers were severely impacted by the global semiconductor shortage and had to take a hard look at their relationships with semiconductor, electronic hardware and technology suppliers.

The industry has been hit by what appears to be a systemic flaw in the supply chain and the JIT model. Companies and governments are looking to plug this hole for the future. The shortage has cost the global auto industry about $210 billion in lost revenue in 2021, according to AlixPartners.

The auto industry's rebound during the pandemic had been orderly until the semiconductor crisis prolonged and threatened the expected recovery cycle. Caught without a buffer when their usual sources for semiconductors ran dry, automakers and OEMs alike are forging new, closer relationships with chip manufacturers, and many are looking at how to develop their own.

The industry has employed the "just-in-time" or JIT principle: sourcing only as much hardware as was needed, right before it was needed. This kept costs down in the short term but led to unmet demand quickly when supply chains were disrupted. Experts predict that as many as half of all automakers will start designing their own semiconductors or form close partnerships with semiconductor manufacturers or foundries by 2025 to overcome future problems of supply.

Trend 2: Tech superpowers take up more of the road

Google's self-driving car has made headlines over and over, but the real story in the coming years will probably be large tech companies' growing share of the auto market as Amazon (AWS), Alibaba, Tencent, and possibly Apple, move into the automobile arena. More so than actual branded cars, however, we're likely to see cars compatible with these companies' proprietary operating systems, such as Android Automotive Android Automotive OS or AAOS.

Google's Android operating system, tailored for its use in vehicle dashboards, was introduced in March 2017. The platform was developed by Google and Intel, together with car manufacturers such as Volvo and Audi. The project aimed to provide an operating system codebase for vehicle manufacturers to develop their version of the operating system. Besides infotainment tasks, such as messaging, navigation, and music playback, the operating system aims to handle vehicle-specific functions such as controlling the air conditioning

Since software development is such a specialised field in its own right, partnerships with technology giants can save automakers money while helping them keep up with the rapidly developing market for tech-integrated products outside of cyberspace.

Trend 3: Open source and open data

As of 2021, several technology companies created open-source vehicle operating systems designed for cars, such as Automotive Grade Linux, which will allow collaboration between software developers and automakers. Many of these are designed with electric vehicles and driverless cars in mind and could hopefully make EVs easier and more attractive for established carmakers to produce.

Trend 4: OTA on the road

OTA stands for "Over The Air." Over-the-air programming refers to various methods of distributing new software, configuration settings, and even updating encryption keys to devices.

One important feature of OTA is that one central location can send an update to all the users, who are unable to refuse, defeat, or alter that update, and that the update applies immediately to everyone on the channel.

Many car owners often believe that software only exists in a car’s infotainment system and thus downplay the importance of software maintenance. This might have been the case a few decades ago, but a modern vehicle today contains many more software components than it seems. With more than a hundred electronic control units (ECU) equipped in an average car, almost every function is either controlled or monitored by software. For instance, ECUs are built into the powertrain to run features like advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and to monitor turning angles and road conditions to allow for on-demand all-wheel drive and traction control.

Even without major flaws or errors, both hardware and software components need to be maintained and updated regularly during a car’s lifespan. OTA car updates solves all the above problems by eliminating the need for software-related recalls and making software updates easy and seamless.

The potential model of software sales via OTA would allow devices to download updates and patches in real-time--in other words, automakers hope to cash in by charging for downloadable upgrades and extras after the initial purchase of the car.

Trend 5: The slow growth of autonomous vehicles continues

While the industry seems to be in a silent consensus that self-driving cars are the future, developers are still struggling to adapt the technology to new environments, despite huge improvements over the last couple of years. Still, several manufacturers are in the testing process for robotic delivery vehicles, taxicabs, and other practical applications.

Safety concerns make this process long, arduous, and expensive. The results, though, could be worth the wait--after all, improved safety is one of the main draws of self-driving vehicles. One optimistic prediction imagines these "robotaxis" replacing conventional cabs fourfold by 2030.

Trend 6: Internet of Things

IoT enables secure communication between vehicles as well as vehicles and infrastructure components. The technology improves road safety, solves traffic congestion, and reduces pollution and energy expenditure with better fleet management. Startups and emerging companies develop advanced sensing technologies to gather more data about the vehicle as well as allow the vehicle to understand its surroundings. The technology could allow automated payments for fuel and tolls.

For more information, from a trusted partner with over four decades of experience in knowledge-led recruitment in the Electronics, Semiconductor, and High Technology arena, please contact us on 01582 450054 or email


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