The SAE 2010 Convergence conference has come and gone, and Automotive News reports that automakers want electronics suppliers to give them more than just parts. Considering how technologically complex even the most basic vehicle models are in terms of features, software and more, automakers are asking for suppliers to give them technical support.
Automotive electronics: Too complex for automakers?
Yoshio Suzuki, senior chief engineer of research and development for Honda, told Automotive News that “At the moment, it is quite hard for us to do all this by ourselves.” Improving control, driver alert and other human-machine interface devices is a priority for Honda, but in order achieve maximum synergy, the way in which Honda and other major automakers do business with their electronics suppliers must change.
Micky Bly, GM’s executive director of global electrical systems, was even more specific in identifying the problem. Automotive electronics are now so tied to software that electronics suppliers should ideally be playing an even more hands-on role in automotive construction. As an automaker’s engineering team can’t conceive of all the potential test cases, says Bly, virtual engineering and expanded automated diagnostics of all systems becomes necessary. In order to meet production schedules yet still produce a top-quality product, assistance from multiple human and technological resources is needed. That includes tech support from electronics suppliers.
Production teams are under intense pressure
Head engineer Alan Amici of the Chrysler Group pointed out that the old method of “build, test and fix” is no longer practical as sales goals become all-encompassing. Electronics suppliers can no longer be thought of as entities separate from automakers, as the build process now requires immersion in complex electronic parts from start to finish. Hardware and software must be provided by the same supplier, and they must work in tandem with automaker engineers until final product is realized. Until that occurs, writes Automotive News, automakers feel as if they’re in perpetual “catch-up” mode.