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LG Display brought new automotive display solutions optimized for SDVs to CES 2024. (LG Display)

CES 2024: SDVs redefine OEM and supplier relationships, deliver new features

CES 2024 offers a busy look at the SDV future

For a technology set to define our automotive future for years to come, it’s surprising that not everyone in the industry can agree on what a software-defined vehicle actually is.

It’s not controversial to say that SDVs need to be able to adjust - or define - some aspect of a vehicle’s performance through software. It’s the outer limits of how this works that can prove challenging to define.

In early January 2024, global consulting firm AlixPartners released a survey of 180 senior automotive and tech executives regarding SDVs. For the survey, AlixPartners Managing Directors Mark Wakefield and Himanshu Khandelwal defined an SDV as a vehicle “whose features can be controlled and altered by modifiable software rather than hardcoded or mechanical, like safety, security, convenience, and vehicle performance. Can be upgraded over the air and enable new user experiences and personalized features after production/sale during the lifecycle.”

Moritz Neukirchner, senior director of strategic product management for software-defined vehicles at Elektrobit, said the various SDV definitions all have one thing in common.

“There are many definitions of SDV, but there is really one end goal: to deliver value through software quickly,” Neukirchner told SAE Media. This requires three key transformations, he said: decoupling of the software and hardware lifecycles, being able to deliver new value through software, and the ability to capture value.

“All three of these go hand in hand,” Neukirchner said. “Apple would likely not be able to maintain the ecosystem of iOS apps if each were bound to a specific iPhone generation. A new iPhone today would not achieve market success if it dropped the app store, as the capability for value delivery would be missing. Google would have certainly not developed Android if it couldn’t monetize the investment via data or the app store.”

The industry is also misaligned about when SDVs might arrive. Over 70% of the respondents to the AlixPartners survey said they expect “true SDVs” to be on the market within four years. The details reveal a potential challenge, though. Breaking down the responses by company type reveals that between 60 and 66% of all automotive and tech companies expect SDVs to arrive in 3-4 years. But tech companies think things could move faster, with 31% expecting SDVs to be available for sale in 1-2 years. A quarter (25%) of auto companies expect this to be true, but only 9% of automotive Tier 1 suppliers agree. Notably, 22% of suppliers expect it to take 5-7 years for SDVs to arrive, compared to just 9% for automakers and 8% for tech companies.

In November 2023, a study by Windriver product line manager Brenton Murray found that 70% of new vehicles will utilize software-defined architectures by 2030. These “Full SVA” vehicles will offer “complex, continuously updateable features and fail-operational support for higher levels of autonomy,” Murray said, and are the precursors to cloud-native vehicles that will arrive after 2030.

CES = SDVs
Whatever the exact definition or timeline, SDVs were front and center at CES 2024. OEMs and suppliers used the show to unveil or update a long list of SDV technologies that touch both consumer-focused features like in-vehicle personalization as well as powertrain and safety components.

Supplier Marelli focused on the former with its CES display, specifically the “Software-Defined Interior experience.” Marelli uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Cockpit Platform to run a Central Computing Unit (CCU) and up to four Zone Control Units (ZCUs). The zonal architecture replaces fixed analog interfaces with displays and content that can change over time, including with AI.

Marelli brought SDV components to CES, including an updated version of its panorama HUD with a 3D hologram virtual assistant, better driver monitoring and hidden screens. RTI showed off updates to its Connext Drive middleware communication framework that is already used by over two dozen OEMs to run zonal, ADAS and telematics architectures in their SDVs. The platform-independent Connext Drive works with AUTOSAR Classic, AUTOSAR Adaptive and ROS 2 environments and is ISO26262 ASIL-D certified.

Stradvision said its next-generation 3D Perception Network has been improved with increased deep learning and reduced post-processing code complexity. The scalable 3D Perception Network has a 30% decrease in ARM resource usage. This optimization is a boon for the SDV era, Stradvision said, because it decreases CPU usage for broader system operations while increasing the Neural Processing Unit (NPU) utilization for ADAS functions.

Sibros offered demos of its Deep Connected Platform that will power “the future of software-defined mobility,” the company said. MotorTrend even hosted an SDV Innovator Awards Gala event during CES 2024.

SDVs: open-source options, new updaters and optimized screens

Open-source software in SDVs was also a topic at CES this year. Elektrobit demonstrated its EB corbos Linux–built on Ubuntu software in its demo of an Interactive framework that was designed to make Automotive Operating System projects less complex and more secure.

AlixPartners’s SDV survey found that more than half of automakers favor using proprietary software for their SDVs for more differentiation and security, even if it costs more than open-source solutions. The survey found that tech firms and automotive Tier-1s prefer a mixed strategy that allows them to use proprietary software for an SDV’s core systems.

LG Display brought its next-generation automotive displays optimized for SDVs to CES. These advanced screens were designed to cover a vehicle’s dashboard and can be thin and flexible (using P-OLED technology) or more traditionally strong and unbending at a lower cost (Advanced Thin OLED). LG Display also introduced a Switchable Privacy Mode (SPM) for its screens, a technology that automatically adjusts the viewing angle so the driver can’t see it when a passenger fires up a movie or video game on a screen.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics used CES to demonstrate a new cross-domain platform developed in collaboration with Magna. In 2023, LG and Magna introduced a cross-domain cockpit computing system that was integrated into a single System on Chip (SoC). LG said the module supports multiple in-vehicle infotainment systems, and ADAS/AD domain integration provides a benefit to SDVs as more and more of a vehicle’s electronic architecture gets consolidated.

Automotive software company Sonatus used CES to demonstrate ways that SDVs could change what it’s like to move by car by offering benefits to individuals (more connections with smart homes) and fleet operators (e.g., automated diagnostics for predictive maintenance). Sonatus also used CES 2024 to announce the Sonatus Updater for SDVs. The Updater is a way for OEMs to manage the variety of over-the-air (OTA) update content from “a single pane of glass, with predictability and end-to-end traceability,” the company said.

CES wasn’t the only place for recent SDV announcements. Hyundai Motor Group held its third annual HMG Developer Conference in November 2023, where the president of HMG’s SDV division, Chang Song, led the call for a “transformation” in SDV development. Song called SDV technology one that, “can break down time and space while providing the ultimate freedom of movement to countless people,” and that future advances will require “developers with a spirit of challenge.”

Software-defined relationships

One thing all these SDV announcements prove is that this new technology is forcing the different cultures of Silicon Valley and the automotive industry to find ways to work together once again. AlixPartners asked about this culture clash as it relates to testing in its SDV survey and found a clear line between the two worlds.

“When we asked the participants, ‘how do you tackle the software and hardware challenges, ’the automotive folks clearly responded with, ‘we are going to do sort of incremental changes the way we have been doing it,’” for safety and cost reasons, Khandelwal told SAE Media. “Technology players, on the other hand, said, ‘you know, we’re going to use AI and high-end tech stacks to drive the testing and integration aspects.’”

Developing SDV technologies could re-arrange these dividing lines, but in an unusual way, AlixPartners found. Almost half (46%) of the tech executives surveyed said they expect strengthening their company’s SDV capabilities to be done through partnerships with tech companies. Only 38% of automotive OEM executives said they expect these partnerships to lead the way, and another large segment (29%) said collaboration with suppliers is the business model that will push SDV technology. When AlixPartners asked those Tier 1 suppliers directly how they expect to strengthen their SDV capabilities, a full 65% said it would be in partnership with the tech companies. In other words, if this survey accurately predicts the future, OEMs will indeed be working more than expected with tech companies, they’ll just be doing it with Tier 1 suppliers as well.

Marelli CTO Joachim Fetzer said we can see how SDVs are already changing the automotive industry.

“Before SDVs, there was a Tier 1 system supplier, the big animals like Bosch or Denso, Leer, ZF, TRW and all these, and then the OEM,” he told SAE Media. “This world is changing as the OEMs tell us ‘we don’t like the word Tier 1, we like co-creation partner. ’So, the change with the software-defined vehicle is that both the former Tier 1 and the OEM now create the product by working together instead of having predefined sets of systems or component kits, which you can arrange in a certain way.”

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