Estimates of the loss of production of vehicles in the world due to the continuing shortage of semiconductors are continuing to increase. At the beginning of January, analysts predicted the possibility that 1.5 million fewer vehicles would be manufactured due to the need. By April, that number had steadily increased to over 2.7 million units; in May, it was more significant than 4.1 million vehicles.
The issue with semiconductors has revealed not just the insufficiency of the automobile supply chain but also an unwavering focus on the auto industry’s dependence on the dozens of hidden computers embedded in cars.
“No other industry is undergoing as rapid technological change as the auto industry,” claims Zoran Filipi, chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research. “This is driven by the need to address impending, evermore stringent CO 2 and criteria emission regulations, while sustaining unprecedented rate of progress with development of automation and infotainment, and meeting the customer expectations regarding performance, comfort, and utility.”
In the coming years, we will witness an even more radical change as more automakers pledge to gradually remove the internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles to achieve global climate change targets in the form of replacing them with electric vehicles (EVs), which are eventually capable of autonomous operation.
The last year of ICE vehicle development demonstrates its rapid advancements and where it’s headed.
“Once software was component of the automobile. Nowadays, software determines the worth of a car,” observes Manfred Broy, emeritus professor of informatics at Technical University, Munich, and a top expert in software for automobiles. “The success of a car depends on its software much more than the mechanical side.” The majority of automobile innovations made by automakers or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or OEMs, as industry experts refer to them, depend on software, says Broy.
Ten years back, the only cars considered premium included 100 microprocessor-based electronic control units (ECUs) connected to the body of a vehicle and executing up to 100 million code lines. Nowadays, top-end cars like the BMW 7-series that feature advanced technologies like sophisticated driver assist technology (ADAS) may include up to 150 ECUs. In contrast, pickup trucks like Ford’s F-150 have 150 million code lines. Even the cheapest cars are rapidly reaching 100 ECUs and 100 million lines of code. As a result, other features considered luxurious, including adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency brakes, are now standard.
Additional safety features that have been mandated since 2010, like electronic stability control, backup cameras, and automatic emergency call (eCall) for the EU and more stringent emission standards, which ICE vehicles must be able to meet with the help of more advanced technology and software, are driving ECU and software growth.
The consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited estimates that, as of 2017, around 40 percent of the cost of a brand-new car could be attributed to electronic systems that use semiconductors which have doubled since 2007. It predicts that this number to be at 50 percent by 2030. It also estimates that the average car includes around 600 dollars in semiconductors, comprising up to 3,300 chips.
In total, the number of ECUs and software lines will only hint at the intricate digital orchestration and the software-based choreography you will find in cars today. If you observe how they function together, the incredibly complex intended to be inaccessible from the driver’s viewpoint becomes apparent. The latest safety as well as comfort, performance, and entertainment options and the commercial need to provide numerous alternatives to buyers, leading to an array of options for each model and make and the move from human and gasoline-powered drivers to electronic and artificially intelligent drivers, and the thousands of lines software that must be written, tested and protected from hackers, are turning cars into supercomputers that move and making the auto industry change. However, is it feasible?
Features and Variants Drive Complexity
Over the last two decades, the push to offer additional safety features and entertainment options has transformed cars from transports into portable computing centers. Instead of servers in racks along with high-speed optical interconnects, ECUs and wiring harnesses transmit data across the vehicle and beyond. The tens of millions of lines of code run each time you walk into the supermarket.