The importance of software engineering

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Tier 1 supplier GKN’s software and electronics manager, Michael Schomisch, discusses how software development is becoming increasingly important in vehicle testing

With Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo becoming the latest OEMs to continue to invest in the electrification trend across the automotive industry, software engineering becomes an increasingly vital part of development.

“Software engineering is crucial for every vehicle system – including the driveline,” Michael Schomisch says of the importance of software engineering. “It goes hand-in-hand with the integration of the mechatronic hardware into the vehicle. Electrified drivelines are becoming more technically advanced and complex, with multiple systems operating together to deliver the desired performance, responses and behaviours.

“Furthermore, as OEMs and consumers demand ever-increasing levels of efficiency, the requirement is shifting toward a wider range of more precise controls to manage these systems. In turn, this escalates the demands on the driveline’s software, and multiplies the size of the task to integrate the controls into the vehicle’s broader software platform.”

At GKN, control software for an all-wheel-drive or electric driveline is several megabytes of code – quite substantial in an automotive environment. And there are several layers. Schomisch continues, “It is far more sophisticated than most people imagine when they think of software engineering. GKN’s team models the system’s physics, and creates control algorithms to embed in the microprocessor.

“As a result of greater sophistication throughout the vehicle, the amount of software code in cars has increased tenfold over the past decade. Advanced driveline software has followed suit. The various layers include the basic operating system, connectivity applications, and the drivers for electronic actuators, inverters and e-motors.”

As EV adoption rates increase, GKN could potentially lose business as OEMs look to bring electric driveline development projects in-house. However, Schomisch explains why the company isn’t worried: “We constantly watch the industry and we’re seeing a trend for greater outsourcing of these highly complex systems. GKN has delivered numerous eDrive development programmes over the last decade, building its experience and streamlining its processes. OEMs like to benefit from our know-how and our in-depth expertise.”

OEMs have seen success in recent times through out-sourcing this area of development to third-party facilities, and Schomisch is keen to discuss the benefits of auto makers out-sourcing. “The lessons GKN has learnt from successful pioneering eDrive programmes such as the BMW i8, the Porsche 918 Spyder and others, gives us industry-leading experience in this field,” he says.

“OEMs rely on this engineering expertise in these value-added areas to get new vehicles to market on schedule, with right-first-time technologies. Furthermore, our global network of production facilities means that we have a more reliable local supply option for vehicle assembly plants around the world.”

September 28, 2017

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John joined UKi Media & Events in 2012 and has worked across a range of B2B titles within the company's automotive, marine and entertainment divisions. Currently editor of Automotive Testing Technology International, Crash Test Technology International and Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology International, John co-ordinates the day-the-day operations of each magazine, from commissioning and writing to editing and signing-off, as well managing web content. Aside from the magazines, John also serves as co-chairman of the annual Electric & Hybrid Marine Awards and can be found sniffing out stories throughout the halls of several of UKI's industry-leading expo events.

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