Innovation in the car: 90% comes from electronics and software

April 29, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
With an average of more than 100 Electronic Control Units (ECUs), modern vehicles are already computer networks on wheels. This high degree of 'electronisation' has consequences for the innovation in automotive technology: Already today, 90 percent of the innovation in this segment is associated to electronics and software, says a study from technology consultancy Invensity.

The focus on electronics in automotive innovation will continue to climb, believes Invensity automotive expert Sebastian Hetzel. "Today, autonomous driving, drive-by-wire and the electrification of the powertrain confront vehicle developers with new challenges."

The Invensity experts compared the ECU landscape in vehicles with the Programmable Logic Controllers in manufacturing environments which have reached as similar performance level. Nevertheless, automotive electronics has an edge over PLCs under the aspect of technological sophistication. Its custom-made, decentralised hardware makes them particularly suited for applications under spatial restrictions. In addition, automotive electronics is particularly resistant against heat, vibration and other adverse environmental factors. In addition, automotive electronics are designed to be used by end customers translates into far better usability. What's more, automotive electronics typically is less prone to faults since carmakers are very eager to avoid defamatory call-back actions. For this reason they have established extremely elaborate tests.

Among railroad system manufacturers, PLCs are still widely in use, in particular for air conditioning, door control and illumination, states Hetzel. Increasingly, manufacturers switch over to automotive technology even for railroad applications. "While automotive electronics in many cases offers better customer experience, in non-safety-critical applications, comfort systems and small series, PLC can be a useful alternative", Hetzel said.

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