Automotive Business Leader Perspectives

Innovation in software-defined vehicles and the role of OTA

Leonel Leal

The Device Chronicle interviews Leonel Leal. Leonel shares his insights on Innovation in next-generation vehicles and the role of OTA in this. 

Recently, Northern Tech CTO and Mender co-founder Eystein Måløy Stenberg laid out the essential requirements for the new cybersecurity standards for automotive, including ISO/SAE 21434 and UNECE R155/R156, how they affect the automotive industry, and how to establish a solid security foundation through building efficient, robust, and secure OTA updates. 

Now in this interview, Leonel shares his thoughts on innovation in software-defined vehicles and OTA's critical role in this process. 


Introduction: Leonel Leal, An expert in Vehicle Advanced Programs, Innovation, and Strategy



Leonel is an expert in Vehicle Advanced Programs, Innovation, and Strategy. He has worked on next-generation advanced feasibility and vehicle manufacturing for EV architectures and software-defined vehicles. Leonel started at Toyota and then moved to Tesla to work on Model S and Tesla’s First Factory doing OTA over a decade ago. He then spent time at EV maker Faraday Future, where he built everything from scratch, including various connectivity modules, architecture for OTA, manufacturing processes designed with OTA, firmware development, and rapid, agile software release cycles. He then did a stint in consumer IoT at Whirlpool, and most recently, he worked on electrifying the “last mile” at Amazon and other future EV projects. 

Leonel undertakes this Device Chronicle interview personally with the disclaimer that his views do not necessarily represent the views of his employer.

Chapter 1: Efficient and more capable software-defined vehicles to come



Leonel started the interview by explaining the future direction for vehicles and new architectures, which he believes will be centered on the modularization of hardware and software. Vehicle manufacturers, OEMs, and consumer companies will be able to have one standard method of service deployment. As a result, customers will see a diverse personalization of vehicles. This diversity encompasses electrification and an ecosystem of apps to experiences unique to individual drivers and particular vehicles. "As you standardize and create a unique platform, you can then have features deployed either through OTA firmware updates or personalization within the vehicle."

Chapter 2: Interplay between new software, vehicle manufacturing, and the process design 



Development, manufacturing & process design in parallel

Leonel goes on to describe the interplay between the new software release process, vehicle manufacturing, and the process design. He notes that traditionally, these processes were siloed, creating a disconnect between what was expected by the vehicle user and what was actually shipped. "With software-defined vehicles, the best players have found that you need to take a systems engineering approach and, early on, define the user stories that involve manufacturability, process design, the interplay of test and iteration, and validation into the software development cycle. Teams are increasingly agile teams and cross-functional, and they define those requirements upfront."

Chapter 3: Towards a streamlined vehicle production and release process



Iterative, agile loops

Regarding software-defined vehicle design, Leonel sees a deconstruction of the sequential process development and the integration of iterative and agile loops between these sequential processes. Teams across software, vehicle design, and manufacturing processes will build in parallel and take a more holistic approach. The manufacturing process, the software release process, and the engineering design process will mature at the same time. The vehicle maker will set the requirements in a common environment, designing product attributes that matter for the next cycle and then quickly identifying failure modes early on, not necessarily failures in production, but failures by being able to stress test each of those requirements early upfront.

Chapter 4: Future innovation in vehicle markets



Modularity prevails

Modularity is a significant innovation trend in software-defined vehicles. Electric vehicle makers use castings, modularizing how the battery or electrified powertrain works with the vehicle and the computing core of the vehicle. Leonel also believes that there will be fewer departments in the vehicle manufacturing factory and more of an "orchestra of teams working together" on developing and executing a vehicle. In contrast, today, you have more different teams that follow each other. "Going forward, you will have a collaborative factory where teams will build simultaneously. This transformation will enable the vehicle maker to have common platforms with a high diversity of end states for the customer. So maybe you gave one type of vehicle, a small vehicle, a large vehicle, a passenger vehicle, a commercial vehicle out of those same fundamental bits and pieces."

Chapter 5: OTA for New Business Models and Ongoing Revenue Streams



Impact of OTA software updates

Leonel believes that OTA helps find customer use cases where the vehicle maker can add value throughout the vehicle's life. He says regardless of whether it's a passenger car or a commercial vehicle, the customer can get more value out of the vehicle over time as the needs change and as the cars change with the different use cases they may experience. So, with OTA, the vehicle maker can deliver real-time upgrades, features, capabilities, and proactive maintenance or upgradeability to maintain peak vehicle performance and availability. These are critically important in specific applications. All of these have the potential for ongoing revenue streams. Personalization is also tremendous - customizing experiences based on where the driver and passengers travel.

Chapter 6: Requirements in next-generation OTA for software-defined vehicles

Most significant facet of OTA

Leonel concludes by saying that most important in OTA is the ability to build predictability and release cycles, create scale deployments, and enable the software, production, and engineering teams to understand what's in scope at a glance regarding what is being released and what needs validation. 

Get in touch with Leonel on LinkedIn.


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