Automotive investment in the Silicon Valley has grown dramatically over the past decade, with leading automakers and automotive technology suppliers all having established facilities in the region.
One of the newest developments is the opening of an Elektrobit (EB) development center which will focus on the company’s development of its software and systems innovations for in-car connectivity and autonomous driving. EB has hired long-time automotive industry executive Walter Sullivan to head up the EB Automotive Innovation Lab Silicon Valley. Sullivan joins EB Automotive from Microsoft, where he spent more than 24 years creating automotive and software solutions and led the development of cutting-edge embedded systems with top automakers.
Learning from, collaborating with and contributing to the vibrant and innovative community of technology companies in the Silicon Valley is the next logical step for EB to build the software and systems needed by the automotive industry in the future, according to Sullivan. He is building a team of engineers dedicated to working with emerging technologies and involved in research and pre-development activities with EB customers located in the Silicon Valley.
The company also will explore partnerships with local firms whose technologies complement EB’s software offerings. “EB has established itself as one of the most important suppliers of embedded software solutions to the automotive industry, with a reputation for innovation and agility, and a commitment to top-notch customer service,” says Sullivan. “This is a very exciting time for the industry and EB. I am looking forward to the road ahead in leading the EB Innovation Lab.”
EB was named a 2015 CES Innovation Awards Honoree for its’ EB Assist Electronic Horizon solution. EB Assist Electronic Horizon Solution delivers essential map data for in-car driver-assist features such as night vision, curve speed warning and traffic sign recognition or range determination for e-cars and autonomous vehicles. Its’ powerful combination of navigation and driver assistance software allows carmakers to provide predictive, safe, comfortable driving.
The company is one of the few automotive suppliers that offer an electronic horizon solution combining both navigation software and driver-assistance systems software, which allows carmakers to deliver precise, easy-to-use and increasingly capable systems for consumers. Elektrobit’s EB Assist Electronic Horizon product is unique in being able to deliver one of the most detailed road geometry data currently in the market.
“As carmakers continue to include more autonomous features in vehicles, driver assistance becomes a critical component. This award recognizes EB’s commitment to delivering the most innovative in-car safety solutions for the automotive industry,” said Markus Schupfner, Executive Vice President Operations at EB’s Automotive Business Segment at the award ceremony.
EB also specializes in services and consulting for the automotive industry, supplying implementations of serial software solutions for a broad range of AUTOSAR and FlexRay, infotainment, navigation, HMI and driver assistance systems. The Finnish firm creates advanced technology and turns it into enriching end-user experiences. EB is specialized in demanding embedded software and hardware solutions for wireless and automotive industries.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Sullivan what he believes will be some of the challenges at EB after his long tenure at Microsoft. Sullivan: This is an exciting time for EB and for the automotive industry. As I see it, the challenges ahead are all really opportunities. The global automobile industry is enjoying fast growth, and software is now one of the key components of every vehicle. There are between 100-200 million lines of code in a vehicle (and as we enter the era of autonomous driving, we need to bridge the car and software even more than before). As such, EB has a huge opportunity to accelerate its innovation toward autonomous driving and the connected car.
AI: What is your first impression of EB as a pioneer in embedded software solutions for the automotive industry?
Sullivan: I was drawn to EB because of its unique understanding of the in-car environment. While at Microsoft, I had opportunities to work closely with EB for 10 years, and so I have long-time, first-hand familiarity with the company. EB has a best-inclass partner eco system and the broadest portfolio in embedded automotive software in the market (navigation, HMI, ECU, driver assistance). EB’s software powers more than 75 million vehicles worldwide and is used by carmakers like BMW, Ford, GM, Daimler and Volkswagen group worldwide. The company’s special market know-how and more than 25 years of experience provide a strong base for it to continue innovating and developing the next-generation of automotive software.
AI: What are some of the future trends you predict will impact embedded software in automobiles?
Sullivan: The trend toward Connected Everything is the most important social and technological change in our time, and will revolutionize the automotive industry. The connected car is not a product like the electric car, because connectivity itself does not bring any value unless it is combined with a solution. Innovations like automated or autonomous driving and e-mobility only really work safely and efficiently when they are combined with connectivity. The connected car also opens the door for new business models and for other services like information about parking opportunities and gas stations. The connected car therefore is an enabler for technologies that will define the mobility of the future – when we imagine what cars and mobility mean to customers in the next five, 10 or 20 years, it is hardly conceivable without connectivity.
Automotive Industries then asked Manuela Papadopol, Director, Global Marketing, Elektrobit Automotive how the opening of EB’s innovation lab will speed up the development of new technologies.
Papadopol: Silicon Valley has long been the hub of technology innovation. The top technology companies—including many of our partners and customers—are headquartered or have a strong presence here, and countless technologies and technology trends are established in the Valley. The growth of auto research and design investment in Silicon Valley has been spread widely throughout the industry. Many of our customers like Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz have had large R&D centers in the Valley for years. EB’s involvement with customers should begin in the R&D phase, and not just before development starts.
AI: Tell us about EB’s software for navigation, driverassistance, HMI and infotainment systems in vehicles from Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford and VW – how has the company managed to keep ahead of competition?
Papadopol: We’ve been developing in-car software solutions longer than most, and have long-time and strong, trusted relationships with key automakers and Tier 1 suppliers. In addition to developing software our strengths include integration. More recently, our engineering team has embraced agile development practices, which allow us to move more quickly than others.
As a worldwide technology leader in the fast-growing automotive software market EB is undoubtedly in an excellent position. Features like security systems, driver assistance and infotainment systems have become so enormously popular that they are now widely available, in both low-end and highend vehicles. This proves that consumers are willing to pay for technology that enhances their driving experience.
AI: What are some of the new markets EB plans to expand into?
Papadopol: Our expansion into the Silicon Valley allows us to partner more closely with technology innovators. We expect to form alliances with more organizations both in and out of automotive to create new solutions. I cannot say any more, at this point, but can assure you that the road ahead is an exciting one for EB.
Vehicle equipped with EB driving assist equipment following virtual lines in the traffic.