SAE World Congress 2016: What's Next for the Automotive Industry

May 2016


Click here to download the PDF version

By Phil Biggs

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress in Detroit, MI is an annual exhibition of leading-edge in-vehicle and powertrain automotive technologies. The World Congress Forum is where engineering professionals discover, collaborate and engage with peers from around the globe. The technical sessions, developed by industry professionals to maximize relevance, are designed to allow industry members of all levels to gather germane and stimulating information to enhance skills and address industry needs.

Glide Path Toward Autonomous Vehicles

The autonomous car…coming to a city street and six-lane highway near you, but not nearly as quickly as some are expecting or hoping for. Yes, the development of the autonomous car is progressing, but the hurdles to its commercial use are enormous—from safety issues to massive infrastructure requirements to warranty questions to the nagging technical leaps that must be made.

What we are seeing in the first wave is the connected car, which has already arrived as personal mobility and smart connectivity trends are combining. Driver-assistance systems are moving towards fully autonomous vehicles that feature Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication. Industry adoption of disruptive technologies will ultimately make such intelligent transport systems possible. As the commercial business case is made, demand, cost/benefit for customer safety, simplicity, satisfaction and robustness, will need to be determined ahead of production.

Legal and regulatory issues are being examined as end-to-end testing and validation is underway. Deployment of autonomous vehicles is getting closer but realistically won’t be online until 2020 or later. One of the major goals is to reduce and eliminate traffic accidents and injuries.  Auto supplier Continental, along with IBM, Cisco and others, is working to develop congestion and construction hazard information sensor features.

Pre-autonomous vehicle on-board technology includes:
  • Blind spot monitors
  • Lane-keeping sensors
  • Collision detection
  • Cloud-based mapping
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Object detection
  • Park assist
  • Lateral & longitudinal assist.
Testing is mostly being conducted in the U.S., but pockets of developmental activity are growing in Germany, Japan, the U.K., and more recently, Korea. As integrated vehicle technology is advancing, the key themes in focus are energy, safety and connectivity. Meanwhile, as more applications spawn greater amounts of highly sensitive data, concerns about personal and corporate cybersecurity breaches are rising. According to the MPI Internet of Things Study, sponsored by BDO, only 8 percent of manufacturers report that they are very confident in their current cybersecurity.

Top Automotive Cyber Risks
  • Data privacy concerns
  • Application and software security
  • Driver and passenger safety
  • Network security and data sharing with third parties
  • Insufficient monitoring and response preparedness.

In-vehicle prognosis of vehicle systems is near, enabling the vehicle to predict fail points before they occur, increasing vehicle safety and reliability. What’s driving the increased power requirements is the ever‑increasing capacity found in today’s vehicle: A new car today has the power of 80 onboard computers, 100 million lines of code and 4G capability, compared with 20 onboard computers per vehicle and 1 million lines of code in 2000. By the end of this decade, vehicles will house 500 million lines of code.

Coming attractions include Advanced Integrated Intelligence (AII) which will enable transfer of driver control, an automated driving roadmap and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) communication. V2X is full driver support and intelligence, enabling 360-degree awareness, but will likely not be commercially viable until mid‑next decade.



Hardware and Software Dilemma

Automakers are migrating from a pure embedded software development environment into a global, interconnected ecosystem that includes both hardware and software vehicle requirements. Today every car platform requires usage of modern development methodologies, and a highly integrated tool chain is necessary to deliver system quality.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are working to establish an integrated model that creates business categories and prioritizes between software and hardware requirements.

hardware & Software lifecycle

Matching hardware capability to software workload and resources is mission-critical at most OEM and supplier companies. Managing in-vehicle gigabytes and libraries of data and applications creates greater complexity and risk to the OEM and the consumer. Open-source software components and systems that are capable of meeting rigorous industry standards and architecture are today limited to specific-use cases rather than broadly deployed applications industry-wide.

High-volume software programs drive continued negative pressure on hardware costs as 85-plus percent of in-vehicle components are software or sensor-related applications. The autonomous car requires next-generation hardware solutions along with more abstracted software development models—all while maintaining rigorous testing and validation processes. However, linking software development and hardware selection is challenging due to scarcity, adoption and obsolescence issues. Greater memory access, graphics requirements and video processing, such as HMI software and Active Safety Systems, are needed to meet growing consumer demands. Costs of increasing electrical load capacity are significant today, raising questions about the capacity of the current 48-volt power system to sustain new in-vehicle application growth. As OEMs navigate this significant development hurdle, the regulation and warranty implications are unknown.

The most crucial objectives facing OEM and supplier tech deployment teams are: 

  1. Meeting project requirements, accepting complexity, staying focused and achieving global silo integration between IT, Engineering and Product Development. 
  2. Continuing to drive precision and discipline on the “front end” in order to deliver safety, security, design and leading-edge functionality by vehicle platform.
  3. Recognizing testing and validation processes and considering them earlier rather than later in the design and build phases.

Looking ahead, questions must be answered and clarity provided in this complex development situation. Closer proximity between OEMs and suppliers will be required to meet future complex in-vehicle application and powertrain requirements—forcing cost agreement, co-development protocols and shared vision, despite finite resources and competitive objectives. Do OEMs open their IP portfolio catalogue to the supply chain? We will likely see different tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers insert their technologies into different applications at different time cycles, forcing all parties to make choices.

How do we achieve integration and maintain transparency while protecting IP boundaries? Partnerships, alliances and joint ventures will force trust between parties. Hardware is mostly straight forward, but software is far more challenging in terms of requirements, integration and disclosure.

Achieving common functionality, common architecture and common cost controls is not enough: OEMs and supplier partners must merge the colliding advancement of connected and autonomous cars with micro‑regional traditional vehicle demand.



Vehicle Complexity is Booming...Are Pre‑Autonomous Cars Safe?

Achieving optimal system performance is crucial, but functional safety cannot be sacrificed in the process. As electronics and control systems continue to permeate every vehicle subsystem, reliably ensuring proper function of these devices and systems throughout their lifecycle is becoming a major challenge for engineering teams. The need for systemic evaluation of potential issues is greater than ever in order to insure passenger safety and avoid future warranty recalls.

Over the next five to ten years, the ability to identify key areas where functional safety development is critical will help OEMs avoid the industry’s next Achilles’ heel. Fail‑safe modules and systems can assist and identify the driver’s health situation at any given moment.

ISO 26262—Road Vehicle Functional Safety—includes:

  • Glossary
  • Specifications
  • Risk and hazard assessment
  • Systems development
  • Hardware and metrics
  • Diagnostics
  • Software, testing and verification
  • Production
  • Support guidance
Today: Extending the boundary of the car.

Tomorrow: Managing shared control of infotainment, navigation, routing, fuel efficiency, vehicle behavior.

“Do not expose the public to a risk higher than one normally accepted today…” OEMs are attempting to validate new technology according to current and future scope. Safety-critical systems, including braking, steering, propulsion, electrical, navigation and technical and process efficiencies, are being implemented to improve and enhance hardware/software interface. Tactics include:

  1. Utilizing delta safety case and smart analysis processes, re-use and modify.
  2. Offloading software tasks through dual-core processors, implementing common algorithms and integrating automation.
  3. Breaking down cross-divisional and functional silos to move to an industry standard.

Where can the industry get help in devising and implementing safety standards as new technology is introduced? Aerospace and military research and standards offer best-case comparisons to the automotive industry, while MIT and the University of Michigan are viewed as having the highest academic excellence and relevance in the auto sector.

Crucial success factors:
  • Recognition of driver state
  • Vehicle inputs
  • Road conditions
  • Traffic interface
  • Cloud data
  • Real-time access to on-board data

“First in” issue: Do you trust autonomy as the vehicle reaches a fog line or blackout? We must prepare to address active participation in unknown road conditions and “high cognitive load” to sort relevant data.

Automakers are concerned about over-regulation as rigorous diligence is already in place. However, safety culture is critical: sufficient safety management must be in place and the keys to success—clinics, data-sharing, integrated training—must be kept simple and manageable. There are some difficult questions that need answers before autonomous cars are commercially viable. Can Development Interface Agreements be created to document, enforce, confirm and assess safety goals throughout the entire supply chain (not simply directed at OEMs)? Will the industry support STEM and mentoring to enable faster development and integration of engineering teams? Will the industry migrate to an open-source culture? When does ISO 26262 become formalized regulation? Will NHTSA force compliance? Voice commands, eye tracking, gesture and motion controls—are they/can they be 100 percent accurate?



Appendix—Definitions and Policy/Legislative Implications

Reference sources: Center for Automotive Research (CAR), McKinsey Consulting, University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center, MIT Technology Review, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

Autonomous Car Classifications:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a formal classification system:

  • Level 0: The driver completely controls the vehicle at all times.
  • Level 1: Individual vehicle controls are automated, such as electronic stability control or automatic braking.
  • Level 2: At least two controls can be automated in unison, such as adaptive cruise control in combination with lane keeping.
  • Level 3: The driver can fully cede control of all safety-critical functions in certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control and provides a “sufficiently comfortable transition time” for the driver to do so.
  • Level 4: The vehicle performs all safety-critical functions for the entire trip, with the driver not expected to control the vehicle at any time. As this vehicle would control all functions from start to stop, including all parking functions, it could include unoccupied cars.

What’s Next: Research in Connected Car Technologies

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications for Safety: This research will investigate key questions: Are vehicle-based safety applications using V2V communications effectively and do they have benefits? Research is designed to determine whether regulatory action by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is warranted to speed up the adoption of these safety capabilities.

Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) Communications for Safety: This research will investigate similar questions to V2V, with an initial focus on applications based on the relay of traffic signal phase and timing information to vehicles. The goal is to accelerate the next generation of safety applications through widespread adoption of V2I communications.

Data Capture and Management: This research will assess what traffic, transit and freight data are available today from various sources, and consider how to integrate data from vehicles acting as “probes” in the system. The goal is to accelerate the adoption of transportation management systems that can be operated in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally friendly way possible.

Dynamic Mobility Applications: This research will examine what technologies can help people and goods effortlessly transfer from one mode of travel (car, bus, truck, train, etc.) or route to another for the fastest and most environmentally friendly trip.  The research seeks to make cross-modal travel truly possible for people and goods, and enable agencies and companies to manage their systems in light of the fact that people and goods will be changing modes often.

Road Weather Management: This research will consider how vehicle-based data on current weather conditions can be used by travelers and transportation agencies to enable decision-making that takes current conditions and future weather forecasts into account.

Applications for the Environment: Real-Time Information Synthesis (AERIS): This research will explore how anonymous data from tailpipe emissions can be combined with other environmental data. The goal is to enable transportation managers to manage the transportation network while accounting for environmental impact.

Policy Implications

As fully autonomous cars become commercially available, they have the potential to be a disruptive innovation with major implications for society. The likelihood of widespread commercial adoption is still uncertain, but if there is a broad use case, policymakers will face serious and unresolved questions about their effects. One fundamental question is their effect on travel behavior. Some believe that autonomous vehicles will increase car ownership and use because they will be easier to use and ultimately more useful. This may in turn encourage urban sprawl and eventually total private vehicle use. Others suggest that car-sharing will discourage outright ownership and decrease total usage, and make cars more efficient forms of transportation in relation to the present situation.

Legislative Impact

In the United States, state vehicle codes generally do not envisage—but do not necessarily prohibit—highly automated vehicles. To clarify the legal status of and otherwise regulate such vehicles, several states have enacted or are considering specific laws.  As of 2016, Nevada, Florida, Tennessee, California, North Dakota and Michigan, along with the District of Columbia, have successfully enacted laws addressing autonomous vehicles.

Phil Biggs is a Director in BDO’s Manufacturing & Distribution Practice in Detroit, MI and focuses on the automotive sector. He can be reached at 



The Road Ahead in the Automotive Industry

BDO is committed to leading change as globalization, regionalization and politicization create fundamental risk and business challenges to the global auto sector.

Lack of consumer confidence across key global markets and the scarcity of cash and lack of available credit create financial hurdles for the supply chain and OEMs. But the pace of change has opened the door to massive opportunity.

The meteoric rise of outsourcing, off shoring and “next shoring” as well as the Internet of Everything, are transforming the ways that we manufacture.


Quotes from SAE Session panel members:

 “Open versus closed cultures—Silicon Valley operates in stark contrast to Detroit/ Germany/Japan.  How can a rapid requirements development process model be co-introduced between these disparate cultures while allowing for and maintaining systemic precision?” Michael Groene, Director, Global Software Engineering, Delphi Automotive

“Recruiting and training skilled talent is the most critical issue we face.  [...] The future of the industry is based on the OEM’s ability to up-integrate between global and regional silos…”  Sherif Marakby, Director, Electrical Systems Engineering, Ford Motor

‘We must manage the trade-off between the high costs of hardware versus the concept of ‘free’ software. A balance must be struck between software/hardware requirements, and a free versus cost equation.”
“De-risking overwhelming software complexity is vital to achieving system integration…”   Scott Morrison, Director, Advanced Electrical Architecture, General Motors


Phil Biggs is a Director in BDO’s Manufacturing & Distribution Practice in Detroit, MI and focuses on the automotive sector. He can be reached at