Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group

One of the places where digital business transformation is going to have a profound impact that affects almost everyone is the rise of software-defined vehicles. Manufacturers of vehicles are increasingly dependent on software to deliver a wide range of capabilities that improve everything from entertainment experience to driver safety. The building, integrating and securing software components that need to be deployed across thousands of processors embedded within a wide range of makes and models of vehicles, however, is not exactly easy.

In fact, networking all those systems together requires a lot of network bandwidth to be available within a vehicle. Fresh off raising an additional $64 million in funding, Ethernovia is looking to emerge as a significant player in a connectivity sector of the automotive market that the market research firm Future Market Insights says might generate as much as $190.29 billion in revenue by 2033.

The ultimate success or failure of any software-defined vehicle is wholly dependent on the ability of software engineering teams to meet deadlines that are determined by not just the year in which a vehicle is scheduled to be made available but also what types of over-the-air (OTA) subscription services might be later added during its lifespan. All the systems and applications require access to network bandwidth. Ethernovia plans to provide field-upgradable processors for vehicles that enable automotive manufacturers to securely embed higher bandwidth Ethernet networks within a vehicle. Investors in Ethernovia include Porsche Automobile Holding SE (Porsche SE), Qualcomm Ventures, AMD Ventures and Western Digital Capital.

Automotive manufacturers are naturally racing to compete with each one another based on the number of processors they can cost-effectively pack into a vehicle to enable the delivery of a wide range of integrated applications and additional services delivered via the cloud. Ethernet networks will play a crucial role in enabling those capabilities, especially as artificial intelligence (AI) models start processing lots of data in real time to make driving theoretically safer, noted Ethernovia CEO Ramin Shirani.

One way or another, the amount of data flowing through and around vehicles is about to exponentially increase. That’s not going to be sustainable if there isn’t enough network bandwidth with the vehicle to share that data across multiple systems. “We need much higher bandwidth,” says Shirani.

There’s a lot riding on that network bandwidth being available. Software-defined vehicles are extremely challenging to build for one simple reason: New vehicles only roll off the assembly line once a year. Capabilities that are not made available on schedule represent a massive amount of potential lost revenue when competitors are able to execute more adroitly. Consumers have no shortage of options, so capabilities that might be made available in one vehicle versus another can shift market share and, by extension, stock valuations. In fact, there may come a day soon when customers, based on the loyalty created by the digital services provided, will subscribe to services that make different classes of vehicles available to them on demand.

The issue is no automotive company has infinite resources. Economic downturns that result in hiring freezes, layoffs and even shortages of critical components all need to be factored today into any digital capability that might not, until several years from now, manifest itself.