Accelerate Automotive Innovation to Top Speed (Part 1 of 6)

By Editor3

Innovation has become an exercise of advancing embedded systems to stay ahead in the highly competitive automotive industry. While opening up great new opportunities, integration of software into mechatronics also presents unprecedented challenges to development teams.

This series of articles will present an in-depth look at the challenges facing the rapid advance of mechatronics in the automotive industry, and discusses business best practices gleaned from our customers successfully using Polarion solutions to meet the challenges.

As different software and hardware components have to be seamlessly fused to ensure functional safety and compliance, previously siloed teams all of a sudden have to closely coordinate their development efforts in a dynamic ecosystem spanning the globe. But most collaborators don’t have the unified tooling environment necessary to get them on the same page at the same time.

Resulting disconnects show increasingly devastating impact, shaking the industry with new records in product failures, recalls, legal sanctions, loss in market position and associated cost explosions.


Topping the list of challenges in the new world of software-driven vehicles are the ever-accelerating pace in product development, the need for tight orchestration of all efforts, and the shifting role of suppliers as innovation partners. Automakers and manufacturers that are able to shift gears to meet the growing complexity and emerging trends will be well positioned to secure new market opportunities.

Advanced functionality in vehicles has become a market expectation. Just think about the parking assistance feature helping you get into even the tightest spots. In modern cars, not only can you see what’s behind you on a screen, but an increasing number of models offer a feature that detects the size of a parallel parking space, guides you into the starting position, and then backs the vehicle into place without any action on your part.

To make this advancement possible, our cars have become rolling computers. It takes dozens of microprocessors running hundreds of millions of lines of code to get a premium car out of the driveway, and the software is only going to get more complex. Engines, transmissions, brakes, airbags, and even power windows are equipped with intelligent electronics. Estimations indicate that more than 80% of car innovation already comes from computer systems. Software has become the major contributor of value, but also of new issues and associated costs.

Record numbers of recalls and the decrease in overall quality performance underline the need for new processes and tools to support collaborative software development and integration into associated systems. It is clear that the old way of managing software development in the automotive industry no longer suffices to address the wide range of challenges modern development teams face every day:

  • Mounting speed in development and rising expectations for innovation

  • Leverage existing assets and tools, plus reuse requirements to increase overall efficiency

  • Increasing complexity of technology, supply chain and product portfolio

  • Seamless integration of complex software for embedded systems

  • Growing proportion of development and production processes delegated to suppliers

  • Cost reduction mandates and competitive pressures diametrically opposed to safety requirements

The entire automotive industry is trying to come to terms with how to best deal with these challenges. According to Price Waterhouse Cooper’s (PwC’s) 17th Annual Global CEO Survey 2014, based on 87 interviews across the automotive value chain conducted in 34 countries around the world, CEOs recognize that innovation is not going to slow down, and that global trends will continue to transform business. The following Automotive CEO sentiment paints a picture of the road ahead:

Chart: automotive CEO's response to survey

Source: PwC 17th Annual Global CEO Survey 2014

Along with innovation come opportunities, but also increased challenges. 50% of Automotive CEOs find it somewhat or very challenging to establish an innovative culture internally.

In the midst of all this pressure, the environment of the market has become highly consumer and safety compliance centric, which forces the industry to respond quicker with more innovative capabilities to capricious market demands. Company size is no longer a guarantee for success, nor is past accomplishment and existing brand equity. The winners going forward will be those that can establish new ways to create value – mostly driven by software – plus find an effective way to bring tailor-made vehicles to market quickly, while at the same time meeting ever stricter regulatory demands for functional safety.

The purpose of this paper is to share industry best practices of Polarion’s automotive customers who have already successfully adjusted to the new realities and established a highly collaborative, fully linked development environment that allows them to mitigate risk while keeping their foot on the accelerator for the road ahead.

Following is a summary of what we found in our ongoing conversations with these customers, organized around the software-related challenges most worrisome to the managers in the trenches, who are responsible for successful software development for embedded automotive systems:

  1. Effective collaboration across disparate teams in real-time

  2. Proactive protection of quality and functional safety

  3. Rapid response to defects after market introduction

  4. Smooth compliance with automotive standards

  5. Integration of ALM and PLM – “The Road Ahead”

These challenges are all interrelated and in aggregate can have a tremendous impact on the success of an automotive organization. Strategies for mastering them are reviewed in upcoming articles in this series. Subscribe to our RSS feed (if you have not already) to be notified when they’re posted.

Coming soon: Part 2 – Effective Real-Time Collaboration across Disparate Teams


Polarion Software offers solutions and valuable free resources for the automotive industry.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at