KPIT Tech to invest in “computer cars”

KPIT Technologies, an outsourced solutions provider primarily targeting automobile producers, said it has decided to boost investments in computer-controlled vehicle technology, given an increased demand from clients for such solutions.

Most of the core aspects of vehicles on the road currently are controlled by mechanical methods, such as steering, suspension, braking and so on. However, some functions are now controlled by dedicated microchips, including fuel injection, and KPIT currently writes software for such chips.

Going forward, it is believed that all functions of the automobile will be controlled by a central computer within the vehicle, and companies like KPIT, which have so far focused on specific functions and solutions, are trying to anticipate this change by focusing on such ‘central compute’ architectures.

KPIT has previous worked on autonomous vehicles, electrification, body electronics, and connected vehicle technologies.

Moving to the ‘computer car’ model will also make it possible to add more and more features to a vehicle by upgrading the central operating system.

“Original equipment manufacturers are moving towards a central-compute architecture quicker than one would have anticipated. The automotive ecosystem is accelerating its efforts to build a robust and dependable software platform that can host varied domains such as Autonomous Driving/ADAS, Digital Cockpit, Electric Powertrain, and Body Control Module,” the Pune-based company said.

“There is an increasing need for hardware-software separation and for the OEMs to develop, deploy and update software solutions faster over the entire vehicle lifecycle,” it added.

Keeping this in mind, KPIT Tech said it would make “significant investments” with a specific focus on “middleware solutions” — which refers to a kind of operating system for the vehicle — across both passenger and commercial vehicle segments.

It said when vehicles are controlled by a central computer, this will have a huge impact on how ‘auto parts’ are designed as well, including the pieces of software that are currently deployed inside microchips to control specific functions such as fuel-injection, charging and braking. Therefore, developers of these micro functions need to be prepared for this change.

“The development process of how software is written, tested, and deployed in vehicles will significantly change and will involve globally distributed teams and newer safety standards on cybersecurity and autonomous vehicle safety. Investments will continue to be boosted in near team to develop specific solutions and capabilities to meet these changing needs,” it said.

The company did not give any estimate of the kind of investments — in financial or operational terms — it plans to make in this area.

Another aspect of the move to computer-controlled vehicles will be the question of who will own the middleware or the operating system.

Going by the smartphone experience, some kind of open source project is likely to emerge as the dominant operating system, even as proprietary platforms such as Apple Car too will exist.

KPIT said it is “proactively working” with its partners to develop an ecosystem and build integrated solutions to help OEMs and Tier 1 component suppliers.