KPIT Tech in tie-up with German auto parts giant

Two weeks after announcing that it plans to invest more and more in developing ‘computer controlled vehicle technology’, Pune-based embedded software company KPIT Technologies has announced a tie-up with ZF, a €33 billion German automobile technology provider.

KPIT Tech said it will develop software for next-generation, automated vehicles with ZF, which is based in Munich and has 1.5 lakh employees in 42 countries.

ZF is a prominent vendor of products, solutions and parts for next-generation vehicles, including electric vehicles.

It offers solutions for vehicle motion control, safety, automated driving and electric mobility. It caters to both established vehicle manufacturers and emerging ones, and focuses on electrifying vehicles and coming up with ecofriendly transportation technologies.

KPIT has its strength in designing embedded software for its clients, which also include many automakers as well as component makers.

The collaboration will focus on creating ‘middleware’, software that sits between the core operating system of the vehicle and the various applications that run on the vehicle.

Middleware acts as an ‘abstraction layer’ that enhances the portability of applications by enabling these applications to run on a wide range of operating system from various vehicle manufacturers — thus eliminating the need to rewrite applications for each operating system and vendor.

ZF said it established a unit in January this year to focus exclusively on creating software for automobiles, and middleware is a key focus area.

“One core product [to be developed at the center] is an automotive middleware that serves as a “mediator” between a vehicle computer’s operating system and its software applications. Its development is closely connected to the development of application software for mobility domains like automated driving, integrated safety, vehicle motion control and electric mobility,” the German company said.

On its part, KPIT said the continual increase in software complexity needs a robust middleware solution.

“The lack of such a solution can potentially delay vehicle development and escalate technology spends,” KPIT Tech said.

The two companies will also bring onboard solutions from other technology players, including semiconductor specialists, software companies, cloud services and start-ups.

The partnership will seek to combine KPIT’s software expertise and ZF’s “strong understanding of vehicle systems” to develop a “mature, modular middleware solution which can be deployed across OEMs”, the companies said.

Even though the companies did not clarify the point, it is likely that KPIT’s role may be limited to helping ZF design the middleware, and the Indian company may not retain any ownership rights on the middleware so developed.

At the same time, KPIT tech indicated that it may be looking to deploy the end product for its own clients as well.

“OEMs want to explore open and scalable middleware solutions that can set foundation for the future generation of vehicles and bring significant quality and productivity improvements. An appropriate middleware solution will help OEMs and our mobility customers to transition well to a solid central computer architecture,” the Indian company said.

“This development cooperation for middleware solutions will add immense value to our global automotive and mobility customers and significantly shorten time for the development cycles,” it added.

ZF, on is part, said it is gearing up for a world in which vehicles will increasingly be defined by, and derive their cutting edge features from, software.

“Using what we jointly develop with KPIT, we can offer our automotive customers even more comprehensive software solutions that fit seamlessly together with our system portfolio for the software-defined vehicle: high-performance computing, software, intelligent sensors and smart actuators,” it said.

KPIT said it intends to use its expertise in architecture consulting & software integration and its strengths in cloud based connected services as well as its existing tools and accelerators to expedite the project.