Another trend is to have more standardisation on the ECUs because we think that it is possible to use and exchange or integrate software from multiple vendors. So there we have a standard called AutoSAR, which is basically an AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture. Bosch is a core member of AutoSAR consortium along with OEMs.
We have defined standards in Europe that are required to know how the software is structured on a vehicle. We feel that this will not only help integrate a lot of software coming from various vendors but will also enhance reuse of software so that we can focus on new functions.
Even though hardware platforms keep changing as microcontroller and memory chip costs go down following the Moore’s law, the issue is always to re-engineer the software as soon as you change the hardware. To overcome that, AutoSAR helps transfer of software—independent of hardware architecture—from one ECU to another.
Q. Hybrid vs electric—which side is the current technology favouring?
A. For pure electric technology, there is still a long way to go. Though we also do a lot of work on hybrid and electric systems, penetration depends quite a lot on the efficiency and cost of these systems. Basically, we still don’t have cost-effective solutions for batteries, so storage of energy is a big issue.
We also work on electric vehicles that have conventional engines. We make sure that they run in the most optimal way by making use of the concept of storage in battery like brake recuperation. It means that while braking a vehicle, it is possible to feed the energy back, store it in a battery and then drive the vehicle using this restored energy. These sorts of systems are available only for high-end cars but now we are trying to develop systems that can also be used for low-priced vehicles.
Q. What would be the future roadmap for a hybrid vehicle?
A. The simplest form of hybrid is ‘start-stop.’ The engine can be switched off when the vehicle is stationary, and if it is possible to predict start and stop timings, power can be saved. The next level is to use it during braking, regenerate electric power from it, store it and then use it later. The highest level is pure electric and then a range extender. These are also projects where you switch on a generator only to charge the battery, otherwise the vehicle primarily runs on the battery.
Q. What is the biggest challenge when working with mechatronics?
A. For mechatronic products, we need expertise not only from the mechanical or hydraulic side but also from the hardware and software side. Getting all these competencies together to develop products that will be very competitive in the market is a big challenge. On the experience level, we have been able to put a matrix team together that can work with all these competencies as very few people have all of them together. Assembling this team together was a big challenge, especially considering new technologies like Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 is a machine-to-machine communication, allowing autonomous management of systems. When talking about Web 3.0, I am not only talking about these multiple competencies but also knowledge of multiple systems. For example, there can be a car multimedia product with power train along with driver assistance and safety systems together adding value to the vehicle. So in that case, we need expertise from various domains coming together and then develop systems that can give value to the end customer who is driving the vehicle.
Q. Could you tell us about the products that are in the pipeline?
A. There are special products on the navigation like dual-view which would provide comfort as well as safety at the same time. For example, the driver would be able to see the information only he’s supposed to see on the central display — navigation as well as information about the car and performance — whereas the co-passengers would be able to see, on the same screen, a movie. So this is one such product on the head unit area. Also, there are products which give head up display (HUD) to bring about some information directly onto the windscreen so that the driver wouldn’t need to take his eyes away from it and use this information in a blended way.