A former Audi executive knows how the automotive industry can solve its software and electronics problems. It starts with the composition of the supervisory board.
Ricky Hudi, who was named an Automotive News Europe Eurostar in the Connected Car category in 2015 for his contributions to the Audi TT’s award-winning connectivity technology, calls his idea the “50:50 Approach.”
Hudi, who stepped down as Audi's head of electrics/electronics in 2016 after 19 years at the automaker to start his own company, says that the supervisory boards at most automakers and suppliers are made up of professionals with engineering, business, finance and legal backgrounds.
He proposes that 50 percent of the supervisory board is made up of people with those traditional credentials and the other half is made up of people with great deal of experience in software, electronics and semiconductors.
"Then, you would have very different discussions about software, electronic and semiconductors at the executive board level," he said, adding that a change at the top would quickly trickle downward. "Once you initiated this at the supervisory board level, it would go like a flash through the entire organization. That is the only way to sustainably transform a traditional business."
Software problems have marred the launches of two hugely important Volkswagen models: the eighth-generation Golf and the first-generation ID3 electric car. Earlier this month Volkswagen Group replaced its software chief.
Hudi, who is now chairman of The Autonomous, an initiative formed by Austrian software platform provider TTTech Auto to accelerate advances in the field of driverless vehicles, didn’t single out his former employer as a problem child. He said most companies in long-established sectors are struggling to become more digital.
One company that appears to have problem under control is Tesla. Hudi says that has a lot to do with CEO Elon Musk’s background.
"What I respect about Elon is that both he and his executive board members have the experience and know-how to judge and develop all kinds of electronics and software systems," Hudi said. “By comparison, the executive boards of the traditional global automotive industry, including Tier 1 suppliers, don't have that same level of software and electronic capability as Tesla and the other disruptors."