BERLIN -- Continental Chief Technology Officer Gilles Mabire has a unique way of explaining the difficulty of the industry's move to software-defined vehicles. "We are not climbing the Alps anymore. We are in the Himalayas," he said, likening the challenge to summiting the famous mountain range's high peaks, with Mount Everest being the highest. That means the German supplier has to develop its products in a completely different way, he said. Under Mabire's guidance, Continental is also helping automakers maximize the benefits of over-the-air updates and tap into the power of artificial intelligence to slash the time it takes to solve complex tasks. He discussed this and more with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc and Correspondent Nathan Eddy.
What are the main challenges in the move toward software-defined vehicles?
We need to understand the magnitude of the transformation. We are not climbing the Alps anymore. We are in the Himalayas. We need different equipment, and we need to train in a different way. In the hardware-defined vehicle approach, we developed the hardware based on the specifications written more or less by our customers. We were developing and producing products in a very top-down approach. In a software-defined approach, we start by asking ourselves: "How do we distribute the software functions in the car to enable the mobility of the future?" This future includes frequent updates and the addition of new functions that come in after the initial sale of the car. These new functions will impact how and what people will use, purchase and consume in the future. Therefore, we will have to develop our products in a completely different way than before. You need to have a deep understanding of the vehicle architecture and, of course, how to develop your software. We have to think about this even if the hardware does not yet exist, which we can do through virtualization and twinning methods.