The German mega-supplier Continental is competing with traditional rivals such as Bosch, as well as non-automotive companies such as Google, to lead the software transformation in the modern automobile. Directing the charge at Continental is Michael Huelsewies, head of architecture and software activities and acting chief technology officer. Huelsewies joined Continental in July 2020 from the Chinese startup Byton, where he headed the global electric/electronics integration team based in San Francisco. Before joining Byton in 2018, he spent most of his career at Delphi/Aptiv, becoming director of global engineering at Aptiv in 2017. Huelsewies discussed the challenges ahead in an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Nick Gibbs.
What does the software-defined vehicle mean for the auto industry?
Electrification and connectivity are enabling a whole new way of defining the product and user experience. Continuous evolution of a car’s digital life cycle is going to become a standard requirement if you’re going to survive and operate in that mobility space. Having the cars always connected means the features will be defined mainly by the software rather than all the mechanical stuff that we had in the past. You start thinking of the car like a computer. How to define these products and how to make sure that we maximize the opportunity from that transformation is what we are very heavily discussing on a daily basis at the moment.
What are your customers asking for?
We need to help them find the sweet spot of how to best shape a scalable platform and the architecture around that to provide connectivity. We also know how to organize and deliver business streams. We need to figure out how to define standards going forward.
What’s a good example from other tech businesses that have defined those standards?
It’s similar to what the mobile phone industry went through 10 or 15 years ago. Back then they had a dozen different systems. Now it boils down to iOS and Android. Or personal computers in the 1980s. IBM PC came in and set a standard platform so you could actually standardize interfaces and hardware platforms and start building your own ecosystem.