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Engineering Partnership Is Key to the Connected Car

Engineering Partnership Is Key to the Connected Car

Hardware and software engineers will need to innovate and form strong partnerships in order to build smarter, more connected cars, an expert will explain at DesignCon 2017 in January.

Hardware and software engineers will need to innovate and form strong partnerships in order to build smarter, more connected cars, an expert will explain at DesignCon 2017 in January.

                           Doug Seven

“The partnership between the people building the cloud platforms and the people designing the embedded hardware is going to be critical,” Doug Seven, principal group program manager for Microsoft Corp.’s Azure  IoT platform, told Design News. “That may seem uncomfortable, maybe even scary, to some engineers. But we’re going to have to face it head on.”

Seven, a long-time Microsoft software engineer, consultant, and one-time founder of his own start-up company, said automotive engineers are already working on ways for future vehicles to communicate with the cloud. Such communications might involve the driver and cloud-based digital assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana. Or they might involve the exchange of data between the vehicle and cloud-based artificial intelligence. In either case, vehicles will need more powerful computing platforms and more intelligent software systems.

Seven will address those needs in a keynote address called, The Internet of Things That Move -- Connected Cars and Beyond, at DesignCon 2017. During the keynote, he will examine the role of the cloud, the importance of partnerships, and the effect they will have on the future of the automobile.

He will also look at the cloud’s role in autonomous driving. ”We can build vehicle learning systems, and then leverage the power of the cloud to train those systems,” he told us. “But we need computing platforms in the car, so the vehicle can execute those software models in real time.”

Design Things That Move. Doug Seven will deliver a not-to-be-missed keynote on the massive transformations going on in the auto industry, including Microsoft's view of the connected car space moving toward full autonomy, at DesignCon 2017, Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Santa Clara, Calif. Register here for the event, hosted by Design News’ parent company, UBM.

Accomplishing all that will require a combination of more powerful hardware and software, Seven added. “We’re going to need more sensing equipment -- more cameras, more radar, more Lidar -- to enable the car to see the world around it,” he said. “But the vehicle also needs the intelligence to act in real time.”

For the auto industry, that could be a daunting task, he said. For 130 years, automotive technology has focused on metal bending and power transmission. Even as the industry converged with the electronics world in the 1980s, much of the focus remained on hardware. Now, that’s changing, he said.

“We’re going to have more ECUs, and we’re going to have to start making those devices more intelligent,” Seven told us. “We’re going to have to move from control modules to intelligence modules.”

Because much of that intelligence will be off-board in the cloud, engineers will need to be prepared for changes. Some of the working knowledge from the past may no longer apply, and that could make many designers uncomfortable, Seven added.

“The automotive industry is at this massive, transformative time in its history,” he told us. “It’s going to have to figure out how to get these machines connected, and then create value through data and cloud capabilities.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 32 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

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