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5 Minute Read: Delivering Growth & Valued CX Thru In-Vehicle HMI (pt. 1)

The human-machine interface (HMI) of the 1908 Model T was straightforward: there was one gauge on the dashboard to track battery current. Today’s drivers are immersed in a digital experience: cockpits with high-resolution instrument clusters; smart infotainment systems; built-in Wi-Fi; voice-powered navigation; head-up displays; in-vehicle entertainment; and, new features with each model year.

It’s a transformation that is stress-testing an OEMs’ ability to keep up, and mobility leaders’ ability to integrate all the high-tech into a holistic user experience. It’s also just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next five years, the in-vehicle infotainment market will reach $79 billion,4 and half of all vehicles produced will have some degree of automation.5

In this new world it will be software — not hardware — that separates the leaders from the laggards. That’s a challenge for manufacturers already grappling with rising development costs, a patchwork of software solutions, and a shortage of skilled talent. But it also promises a big payoff. Companies that deliver exceptional HMI experiences can create new value and differentiate themselves with the drivers and passengers of tomorrow.

New market realities demand immediate pivots.

The automotive market is being transformed by autonomous driving, connected cars, electrified vehicles, and shared mobility (ACES). The disruption is real, and it’s accelerating. Global sales of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles peaked in 2017,6 and the downward slide will continue as regulations tighten and countries announce plans to ban ICE vehicles. By 2022 there will be more than 500 discrete EV models available globally.2

Companies that deliver exceptional HMI experiences can create new value and differentiate themselves with the drivers and passengers of tomorrow.

These shifts demand not only the development of new features, but also changes to the underlying architecture of vehicles. The market for automotive software and for electrical & electronic components at the heart of HMI is projected to grow at more than twice the rate of the overall automotive market for the next 10 years.7

This shift from ICE to EV creates opportunities to redefine how autos are used and to reimagine the invehicle experience, complete with transformative HMI solutions. But it isn’t enough to have the will to pivot, or the imagination to lay out an ambitious vision. Firms need to be able to bring their solutions to market quickly and cost effectively and have them perform seamlessly. In short, they need to close the innovation-execution gap™.

Today’s automotive players are struggling in that gap. As software increases in every part of the vehicle, so does the cost and complexity of making disparate systems work as a cohesive whole.8 Infotainment systems currently take three or more years to develop, with hundreds of software engineers contributing to each iteration. On top of that, changes to any one software module often necessitate extensive redevelopment every few years just to stay up to date.9 With the innovation-execution gap set to widen, OEMs and tier-one suppliers will face a critical talent shortage and a dramatic increase in development costs. It’s an expensive, unsustainable trajectory, and it’s risky to face it alone.

Collaboration is key to unlocking HMI innovation and speed to market.

Market realities requires automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to adapt to new technologies, reconsider legacy design systems, and redefine the tools and skillsets needed for growth…all while shaving costs and improving UX. That’s a tall order that’s unlikely to be fully met in-house. Changes are evident at the top of the food chain, with venerable automakers like Ford and GM adopting a collaborative approach that was unheard of 20 years ago. Both companies are now investing in startup firms that specialize in autonomous and EV technologies, as well as partnering with the competition to accelerate speed to market.

A ripple effect is playing out among OEMs. The complexity of in-vehicle HMI systems means that neither OEMs nor their traditional suppliers can fully define and deliver the necessary tech requirements. As a matter of both practicality and sheer survival, they’re opting to co-develop solutions instead. At the same time, tech companies are poised to play a more prominent role as software increasingly defines the in-vehicle experience.10

The October 2020 launch of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine HMI initiative is one example of this trend in action. For the past 20 years, it’s real-time engine powers some of the most iconic games, including Fortnite, and the gaming giant is leveraging its Unreal Engine to make it easier for automotive companies to work more efficiently when building in-vehicle HMI. They’ve also formed alliances with Vectorform, BlackBerry QNX, Qualcomm, Mapbox, and others to draw on specialized skillsets and customer experience platforms not available within the traditional manufacturing space. Working in a real-time engine such as Unreal drastically improves workflow while providing the freedom to create a more immersive, engaging experience. For example, the engine’s visual scripting system means that Vectorform’s designers can build projects without writing a single line of code – making the whole process more efficient, and the iteration time much shorter.

Actions to Consider

Vehicles are rapidly transforming into software-defined platforms. Are you ready? Ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to pivot in line with future trends?
  • Do I have the capabilities to deliver exceptional CX?
  • What opportunities are available through collaboration?

The transformation isn’t slowing down. Vectorform is exploring solutions that reduce time-to-market of scalable in-vehicle HMI solutions to support ambitious growth strategies.

Connect with us if you’d like to learn more about how Vectorform is helping clients with HMI and how we can work with you to close the innovation-execution gap that stands between you and your goals.

Next up in our 5 Minute Read series:

  • VoP: Using Voice of Product to Transform the Customer Experience
  • In-Vehicle HMI (pt. 2)
  • Innovation-led Growth


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