Individualizing Cars with Software

The Future According to Alps Alpine

Alps Alpine Eyes a Future of Predominantly Software-Enabled Vehicles

Ever since playing a role in the joint development of the world’s first car navigation system, the Electro Gyrocator, with Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in 1981, Alps Alpine has established a reputable track record within the automotive infotainment systems domain. We have deployed car navigation systems and various other products to the aftermarket under the Alpine brand and supplied OEM products to automakers in Japan and around the world. Nurturing systems design and software development capabilities, we have continually sought to enhance the experience for users, culminating in eight consecutive years for the Big X Series at the top of overall rankings in the J.D. Power Japan aftermarket navigation systems customer satisfaction index study through to 2019.
And besides coping with current conditions within an automotive industry undergoing considerable and accelerating transformation, Alps Alpine has embarked on a fresh program of activities looking ahead five, ten years into the future.

2030: Smart Society and Smart Mobility

Smart is the trend everywhere you look these days and the Government of Japan, too, is advocating the idea of a “Super Smart Society,” or “Society 5.0.” Smart society, smart energy and, in the world of automobiles, smart mobility – moves are underway to create a society offering greater convenience and comfort and new forms of enrichment, tapping innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Alps Alpine and its customers are anticipating the arrival of a “smart mobility society” by 2030 and together we are engaged in wide-ranging technological development. Within the CASE domains, we expect great progress in the areas of autonomous driving and electrification, while vehicles will be connected to an ever-expanding network of items and countless new services will emerge in the mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) arena. The reach of system design and software development, too, will extend beyond the navigation screen to take in the entire cockpit and eventually the whole cabin. Information and services will be needed.

Software to Enable At Least 50% of Vehicle Functions

As information technology makes inroads into the automotive sphere, the idea of software-defined cars, or software-defined vehicles, is expected to come to fore. Recent commoditization of smartphones and PCs has shifted focus away from hardware specs and onto applications and services. Predictions point to similar circumstances occurring with vehicles. It is thought software will enable at least half of all vehicle functions. Different cars will come to use common, standard hardware and software will be used to differentiate them or to add or enhance functions.

Individuality – cars for every day, cars for driving, cars for active lifestyles – will be created with software, allowing customization according to the users’ driving and usage styles. Software-defined cars will also bring many benefits for automakers and service providers, not just users. It will be possible to carry out activities like vehicle development, evaluation and diagnosis via simulation, without the physical item. Since vehicle development will begin with the software, before the hardware is in place, development of new services will increase. And the ability to manage data on vehicle status and travel logs will enable timely provision of services matching users’ needs.

Alps Alpine’s “In-Vehicle Manager” Concept

As part of our innovation of new value in adapting to this new age within the automotive market and the enormous influence wielded by software, Alps Alpine is exploring the concept of an “In-Vehicle Manager.” It represents further advancement of concepts for “in-vehicle infotainment” seeking control of instrument clusters, navigation systems, audio and other infotainment systems with the appropriate timing.
The aims of the In-Vehicle Manager are to achieve integrated control of everything seen and touched inside the vehicle cabin, including displays, the steering wheel, seats and climate control, and to realize a seamless mobility space taking in the entire experience, from before boarding to inside the cabin, and through to after leaving the vehicle. The systems we look to develop encompass, as you would expect, infotainment control – namely the delivery of information, music and video content – but also a broader scope, taking in control of in-vehicle devices, driver monitoring and other aspects of human-machine interfaces (HMI) for the user.

Today’s cars are equipped with between 100 and 200 electronic control units (ECUs) for handling each system, but automakers are working to integrate these control units given the cumbersome task of designing vehicles to accommodate the individual units. A future is envisaged where ECUs will be integrated for similar functions, such as autonomous driving, the advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), the powertrain, communication, and inside the cabin (In-Vehicle Manager). This should enable much more efficient control and accelerate software-driven vehicle evolution. In anticipation, Alps Alpine is advancing original design and development that extends beyond just an ECU for inside the cabin – the domain of the In-Vehicle Manager – to cabin systems in their entirety.

One unique additional advantage of Alps Alpine’s proposal for in-vehicle control is core technology built up through the electronic components business. Having undergone business integration in 2019, Alps Alpine aims to generate synergies by combining the strengths of the former companies, Alps Electric and Alpine Electronics. Fusion of advanced expertise in systems and software development with HMI devices incorporating capacitive and force feedback technologies that contribute to sophistication within the cabin enables us to bring about new mobility experiences for car users.

Alps Alpine has embarked on a new program of activities looking ahead to a mobility society five, ten years from now. Utilizing the technology, systems and capability for coming up with new proposals we have introduced here, Alps Alpine will keep responding flexibly to a wide range of challenges and issues so we may power into the future in step with our customers.