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Systems Engineering is Critical Element in the Auto Industry Evolution

by Danielle DeRoche | Jul 17, 2020

Officially released in May 2020, the Automotive Vision SE 2025 provides insight into a rapidly changing industry. The report dives into the idea that Systems Thinking, Systems Engineering, and Systems Theory should be core to any attempt at innovation in the automotive industry and when designing and producing compelling consumer solutions.

The opening of chapter 4 discusses the aim, “The vision is intended to inspire and guide the direction of automotive systems engineering to meet these needs and challenges, and it requires broad participation from the automotive systems engineering community-at-large to develop and execute the path forward to realize the vision.”

The INCOSE Marcom team caught up with a few of the report contributors for a quick question and answer session. Christopher Davey, Manager, Systems Engineering, and CAE with Ford and Dr. David Endler, Systems Engineering Consultant and INCOSE Technical Director, shared their thoughts about the report.  

Q: If you could only share one point of information from this report with the world, what would it be? 

CD: In the automotive domain, Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering is a growing and critical element in the success of identifying, developing, and delivering compelling customer services and features.  

DE: The point that I'd share with the world is about the importance to apply proper Systems Engineering to the future of the automotive industry. The report clearly indicates that the automotive industry is and will be facing challenges, game-changers, disruptive innovations, etc. Consequently, any company in the automotive industry will experience the Engineering Grand Challenges or needs mentioned in the report to respond to those. For me, the current and future state of Systems Engineering is the only way to achieve this. 

Q: When writing, developing, or reading the Automotive Vision 2025, what surprised you the most?

CD:  I was surprised most by the realization that many of our emerging automotive technology challenges; safety, security, and connectivity have parallels in several other industries, and through cross-industry collaboration, we can accelerate our systems learnings and solutions.

DE: The report is an excellent piece of work deriving the impact of the INCOSE Systems Engineering Vision 2025 on the automotive industry. It surprised me to see how well the topics identified in the INCOSE SE Vision 2025 translate to this specific industry. So it would be interesting to see the same for other industries. I really hope that other industries will follow and publish something similar based on the upcoming INCOSE SE Vision 2035.

Q: What do you expect will surprise your audience? 

CD: The rapid integration of non-traditional automotive, connected domains required for a complete system solution, and the need for a systems-thinking approach to define and optimize our distributed solutions. 

DE: The surprise will probably the scope of changes the automotive industry will go through over the next couple of years. 

Q: Of the future states referenced in the document, do you think one will have an apparent impact on everyday life? 

CD: The development of highly automated vehicles within a connected city environment has the opportunity to: benefit city congestion, reduce pollution, provide multi-modal transportation opportunities to enhance efficient people movement, and deliver intelligent vehicles that result in the reduction of serious accidents.  

DE: I'd say that almost all of the future states will have a significant impact on everybody's life. The report shows very clearly that mobility will change dramatically, even in the near future. Some of these trends have already started, and we can already see some of the impacts. Carpooling and car sharing have already started to influence our everyday life. The report also shows the direct link between the automotive industry and the grand society needs or megatrends. As everybody will be impacted by those megatrends and as mobility is one of the most important needs of our society, the automotive industry will play a major role in the future. 

Q: What does the following passage mean for car owners? What is the direct impact? 

“The software and electronics of modern automobiles are becoming increasingly complex. Ford Motor Company has been applying model-based systems engineering to manage design complexity, including architecture, requirements, interfaces, behavior, and test vectors. Ford has established digital design traceability across their onboard electrical and software systems by applying multiple integrated modeling technologies including UML, SysML, Simulink with an underlying CM/PDM system.” 

CD: The automotive OEMs are leveraging Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) solutions integrated into “Digital Twin” lifecycle technologies. This virtual environment provides full traceability between innovation concepts, Product Development production prototypes, Manufacturing, and directly into customers’ vehicles.  Ultimately, this will provide our customers with new features and services that are mapped to their lifestyle, delivered over-the-air to their vehicles, and continuously updated based on their needs.

DE: The direct impact here is that automobile manufacturers need to apply Systems Engineering to better manage complexity. Any complex system shows some unexpected behavior, as the problem cannot be fully understood. Applying proper Systems Engineering, as described in the text, reduces these unwanted side effects significantly. The consequence for the car owners is that technology maturity, reliability, usability, security, etc. will be on a very high level already at entry into service.

Report contributors present the information in a way that is digestible by non systems engineers as the report is intended to inform beyond the systems community. The INCOSE community is encouraged to visit the INCOSE store to download and share the report,

The Automotive Vision SE details an industry that is moving from traditional vehicle manufacturing to one where a set of customer mobility experiences leveraging connected data are delivered. This report will encourage readers, organizations, and universities to engage with the systems engineering community and contribute new ideas as they work to realize the vision set forth by the report.