How ‘feature bloat’ is driving the chip shortage – TechCrunch


if Wasn’t the best solution for the chip shortage in the automotive industry to simply increase the number of chips? Instead, let’s say you’ve figured out what could be called “functional bloat,” that is, the tendency to kill new cars with as much technology as possible, driven by sales competition.

According to the survey, consumers want and expect the next car to have a with-van feature. This is the demand that drives the current feeling of fullness. Wrapped this week, the CES 2022 gives you a glimpse of what future cars will hold. Bosch said it expects annual growth in automotive software to be double digits by 2030. Panasonic unveiled the ELS Studio 3D audio system with 1,000 watts and 25 speakers, in addition to an augmented reality heads-up display with eye tracking. BMW has announced future technology that will allow owners to change the exterior color of their cars and display digital art inside the car.Of course, on the rear 31-inch theater screen Built-in Amazon Fire TV..

And that’s just a little sampling Automotive technology shown in CES2022.

But if the technology is unreliable (as some have proven), it’s not a win for consumers. Market reality, on the other hand, has created a course of conflict for field buyers. Higher prices and uneven availability of some of the features they say they want most.

“There’s no shortage of chips. There’s a lot of unnecessary software out there,” said Mike Juran, CEO and co-founder of Altia, which provides graphical user interface designs and tools for many automakers. It’s too much. “

Take the Chevrolet Bolt. When the plug-in hybrid was introduced in the 2011 model, it contained over 10 million lines of code. Michael Hill, vice president of engineering at Altia, states that today’s mid-to-high level vehicles have a line of 100 million units.

“It’s at a level you might have seen on a jet fighter 10 or 15 years ago,” Hill told TechCrunch. “And no software is bug-free.”

Bad news for consumers: bloated features are inevitable and worse.

“Today’s cars have features that consumers don’t necessarily want or demand,” Jake Fisher, senior director of automated testing at Consumer Reports, told TechCrunch.

According to Fisher, CR 2021 Automotive Reliability Report It turns out that high-end electric SUVs are one of the least reliable vehicles.

“And that’s not because their drivetrains are having problems,” Fisher said. “Instead, automakers have seen early EV adopters open the door to packaging cars with all the technologies they have come up with. They will differentiate their products and justify their high costs. The result is an unreliable car. “

According to Jason Williamson, Vice President of Marketing at Altia, buggy software caused by inefficiencies and coding issues is driven by shifts in the vehicle development cycle, or more precisely by acceleration.

“People are used to seeing new phones every year, and automakers are trying to keep up with home appliances,” Williamson said. “They are pushing to develop a completely new car within two years, which means using building blocks that are for laptops and not necessarily custom-built for automotive applications. Means. “

Expensive EVs aren’t the only thing that attracts consumers with technology. It’s happening in many mid-to-luxury product lines.

Sam Abuelsamid, Principal Research Analyst for e-mobility at Guidehouse Insights, said: “The software is just for all the features to work. Do you really need a 30-way power adjustable seat with 5 massage pattern options? Or sequential taillights, multi-zone automatic climate control, concert halls and studios. An audio system with the settings of? The insatiable desire to further increase competition is driving this. “

The heart of the car maker

Automakers with the all-tech-is-good-tech option avoid a tricky but ultimately smarter approach.

Mike Bell, Senior Vice President of Digital at Lucid Group, said: It might be easy to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing, so I just put in the entire kitchen sink.” The wise approach is to decide what the customer really wants to do and then find a way to provide the customer with the best experience. There shouldn’t be seven ways to do something. “

Bell spent nearly 17 years at Apple, from which he hired part of his Lucid technical team. He said one cause of the problem was that automakers outsource much of their software to suppliers, contrary to the norms of tech companies. “You can’t cultivate it and expect to have a good experience,” he said. “Lucid has its own integration with its own software instead of buying from Tier.”

Automakers are beginning to recognize the advantages of new technologies.

According to Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath, “It’s not just the hardware that launches the car right now, it’s the software.” In an interview, he added that the ability to wirelessly update the software “makes a big difference in consumer satisfaction.” You can respond quickly to any problems that occur. “

Great heritage

The main factor here is consumer expectations. It’s true that car buyers don’t need specific features, but they seem to want them. November Research from CoPilot, Data-driven car buying apps suggest that car makers are simply meeting public demand. 65.7% of current lease owners expect better features in their next car or truck, with just over 56% thinking they will pay about the same or less than their current car. I am.

Similarly, September CarMax survey Of the more than 1,000 car owners, almost 50% said, “I wish the current car had more technical capabilities.”

Buyers in their twenties and thirties, which are highly desirable demographics for automakers, were most likely to say that technical functionality was “very important” as a purchase consideration. Overall, 15.9% considered the technology package to be very important. 36.7% considered it very important. And 31.8% were in “somewhat important” camps. Only 3.9% said it was not important.

Given the shortage of chips, technical expectations are unlikely to be met.

In an interview, CoPilot CEO and founder Pat Ryan said consumers are likely to be on a conflict course in three areas. “First, it may take three to six months to get a car, but people aren’t used to it,” Ryan said. “The second problem is that shoppers may find that their new car has less functionality than the one they actually have.

Due to lack of chips, premium sound, wireless charging, and even heated seats may not be available. And those who have paid perhaps 95% of the sticker’s price may be hit by stickerplus. “

But the desire for high-tech cars will not go away. Jessica Caldwell, Executive Director of Insights at Edmonds, told TechCrunch that automakers are marketing cars and trucks as multipurpose offices and wheeled living spaces, and buyers are grateful.

“Consumers are enjoying more and more features and equipment, and most importantly, they are willing to pay for these very satisfying vehicles,” she said. “The lack of chips makes it difficult to create models with more options and features, but consumer interest is still there. And as long as the consumer’s appetite is there, car makers Will find a way to feed it for their own profits and market share. “

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