Automotive electronics drive innovation

| Manufacturing

Modern cars increasingly powered by electronics

Jonathan Newell finds out how smart mobility is a key driver for future UK electronics and cyber security skills as connected and autonomous cars gain traction.

There has been a question mark hanging over the UK electronics industry since large swathes of manufacturing capacity were offloaded overseas a long time ago and high volume manufacturing of computer products, plasma panels and microelectronics for the consumer market is destined to stay in the far east for the foreseeable future so what does the future hold for UK electronics?

The UK continues to be the breeding ground for technology innovation, often clustered round specific industry sectors such as automotive manufacturing. The changes that are happening in this industry are having a profound effect on the value that UK electronics companies can bring to connected and autonomous vehicles.


As the world enters a new era of smart mobility, the UK is sparkling with innovation. Smaller companies are showing particularly high levels of activity with bright minds solving the problems that accompany the move into areas of technology that bring specific challenges.

According to David Ward, Senior Technical Manager for Functional Safety at HORIBA MIRA, the innovation that the UK brings to the industry is key to leading the drive into vehicle autonomy and smart mobility.

“Innovation is intrinsic to the UK automotive sector – without it we’d be stuck in a horse drawn carriage with little safety and little efficiency,” he said.

Since the development of assembly-line automotive manufacturing, there have been few changes to the sector that have truly shaken it to its core. With connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), however, a new revolution has started – one that will bring greater efficiency and improved safety. The biggest impact, however, will be on the electronics sector itself.

According to Ward, with the move to connected and autonomous vehicles, there will be higher levels of automation and greater connectivity between vehicles and as the industry moves towards lower emission levels, there is a greater emphasis on electrification resulting in an increase in the number of electronic devices within the vehicle.

Cyber security challenges

With this increase in electronic content comes a greater need for software engineering skills.

“This proliferation of electronic devices also brings a greater need for cybersecurity resilience. It is now well-established that cybersecurity should be considered at the beginning of the development process, ensuring resilience is designed-in from the start,” Ward continued.

2017 and beyond will see a turn towards improved compliance in CAV technologies and an emphasis on the need for diversified skill sets. Currently the only standard governing in the realm of cybersecurity is SAE J3061. Launched in 2016, the standard defines a lifecycle framework to incorporate cybersecurity from concept phase through production, operation, service and decommissioning. In 2017 and beyond, HORIBA MIRA predicts there will be a greater focus on conformity to ensure effective verification and validation techniques are in place in vehicle development.

In addition to improved conformity, there is also a growing recognition of the need for a diversified skill set. This includes the need for better education as well as training and skills development. In particular, the industry requires a robust pipeline of skilled security engineers with specific knowledge of cyber-physical control systems.

Finally, there will be a greater focus on Electromagnetic Capabilities (EMC) as with any increase in software in a vehicle, the potential for interference multiplies.

Training and awareness in the latest standards will constantly need updating, whilst access to the correct equipment and facilities used will be key to the development of the industry in the future.

“Whilst the future for the automotive industry is not without its challenges as it moves ever closer to full autonomy, it is clear that future is bright,” Ward said.

Jonathan Newell
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