Interview with Friedhelm Pickhard CGO of TTTech Auto
After seven years, AEM met Friedhelm Pickhard again. He had moved from ETAS to TTTech Auto, and the conversation had also shifted from supporting the development of eco-friendly powertrains and related embedded systems to discussing automated driving and software-defined vehicles. However, one thing that had remained unchanged was their firm understanding of the real-time and safety for automotive software.
written by Bum-Jin Yun
AEM: So how are you doing in TTTech? It's very interesting. You move to TTTech. It is about two years now?
Friedhelm: Thank you for asking. It is precisely two years on the 1st of April. I’m doing very well. I personally really enjoy working in the tech industry, especially in a company such as TTTech Auto, also my former company, which is a technology company too.
AEM: So could you explain what you've achieved in the past two years at TTTech?
Friedhelm: Well, we have made a couple of changes. TTTech Auto is still growing, especially in the Asian market, which is an integral part of our growth strategy.
First of all, we, TTTech, have established our local presence in Korea, which is essential to be close to our customers. We did the same as in China. We established a company last year in China with two offices, one in Shanghai and the other in Beijing. This is only one part of my job because I'm responsible for growing the company.
And secondly, we have achieved a lot in terms of software quality. We built a complete Continuous X pipeline for our product, and all our engineers work on a single trunk. In addition, we have increased the functionalities of our product MotionWise in the last two years.
Furthermore, we have established two new business lines. One is our Electronic Controls Design House (ECDH). And the second one is our Safety Consultancy to provide our customers system safety consulting.
I'm very proud of our achievements, particularly our setup here in Korea. During the discussion with our customers here in Korea, I was told that they are happy to work with our local engineers and satisfied with our local competence. We can now be much faster to help our customers to solve any topic and better serve and delight them.
AEM: You know, you've been in the automotive industry for a long time, right? So how do you observe the current automotive market? How do you see the recent automotive market changes? What is your observation?
Friedhelm: I have been in the automotive industry for more than 30 years, although I started my career in the Aerospace industry. I saw the transformation from the time when I changed my area from mechanical engineering to electronics, from electronics to software-defined products.
Allow me to present an analogy that showcases the immense magnitude of the transformation taking place within the automotive industry. When I was the first time in Korea, I was looking for a partner company for mechanical cassette decks. And now, I'm engaged in dialogues with partners regarding artificial intelligence. The contemporary cockpit of a vehicle is entirely electronic, featuring digital and intelligent interfaces that are subject to frequent software updates. This development signifies a tremendous shift that has occurred within a mere few years.
What we are witnessing now is a transformational change in the automotive industry, not only because of the innovations brought by software, but also the complete change of powertrain from the classical combust engine to an electric motor, which currently is a high priority on the agenda for the automotive industry. Most companies are working on this transformation journey, and they are putting in significant effort to achieve their goals.
AEM: Before you join TTTech and now after joining TTTech, what is your observation about the difference? How is it different? And second, what do you think TTTech’s core competence is to grow further?
Friedhelm: It's an interesting question. I already knew this company quite well when I worked at my previous company. We had some cooperation discussions going on, and I knew its product/technology, as well as the top management. At the age of 62, I made the decision to retire. However, just three months into retirement, I found myself feeling unfulfilled and bored. At that point, Georg Kopetz, the esteemed founder of TTTech, presented me with an intriguing proposition. He asked if I would be willing to lend my support to TTTech, a company I had already been following with great interest. It was an easy decision for me to say "yes," not only because of my admiration for the company's technology but also due to the strong compatibility I felt with the top management.
Since joining this esteemed company, my knowledge of TTTech has grown exponentially, and with it, my appreciation for its strength and resilience. While every company faces its share of challenges, it came as no surprise to me to discover the depth of technical competence within TTTech. Having been involved in the due diligence process, I can attest to the company's profound understanding of embedded safety and real-time software - knowledge that is ingrained in our DNA.
These two core areas are more vital than ever in the realm of automotive software, where the ultimate goal is to safely control physical systems with software. As we move toward autonomous driving, ensuring the safety of physical devices becomes paramount, and this is where TTTech shines.
With a solid foundation in academic research, hailing from the University of Vienna, TTTech is uniquely positioned to leverage its research capabilities to address safety concerns in the design cycle for autonomous driving. It is my strong belief that by prioritizing safety early in the process, we can ensure that TTTech's strength in embedded safety and real-time software will continue to flourish and make a significant contribution to the automotive industry.
TTTech, which has solid technology based on academic research at Vienna University of Technology, is in a special position to solve the safety problem that emerges as autonomous driving by utilizing its research-development capabilities, Pickhard GCO said. The photo shows the TTTech Auto headquarter in Vienna.???????
AEM: Cars, including those with autonomous driving capabilities, are becoming more akin to smartphones in their complexity and advanced technology. However, automotive OEMs must strike a balance between speed of development and ensuring safety on the road. How can TTTech assist car manufacturers in navigating this challenge?
Friedhelm: Well, this is also a complex question. there's often a used term in the automotive industry that a car is an smartphone on wheels. I feel it is wrong because the software in an smartphone is quite different from the software that we have in a vehicle. After all, besides software, we have a safety aspect when it comes to the car. A vehicle has much more software, which controls physical systems like the braking system, the powertrain energy management and it has demanding, real-time requirements because of this. We must react very fast. If there's an object, we must break, in that sense, it is quite different from the software of an smartphone.
On the otherhand, the market requests to be much faster in the automotive industry than earlier. There is not only one answer to it. On the one hand, the OEMs and theTier1s have to adopt modern software design principles, such as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) which are already being applied in the server and web application. On the other hand, they must ensure the safety and proper validation of their software. Because in the end, when the cars do not function well or even fail, we put life in danger. To circumvent this, we need to be highly sophisticated concerning software design, which has to ensure deterministic behavior, timely response of software. Unfortunately, this usually is not the case in a server application. Because if you must wait a minute long, it's not so important. It may be inconvenient, but it does not pose a threat to one’s safety or well-being.
So, the task is now to combine both worlds, and that is, for example, where we can contribute with our MotionWise platform, we enable the adaptation of SOA paradigms with the development paradigms of safety, real-time embedded applications. We ensure and monitor the timely quasideterministic behavior of complex application changes. With our MotionWise, we support our customers to combine the classical safety world with modern SOA to accelerate the development.
In addition to that, what is also very important, the continuous development and continuous integration and validation, is common practice in the IT industry, but it is not common in the automotive industry. In the automotive industry, we have a very complex tier system (…tier 2, tier1, tier 0.5), and the lead time between requirements acceptance to validation takes months, not days, as in the IT industry. One way to reduce the lead time is continuous integration as proven in the IT industry. For example, we have our software on a complete CX pipeline, which can be extended to the customer. So, to make it smart, if someone changes the software, we are, theoretically, in the position to test the customer system automatically every night. And these fast feedback loops are extremely important for complex systems because it's impossible to specify everything. But with Continuous X, you continuously ensure that the software fits together, and you don't have an extensive integration. In other words, Big Bang, which was in the past, one of the major causes for project delays. So, this is our contribution to the automotive industry to be faster, MotionWise as a product together with the Continuous X tooling environment.
The third one is that we provide extensive service on a system level consultancy for safety. And this topic is important right from the beginning. The complexity of the E/E network computing platform is increasing with respect to heterogeneities, more computing nodes and larger size. It's therefore crucial to design the safety architecture right from the beginning to handle this complexity effectively. For example, if you separate the safety-relevant software from other software, you can have different paradigms for non-safety software in the system, but you have to ensure that there is freedom of interference. And this is something that you should consider right at the beginning of the system design. This is where we help our customers.
AEM: The architecture of the vehicle also seems to be changing rapidly these days. Due to frequent requirement changes or faster change cycles, this is changing continuously, such as moving targets. Even safety requirements are changing at the same time.
Friedhelm: Yeah, the first of your observation is correct. The E/E architecture is changing faster than ever with increasing computation power and an increasing need for more software. So, we have to combine two different software paradigms for a car. One is in service-oriented architecture and then classical safety design. Our product MotionWise is a kind of intermediator to ensure a safe possessing of safety relevant application or computation chain while also allowing SOA design principals. For example, in a vehicle, this is our job as we contribute by ensuring that safety-relevant and non-safety relevant software with different innovation cycles can coexist in the car without interference. And we always ensure that the safety-relevant software has the necessary resources in time to fulfill their requirements.
Last year, TTTech Auto and ZetaScale Technology joined hands to provide state-of-the-art communication technology to software-defined vehicles. The initial product of this collaboration aimed to implement Europe's first data distribution service (OMGDDS) that was certified for safety under ISO 26262 for use in mass-produced vehicles. The MotionWise Cyclone DDS network protocol ensures real-time, secure and quality-guaranteed communication within the entire vehicle. From left, Pickhard CGO, Georg Kopetz CEO, Angelo Corsaro CEO of ZetaScale, and Jim Liu CEO of ADLINK.
AEM: This may be a similar question, but the transition to a software-defined vehicles have just begun. How can TTTtech Auto contribute to this transition?
Friedhelm: Yeah, first of all, we have to define what means software-defined vehicle. It is a term coming from the cloud business, e.g., software-defined infrastructure. For me to make it simple, I talk about the software-defined vehicle when both web-based software paradigms and automotive software paradigms are used to realize software functionalities of the vehicle as the main driver of the innovations.
The SDV market is open for all participants. It is a challenge to achieve a software-defined car, especially for the newcomer, because they know web-based applications very well. They know Internet software, but they have limited experience in the field of real-time safety embedded software. The classical OEMs have much more experience in embedded software, in signal-based software, but they need to build up the know-how for SOA architectures, for web-based software.
We at TTTech, support both groups, the new and the traditional OEMs, in safety system design. It is essential to prioritize this, regardless of the software methods employed, to guarantee the real-time and safe performance of the vehicle. We have to ensure that safety-critical applications have the necessary resources and can be executed in the required lead time. So, bringing the new paradigms of SOA, the modern web-based software design and combining them with the necessary paradigms of safety, and automotive design is our contribution towards the latest trend in the industry with fast innovation cycle. That's why we have made our products, for example, Motion Wise 2.0 or Motion Wise SOA with our DDS stack, ready for service-oriented architecture (SOA).
We also support our customers in virtualization because if you talk about software-defined vehicles, we have to talk about how to configure different software, and how to test the software in a virtual space. We provide with our tool suite virtual validation capabilities. This is one way to ensure even under tough safety requirements how to reduce their innovation cycle time. Customers want to have many faster new functionalities especially with software, which is something we saw with cellphone. We expect to buy a new cellphone because of more features, faster applications, and heavier applications. We will see a similar trend for the vehicle that the software demand will increase, and the automotive industry has to ensure fast delivery of software applications while keeping the vehicle safe. At TTTech, we support the industry in safely reducing the innovation cycle with our MotionWise and virtualization methods.
AEM: So among client pool, Do we have any client originated from IT background and wants to be an automotive player?
Friedhelm: I'm just checking our clients in my mind. Just recently, I returned from a customer visit to China where I learned that some companies in the NEV field are entering from the IT industry. But there is indeed a huge difference between China and Europe. While Europe has excelled in mastering complex engines such as diesel, China has made impressive strides in AI development. Korea, on the other hand, stands out for its advanced infrastructure that facilitates the adoption of new technologies. Unfortunately, I do not see the same level of innovation speed in Europe, particularly in autonomous driving and new energy vehicles. The industry in Asia is much quicker to adopt new technologies, and we need to be present in Korea to stay up-to-date. The approach to innovation in Korea is more engineering-based, which aligns well with our company culture.
AEM: Do you really think China will become a technology leader in the world? Or could it be only domestic? Even the production volume of car makers. You know, there are a lot of car makers in China, but they rather sell in domestic market, not in the global market.
Friedhelm: Well, that's an interesting question. When I look at the cars Chinese produced, they're competitive and advanced. Although there are currently many players in the industry, only a select few will likely survive and have the capability to expand globally. From a technical standpoint, I don't see any reasons why they wouldn't succeed. However, geopolitical barriers could present challenges that may prevent their expansion.
China has caught up. I'm really impressed with what I observed in China. They never managed to master combustion engine nor complex diesel engines. But with electric motor, I don't see any issue. I've had the opportunity to test drive some of their cars and the intelligent design and technology implementation is truly impressive.
That's also one of the many reasons we would like to operate in Korea. I've observed that Korea possesses similar capabilities in terms of speed like China, but with an even greater emphasis on quality. Working with local customers in Korea has been incredibly enlightening for us, as we learn a great deal about their high quality standards. Not only do we strive to deliver our solutions with the utmost quality, but we also gain invaluable insights from our customers in Korea.
AEM asked CGO's opinion on whether such a company, which is set in IT, can become a world leader.
AEM: What are the potential risks for the automotive industry? The automotive value chain is also changing. Who will dominate the future? Is it a mobility provider? Is it a car OEM?
Friedhelm: In hindsight, had I been aware of these developments, I would have invested in the stock market. no one can truly predict the future - take for instance the unforeseeable impact of COVID. The semiconductor crisis, which was partially triggered by the pandemic, further illustrates this point.
In my view, the economic challenges are different in different economic regions. For example, the automotive industry in Europa is is currently undergoing a significant transformation with respect to powertrain modes, which poses a threat. Conversely, the shift from combustion engines to electric motors presents a promising opportunity for China. Nevertheless, with numerous OEMs in China, only a select few are likely to emerge as winners.
Furthermore, we see a transformation in the automotive value chain. With players like mobility providers, car manufacturers, tier one suppliers, chip providers, and software providers, the question arises as to who will define the future. Will it be a mobility provider like Uber or a car OEM? The shift in positioning and control points is yet another challenge facing the automotive industry, and it remains unclear who will emerge victorious and reap the rewards.
There is another challenge particularly caused by electrification. In my opinion, constructing an electric car is simpler than building one with a combustion engine. . As a result, platforms can be easily created, and various designs can be produced using the same platform. So maybe there are many branded cars in future based on the same platform provided by platform manufacturers. It is interesting to take a look at the watch industry. There are numerous brands in different price segments, but with very few different designs of the mechanics. The mechanics platform of those watches serves different brands. A similar shift could be anticipated for cars, though it remains unclear who will emerge victorious and provide such platforms to different brands. Regardless, this shift will undoubtedly transform the business model of the automotive industry.
These are just a few of the challenges that come to mind, but one thing is certain: the working models of the past will need to adapt to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape. And I see it also in our company. We must collaborate with many more partners to adapt faster to possible scenarios of the future. Therefore, it is important to be present in different markets, such as Korea
AEM: Wouldn't companies like Apple and Samsung be able to implement software-defined vehicles better in the future? That's why I think they could pose a real threat to the automobile industry.
Friedhelm: I share your perspective. The Swiss mechanic example illustrates the idea of a single component being used by multiple brands?
In fact, it's much easier with electric vehicle, you can make a rolling chassis with an electrical motor, combined with driving, braking, functional safety and so on. Then, on top of that, you make a design to fit this architecture, with driving and safety separated from branding to allow other companies to enter the market.! This would be even easier if you go to a complete L4 driving,where the interior design is no longer related to driving functions but rather to defining the destination.. Of course, this is another level to achieve.
I anticipate this trend will emerge soon, and it presents both a significant threat and opportunity for other companies. It's an opportunity because transformations create openings, particularly for new entrants. Already, several firms in the automotive industry can provide these rolling chassis in addition to other services.
AEM: TTTech established Korea branch recently. What is the plan in South Korea?
Friedhelm: To begin with, our commitment to the Korean market is reflected in the establishment of our branch office. In order to operate our business in the most effective way possible, it is crucial that we are close to our customers. When I joined TTTech Auto, one of my top priorities was to ensure that we had local salespeople, engineers, and designers in Korea to better understand our customers, facilitate faster iterations, and foster closer relationships. . By speaking the same language and sharing the same culture as our Korean customers, we can work together to design solutions that are tailor-made for their specific needs.
This, I think, is crucial for all the other countries in which we operate. So, our strategy is that we are there, and invest in local capabilities where our customers are. The present setup is our starting point and I'm happy and confident that we will grow here. With an excellent starting team in place, I am confident that we will continue to grow and serve our customers to the best of our abilities.
AEM_Automotive Electronics Magazine