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Software Testing in Automotive Industry

Table of Contents

The good news first!

The global automotive software and electronics market is estimated to grow at 5.5% CAGR to reach $462 billion by 2030, clearly indicating where the automotive industry is headed! 

Now read this:

As per a 2019 Stout Automotive Defect and Recall Report, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of product recalls based on software defects over the years, with 2018 recording a total of 8 million recalls – more than the total in the five previous years COMBINED!

A cursory glance may lead you to believe that the future of automobiles could be loaded with potholes but be with me for a while to understand how this mere correlation has more to it than what meets the eye!

From Henry Ford’s “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black” declaration to the modern carmaker’s obsession with customer centricity in quality and craftsmanship, the automobile industry has come a long way from enabling transport to elevating the driving experience.

The significant 4 forces driving the future of cars – ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared vehicles) are all tech-driven and customer-experience-centred. But as much as all these technological innovations sound exciting and keep car enthusiasts on edge, the question that still intrigues business leaders and managers on the production floor is – with so much tech around, how do we ensure that every drive is smooth, safe and multiples the joy of being behind the wheels!

One of the holy grails of widespread tech adoption (aka software-enabled product) is its ability to function seamlessly and provide a convenient and secure user experience. This is precisely what software testing validates under different environments and using various use cases.

So, replicate this in the automobile scenario, and you have what we call – an increasingly important arm of the automotive business – Automotive Software Testing. In this blog, we talk about the 4 trends, the associated testing challenges they bring, and ways to resolve them.

Trend: The Mammoth Rise of Automotive Software
Challenge: Getting the Basics Right Consistently

First, A Few Recent Trends

  1. The global automotive software and electronics market is estimated to grow at 5.5% CAGR to reach $462 billion by 2030. In contrast, the overall automotive market for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles is expected to grow by 1% CAGR to reach 102 million units by 2030.
  2. “…Customer experience has replaced hardware engineering prowess as carmakers’ critical battleground…” quotes McKinsey.
  3. As per Google search trends, 60% of car buyers under the age of 45 are going to buy their next car online.

All these trends suggest a need to rethink value delivery in the automobile industry and the role of software testing in enabling it.

Customers now not only want a lot more from their cars in the form of an enhanced driving experience and engaging user journey but also want each of these aspects to be technologically aligned with their evolving preferences.

Considering this newfound love for technology among consumers and the growing pace of tech adoption across the value chain, it is natural for automotive software testing to gain so much strategic bandwidth.

The question, however, is whether you have the right framework, well-documented processes, tailor-made tools, and rich expertise to validate the quality of these tech-led innovations. Do they enable your product development with speed and scale at an optimum cost? Do they also augment your quality engineering? If not, it is time you re-evaluate the most critical piece of your product development cycle.

Trend #2: From Dumb to Smart – The transport revolution!
Challenge: Gearing up for Change

From building robust cars that exuded premium quality and superior engineering capabilities, automotive makers now need to re-visualise cars as smart devices on wheels –that will let consumers work, socialise and be entertained and which will also constantly improve with changing times and preferences.

This will mean disrupting your company by consciously choosing to shift away from technology-centric product development to customer-centric product innovation and shifting software testing’s positioning from a process to a strategy. What this translates into:

  • Keeping customer experience as the anchor of every business decision
  • Adopting a Shift-Left approach to identify and fix bugs early in the development cycle to reduce the cost of quality, improve adherence to delivery timelines, mitigate business risks associated with post-production product failures and recalls
  • Moving away from a Waterfall towards a more Agile testing practice that reports bugs and tests iterations repeatedly on the go
  • Enhancing cross-functional collaboration among dev and testing teams for greater knowledge-sharing and faster closing of feedback loops
  • Planning, designing and implementing a consistent, scalable and exhaustive testing framework

  1. That’s tailored to your requirements.
  2. Comprises best-fit tech stack and a healthy mix of manual and automated testing practices for best results.
  3. Ensures smooth integration with your in-house legacy structures
  4. Balances cost, quality and time optimally to support smooth and frictionless go-to-market for new launches.
  5. Enables dev and testing teams with timely, exhaustive, and data-rich reports to draw actionable insights
    Tests often, tests every iteration, tests faster and gives consistent results across the board

If need be, collaborate with experienced QE partners to chart out your testing plan and execution, as it will help you streamline the success of automotive software testing and its impact on your user experience and related business goals.

Trend #3: With More Software Comes More Recalls?
Challenge: Balancing Coverage and Risk

As per a 2019 Stout Automotive Defect and Recall Report, there has been a consistent increase in the number of product recalls based on software defects over the years, with 2018 recording a total of 8 million recalls – more than the total in the five previous years combined!

Does introducing more software into your car translate into greater product recalls by automobile companies?

At first glance, this seems obvious. But look closer, and you will notice that this is more of a correlation than the real cause behind higher product recalls. The report highlights that many of these recalls were due to software integration failures or defects that went unflagged – each of which is detectable and rectifiable in time with efficient software testing!

Even more interesting is the impact of early detection and rectification of software defects on more strategic items like revenue, profitability, operational efficiency and brand image. Based on the severity of the product recall, the impact could range from minimal to massive financial loss in the form of repair costs, legal costs, and a long-term dent in brand perception, especially for defects that may result in life-threatening consequences.

You can avoid all of it with the right software testing approach – one that is exhaustive enough to create an optimal balance between test coverage and associated risks and sufficiently scalable to help you deliver growth numbers along with unmatched quality.

Trend #4: Vehicle To Everything (V2X)
Challenge: Ensuring a seamless experience across all connected nodes

The global automotive V2X market is estimated to reach USD 19.5 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 39.7%. Growing demand for autonomous vehicles, increased technological integration and faster adoption of the 5G network will enable this growth. But successful and seamless communication in connected vehicles will determine the sustainability of the adoption wave among customers– an outcome vastly dependent on how thoroughly this innovation is tested before being rolled out to the consumers.

Testing this innovation would require

  1. Testing for functionality, performance, usability and accessibility
  2. Mocking real-life scenarios and environments as exhaustively as possible
  3. Testing the dataflow across devices to validate seamlessness
  4. Checking for the reliability of service and security vulnerabilities
  5. A deep and thorough understanding of the user journey and systemic complexities

How do you address all the above scenarios using the standard off-the-shelf 3rd party testing tools with limited knowledge of your business and customers? How do you ensure your testing approach is scalable enough to cater to the growing demands? Is your QA team aligned with the business expectations from every release, and do they incorporate it in their testing approach? Not to forget the final and the most critical piece of the puzzle – on-road vehicle safety (ISO 26262) and cybersecurity (ISO 21434). Does your testing framework provide ample test coverage to ensure maximum compliance with these regulatory norms? How do you accommodate use cases that are beyond the scope of the testing environments?

Gone are the days when automotive software testing was all about validating performance. Today it is about testing the functionality and something more – this “hard-to-define” but “easy-to-experience” feature is what separates a delightful experience from a satisfactory one. It is beyond the scope of user manuals and comes only with a thorough understanding of end users and the dynamics that define their environment and expectations. This something more helps further customise the testing processes, frameworks, and tech stack to ensure that it’s a part of every car delivered to your customer.

The question is – Is your automotive software testing approach in tune with this something more?

Write to us at [email protected] to streamline your software testing process and align it with your requirements at a more optimised cost of quality.

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