Bosch bundles software and electronics in one division with 17,000 employees. New developments should be on the road faster.

In the Bosch development office

Mechanik was yesterday. Today more and more functions in the car are controlled by software, the electronics are becoming more complex. Up to 110 control units were already installed in a luxury car built in 2018, reports the management consultancy Roland Berger. Today it should be significantly more.

The largest automotive supplier Bosch wants to set a countermovement in motion: The aim is to reduce complexity with software and electronics solutions that cover several areas of responsibility at the same time. As a result, new vehicle functions could be put on the road more quickly, says Bosch. In this way, the group intends to expand its already leading position in the market for software-intensive electronic systems, the volume of which is currently estimated at 20 billion euros, with annual growth rates of 15 percent.

In order to be able to achieve this, a reorganization is now imminent in the group. At the turn of the year, Bosch founds the Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division, into which previously separate units with a total of 17,000 employees will be integrated under the direction of Bosch managing director Harald Kröger. This involves both the basic software of the vehicle computers and control units as well as the software for the vehicle functions – from the distance controller to the parking aid and music streaming.

Preliminary stage to automated driving

The increasing trend towards such assistance systems, which can be seen as a preliminary stage to automated driving, is the driving force behind the business. Because more and more software is needed here. Whereas ten years ago a car could manage with ten million lines of software code, an automated vehicle would need between 300 and 500 million lines of code. This is how you calculate at Bosch.

At the same time, the number of systems is becoming more and more confusing and their interaction more and more difficult. In the cockpit of many cars alone, there are now at least a dozen control units, not just for classic functions, but also for voice control and infotainment. “Delivering software from a single source is our response to the immense challenge of digitalising cars more and more,” Bosch managing director Harald Kröger is quoted in a company statement.

The closer cooperation between the various specialists in the new business area is not only intended to create synergy effects for Bosch itself, but also to help customers in the automotive industry to reduce the excessive complexity of their systems and thereby make them safer. The technical basis for this are high-performance computers that Bosch uses to bundle the various functions and thereby replace the tasks of individual control units.

The hardware side has already been bundled

At Bosch, with 40 years of experience in developing vehicle software, you feel well equipped to combine the various requirements. This is not trivial because, for example, the systems in connection with the drive must meet the highest safety standards, while software for infotainment is by no means as demanding in this regard. At the same time, these very different systems have to be compatible: on the one hand, a distance controller must be able to provide information as a visual signal to the driver, but on the other hand to the brake and, in order to accelerate again, to the drive.

Bosch expects more and more automakers to start optimizing their IT architecture for the entire vehicle. One does not want to concretize what sales potential opens up with this. The world’s largest automotive supplier can throw its broad positioning into the balance: From the manufacture of microsensors to cloud solutions, the group is active at all levels. The cloud business, for example, is important for the trend to offer new vehicle functions “over the air”, ie as updates without a visit to the workshop. How difficult this is can only recently be observed at VW: The new ID.3 electric car attracted negative attention because such updates are not yet possible with it.

On the hardware side, Bosch already bundled its activities in the spring. Here, the entire production of control units and vehicle computers for all vehicle areas has been brought together in a network of 21 plants with 24,000 employees: the Automotive Electronics division.