Automotive software is a hot topic at the moment, and rightly so. Everyone from modern electric vehicle companies to legacy manufacturers are discussing the challenges and opportunities of software.

In a recent interview with Fully Charged, Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Company, spoke about the difficulties in getting software right. He highlighted the issues with multiple software providers and the lack of integration between them, something that caused Ford to bring the development of its electric architecture in-house.

“It’s so difficult for legacy car companies to get software right,” said Farley. “The problem is that software is written by 150 different companies and they don’t talk to each other. […] There are different software programming languages, the structure of the software is different, it’s millions of lines of code, and we can’t even understand it all. That’s why at Ford we’ve decided to completely insource electric architecture and to do that, you need to write all the software yourself. But just remember, car companies haven’t written software, they’ve never written software, so we’re literally writing the software to operate the vehicle for the first time ever.”

It’s not just Ford that’s facing these issues, but Tesla too. In a Twitter Spaces interview, Farley spoke to Elon Musk about software. Even though Tesla is the leading software-defined vehicle manufacturer, Musk admitted: “Automotive software is super hard.”

Stellantis isn’t immune either. “[Software] has gotten too complicated, too expensive, some of the cars you get in […] and I have to ask someone how to start it,” said Ned Curic, CTO of Stellantis, during a talk at Innovation Day for CEA-Leti in Grenoble.

Stellantis, which manufactures cars under the Citroen, Fiat, Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, Opel, Dodge, Jeep, and Vauxhall brands, is all too aware of how complex modern cars have become. During the same talk, Curic explained: “We need to figure out how to do more with less. We eliminated 150 features out of 250 in the cabin […]. We have 270 silicon devices in a vehicle — we have shrunk that to 70.”

It’s not just a handful of brands putting this level of thought into their software. A recent report from Reuters Events showcased the consistent focus on connected and software-defined vehicles. Almost 60% of its conference attendees said they were interested in this area.

The report also highlighted how many larger manufacturers are keeping their software development in-house. Markus Duesmann, CEO of Audi explained how external collaboration on software isn’t on the cards any time soon. He said: “At the moment, it would take away speed and add complexity. We are big enough to cooperate with ourselves and to have enough scalability.”

Toyota’s new CEO, Koji Sato, is also focusing on software. During an announcement back in April, he said: “Connecting the latest hardware and software will enable cars and various software applications to freely connect. [Our software platform,] Arene will fulfill an important role as a platform to support this kind of evolution. We will do our utmost to develop a next-generation BEV for 2026 together with Woven By Toyota.”

Other brands are working on their own software platforms too. Mercedes-Benz has a new MB.OS infotainment system that will link to other areas of the vehicle and will be built around partnerships with tech firms such as Google and Nvidia. “We are dedicated to building the world’s most desirable cars,” Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius said. “We made the decision to be the architects of our own operating system — a unique chip-to-cloud architecture that leverages its full access to our vehicles’ hardware and software components.”

AI creates actionable insights

The comments from these industry leaders all illustrate the need for solutions that address the challenges manufacturers are facing. AI-based tools can help overcome many of these hurdles from requirements to coding to continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD).

One way automakers can speed up the development process and get updates out more quickly is with AI tools, such as those from Aurora Labs. This speeds up everything from development to testing to deployment by adding focus and traceability to the software development lifecycle.

The ongoing quest to solve these challenges presents an exciting opportunity. Industry giants like Ford, Tesla, Mercedes Benz, VW, Toyota, and Stellantis are all engaging with the issue head-on, each recognizing the value and the challenge of insourcing software development. The key to success for car brands — whether they tackle their software in-house or outsource it — is understanding the role AI-based tools play in the software development and maintenance process.

With the ever-present necessity for innovation, every player in the automotive industry must consider the role of software as an integral part of their future. Leveraging AI for more rapid and efficient development cycles will be key to staying relevant and competitive in an ever-evolving market.If you’d like to find out more about how AI can solve the big challenges facing manufacturers, download the whitepaper here: Five software development challenges in automotive and how AI is addressing them.