Behind the scenes, tying those disparate features and systems together, has been German software supplier Elektrobit. The two companies have been working together to develop and refine the user experience, including the infotainment hardware and software, instrument cluster and voice-assistant integrations.
Kawanishi said Sony was impressed with not just the company’s auto-tech software experience, but its capabilities in using agile development processes.
Further, Elektrobit’s experience in mobile device integration — several of the company’s human-machine interface engineers previously worked at Nokia — made the company stand out when Sony started looking for suppliers in 2018.
“Those things were very important for Sony because future mobility has to evolve by software, and they had this unique skill set,” he said.
The collaboration with Sony has allowed Elektrobit to put into practice and showcase the advantages of agile development, a set of philosophies and practices that focus on cross-functional collaboration, flexibility and iterative improvements.
“Everyone talks about how you can master complexity if you are really agile,” said Christian Reinhard, chief technology officer and managing director at Elektrobit. “It really allows you to go one level deeper. You make iterations of iterations and then look at the result. Then you can say, ‘OK, what’s the next important thing?’ Everyone tries to do it. With Sony, it’s really in place. That’s the most exciting thing. Maybe it’s a little nerdy, but it’s exciting for me.”
For Elektrobit, an independent subsidiary of Continental, the ongoing work with Sony allows the company to do more than offer its embedded and connected software expertise; it has allowed Elektrobit to evolve into a systems integrator.
The company’s Cockpit Systems Solutions product, for example, derives from its work with Sony. Other automakers are now working with those products, though the company is not disclosing other partners.
“In the past, we’re used to implementing smaller pieces,” Reinhard said. “This is pretty new for Elektrobit to be in this integrator role.”