Ashok Leyland builds in-house software team for future M&HCVs, plans major ramp up – ET Auto

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Ashok Leyland’s technical centre has a team of around 2,000 people (including contract engineers).

New Delhi: Softwarisation is one of the two major trends (decarbonisation is the other) that redefines technology roadmaps of vehicle OEMs. Both the trends together are keeping engineers in commercial vehicle major Ashok Leyland’s technical centre in Chennai busier than ever before.

The latest team within it is one of around 30 software engineers, formed only 9 or 10 months ago, in preparation for major softwarisation or the SDV (Software-Defined Vehicle) trend, currently seen in passenger vehicles, entering the commercial vehicle industry too.

<p>N Saravanan, CTO, Ashok Leyland</p>
N Saravanan, CTO, Ashok Leyland

“Our ambition is to grow it to at least 150-200 engineers in the next three years,” N Saravanan, CTO, Ashok Leyland, told ETAuto. These engineers are not working on software for fancy infotainment systems like in cars, but on more critical stuff like advanced software for the after-treatment system to control emission levels, for driver monitoring system, and for little less critical instrument cluster, for example. Tighter regulations and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) trend are expected to be key drivers for softwarisation in commercial vehicles.

Saravanan believes that most OEMs will source the software from outside and integrate, but over time, “they’ll say how do I start looking at a different electrical architecture where I can maybe do some of the integration myself”, and also do some of the software layers themselves. Ashok Leyland has devised a medium and long-term roadmap to have a “much better control” of what happens in its vehicles of the future..

Engineers and infrastructure are equally important to enable that. “Is it easy? Not that easy because you are starting from almost scratch, and getting the best talent is, again, a challenge,” the CTO said. Instead of going to the market and hiring entire teams, which can be “super expensive”, Ashok Leyland is taking a mutli-level approach to build software engineering capabilities “step by step”.

Ashok Leyland’s technical centre has a team of around 2,000 people (including contract engineers). With the SDV trend gradually also embracing CVs, the share of software engineers would rise.

Hiring key talent for specific areas, commissioning projects to engineering services firms like Hinduja Tech, engaging independent technology experts, and finally, hiring fresh graduates in sizeable numbers and investing in their training, are the planned mix of strategies for building capabilities which were not required in the highly mechanical commercial vehicle industry till recently ,

OTA (Over the Air) updatability, which is increasingly common in passenger vehicles, is also making inroads into commercial vehicles. Ashok Leyland claims that it’s the first CV OEM in India to offer OTA updates for some of the ECUs (Electronic Control Unit) in its vehicles, with the onset of the BSVI era in April 2020.

Ashok Leyland’s efforts to build in-house competence is a reflection of an industry trend, which at a global level also sees world’s largest truck maker Daimler Truck develop its first-ever OS (Operating System). The OS, with some major engineering for it happening at the OEM’s global tech centre in Bengaluru, is expected to go live in Daimler’s truck brands by the end of this decade, or in the early part of the next decade.

The softwarisation levels in India may not be as high as in Europe or North America. However, it is expected to be significantly more than the current levels. “Will it ever reach levels like in cars? Not necessarily, but I think in the next five years, you will start seeing a level of electronics and software (in CVs) where OEMs will start thinking seriously about adding value in-house rather than just buying and integrating,” Saravanan said. And, the driving factor may not be just cost. It may also be to save time which otherwise may be required in debugging in the integration process.

  • Published On Apr 26, 2024 at 07:45 AM IST

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