Tyler Suiters                      

This special edition of CES Tech Talk is brought to you by Aptiv.

Tyler Suiters                      

Hey everybody. I'm Tyler Suiters, with the Consumer Technology Association. We are the owners and the producers of CES, the largest, the most influential tech event in the world. And today we are discussing one of the key strategic themes around CES 2020, vehicle technology, what will eventually become self-driving vehicles for all of us. And a key player in that sector is Aptiv.

Tyler Suiters                      

The company talks about the power of new mobility. This is safer, greener, more connected technology, that can change the world. Now Aptiv, of course, is deep into software capabilities, advanced computing platforms and networking architecture around vehicles and moving toward SDVs as well. And at CES 2020, the company unveiled its Smart Vehicle Architecture, what Aptiv calls, flexible and scalable vehicle level architecture. This includes software for highly automated vehicles, reduced complexity. It's uniting diverse applications and, also giving new power and control to OEMs, which seems to be critical in the vehicle technology sector right now. So today a deep dive conversation into the presence of vehicle technology, and the future, as we move towards self-driving vehicles. A conversation with Aptiv on this edition of CES Tech Talk.

Tyler Suiters                      

Joining us today from Aptiv is Glen De Vos. He is Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer there. Glen, it's great to have you with us today.

Glen De Vos                       

Great to be here.

Tyler Suiters                      

Let's start first with Aptiv's place in the greater ecosystem. Can you give us a quick overview of what the company is about, and where you're heading right now?

Glen De Vos                       

Sure, will be glad to. So Aptiv is a global technology company, with a mission and business strategy really centered around making mobility safer, greener and more connected, what's unique about Aptiv is that our portfolio in the automotive technology spaces is that we provide the brain and the nervous system as we call it, we provide everything from central compute, the software that goes inside of that, that's the brain, to all of the connections off of the car, to the sensors, to the actuators throughout all of the vehicle, or what we think about as the nervous system. And so we put all of that together for our OEM customers. As a result, we're leaders in advanced safety, automation, high voltage electrification, as well as connectivity. And to do all of that, we have about a 160,000 employees working all over the globe. 19,000 engineers working in 15 major technical centers, and as I said, all of them focused on how do we solve our customer's toughest challenges in mobility.

Tyler Suiters                      

What about your particular scope, Glen? I know you're at least partially responsible for leading the company's innovation strategies, and also the development of advanced technologies. What about the convergence of those two? Where innovation strategy actually becomes reality, and is a technology that's in place there at Aptiv.

Glen De Vos                       

Yeah. As Chief Technology Officer, one of the key areas of my responsibility is making sure that Aptiv has a robust technology roadmap. What I mean by that, is that as we look out at the market and the changes that are occurring in our industry, that we're developing the right technologies to help our customers, the vehicle manufacturers, solve their problems.

Glen De Vos                       

How do you bring more software content into the car? How do you make cars more efficient? How do you make them more reliable? And so, I spent a large part of my day working with our business units and making sure that we have really robust plans for our next generation of technologies. And what's exciting about CES, is we get an opportunity to showcase those technologies. All our customers are here, the media is here, so we can showcase what we're doing to the media, as well as suppliers and partners and our investors. So it's a phenomenal venue for us to really bring all of that together, showcase what we're working on, talk about that. And then as well to get feedback, learn as we go.

Tyler Suiters                      

Yeah, I think you're being far too modest about Aptiv's place at CES. You were the very first company in the auto industry to exhibit it at CES, more than 20 years ago. I think it's fair to say a bit has changed in those two decades. So what is your focus going into to CES 2020? What are the innovations that attendees can expect to see from Aptiv this year?

Glen De Vos                       

Yeah, that's a great point. We came here 20 years ago, and it was interesting, at that point in time it was about us learning about tech from all the other participants at CES, and soaking that up. If you think about today, there's this really strong automotive presence in the North Hall and in some of the other venues where automotive technology has been presented to the rest of the participants. So it's really evolved over time, to where automotive is a really strong participant. For Aptiv in particular, that's also the case.

Glen De Vos                       

Like I mentioned, it really is a great opportunity for us to showcase, and this year we'll be highlighting a number of critical technologies and advanced safety, our next generation active safety systems, and driver assistance technologies. We'll be talking about what we're doing in high voltage, our in cabin and user experience technologies as well. And then what would be really exciting is we'll show our, our next generation automated vehicle in Vegas, now for almost two years, we've had a fleet of automated BMWs driving around as part of the Wisp network. We're going to now show here's the next generation vehicle that takes that automated driving technology to the next level.

Glen De Vos                       

But I think the thing that I'm most excited about for this coming CES, is what we're going to be talking about around smart vehicle architecture. What I mean by that is, how do you bring all of that tech together in the vehicle? And that's what's really changing rapidly in the automotive marketplace is, that vehicle architecture is no longer going to be this embedded, fragmented old architecture, the equivalent of the future phone. It's really moving rapidly towards a software defined platform, and where you really are able to create most of the value in the features through software. And that requires a fundamental change in the underlying architecture of the vehicle. So we'll be showcasing our smart vehicle architecture solution, and spending a lot of time really highlighting how that is going to help move the automotive industry forward.

Tyler Suiters                      

So you bring up a good point, Glen, about the rapid evolution that's taking place right now, and the innovation within the technology. Do you mind just sharing a quick state of play, from your point, of view about where the industry is right now on technology and auto safety, but also where it's going in terms of innovation?

Glen De Vos                       

Yeah, there's a couple of dimensions to that question. Let me touch on those. The first is, with respect to safety in general, we're seeing a very rapid expansion of advanced safety features going into the vehicle. Things where the consumer has really recognized the value of these features. The OEMs can differentiate based on safety now in which features they put into their vehicles. And from a technology standpoint, we're able to do a lot more in terms of pre-collision alerts, lane keep assist, all of those advanced technologies including highway assist. And so, that part of our market is really accelerating rapidly and it requires some of the most advanced perception as well as vehicle control technology that's ever been out there.

Glen De Vos                       

Along with that, we're seeing a broad acceleration of electrification in our space, and part of that's driven by the regulatory requirements, in terms of emissions, But the other part of it is the consumer base is really pulling hard on electrified vehicles, both hybrid vehicles as well as now, the whole next generation of battery electric vehicles. And what that brings with it is, not just the change in the propulsion system of the vehicle, but also how the vehicle is architected. And so, you can really start with almost a clean sheet when you go that battery electric vehicle, and really optimize the architecture around software and software enablement.

Glen De Vos                       

And then the third case I would talk about is just connectivity, and what that means in terms of the data and the content going, flowing into and out of that vehicle. And especially as we approached 5G deployment, we now have a pipeline that can really move a lot of very valuable and good data into the vehicle as well as out of the vehicle. And so with that, there's new and exciting opportunities for content going into the vehicle, as well as new business models as well as new value creation opportunities. So I don't think there's been a more exciting time in our space than right now.

Tyler Suiters                      

Until tomorrow, right? I say that tongue in cheek.

Glen De Vos                       

Until tomorrow, that's right.

Tyler Suiters                      

Let's unpack that a little bit, Glen. The architecture of the vehicle, I think that to those of us who aren't in the engineering fields 24/7 for most of our careers, architecture can mean different things. Can you talk about that in a little bit more lay terms in terms of what you're discussing and what your, what 18,000 technologists there that you oversee at Aptiv, are dealing with in terms of architecture with the evolving connected vehicles?

Glen De Vos                       

Sure. You can think of the architecture, the electrical architecture of the vehicle on two levels. The first is the hardware top on it, and these are all the black boxes that sitting in your car, and the wires that connect them and everything in between. And then the other level is the software that goes into the vehicle, that controls things like their engine management system, or your proposal management or entertainment or active safety, everything basically powered by software.

Glen De Vos                       

The vast majority of today's cars were probably, with Tesla being the one notable exception, are what we would call, embedded and highly distributed architectures. And what I mean by that is, every function has its own controller. So if you want to lift gate or a tailgate that has power lift calculation, have you ever lift gate controller. If you want your HVAC controllers, they have their HVAC controller, your instrument cluster has its own computer behind it, the engine management system and, and, and. By the time you add it up, it's a hundred different boxes. Doing all these different tasks on the vehicle, each with its own software, each developed independently of the other boxes. And it doesn't take long before that rat's nest of boxes suddenly becomes incredibly cumbersome, difficult to manage, very hard to change and optimize. And quite frankly, it's static. Once you build and ship the car, you hope to never look at it again, unless there's a problem that needs to be fixed. That is what we refer to as an embedded, highly fragmented or distributed architecture.

Glen De Vos                       

The problem with that is it's massively complex. It's very expensive, because all those discrete boxes, and as I mentioned, it's static, it never gets better over time. And so as we talk about the future vehicle architecture, or what we call smart vehicle architecture, what we do is a couple of fundamental changes to that. The first thing we do is we extract compute and inputs and outputs. So all the sensors, and all of the actuators and everything that's around the, think of it as the edge of the car, we put those into zones, with zonal controllers. And so we chop the car up into zones that can be managed and connected separately. That simplifies, significantly, how you handle all the data and the power that flows around the vehicle. So that's the first step of separating IO from compute.

Glen De Vos                       

The next step is we then bring all of that compute, all that what was separate compute, we combine that all into a central compute cluster. So it can be two, three or four compute boxes that sit in the car that handle then all the heavy lifting of compute, but now that's all centralized. You have that all into, like I said, a small number of compute as part of that cluster, which means you're not managing a hundred different boxes, you're managing a much smaller number. Four, or five or six, whatever many of the OEM is going for it.

Glen De Vos                       

And then the final piece to that is that enables the abstraction of the software that's in the vehicle from the hardware. So the software now is not sprinkled all over all the vehicle PCUs or these different boxes, it's centralized into one platform, if you will, a software platform that sits on that compute cluster, which can then be updated over time, can be managed over its life cycle, can be managed across vehicle platforms, and really developed and maintained on its own.

Glen De Vos                       

And, and what I just described is very analogous to what happened with mobile computing. We went from a feature phone where it was very much a hardware phone, to a smartphone, which is a mobile computing platform. And if you were to use Android or iOS, you can move your content from device to device, from phone to phone. It can be developed independently of the underlying hardware. And that's essentially what's happening with the vehicle. So as we talked about smart vehicle architecture, what we're going to be showing this year at CES is how do you go from today, fragmented embedded architecture, to this smart vehicle architecture. How do you make that journey? How do you get there over time? What steps do you take? And then what are the savings and the benefits?

Tyler Suiters                      

Speaking of a more literal journey, Glen. Your team, Aptiv's technology was a major part of the longest self-driving vehicle trip ever, about 3,400 miles. San Francisco to New York. Almost the entire trip was done in full driverless vehicle mode. Not to get too technical about it. What did that prove to you when you were a part of that successful trip, and how long does that last as a quote unquote success, or proof point, in terms of the industry that, as we said is, is evolving so quickly and is constantly in need of tackling more difficult challenges and more real life situations?

Glen De Vos                       

Yeah, that was an exciting time because we had just demonstrated, for the very first time, we were the first automated driving demonstrators at CES, back a number of years ago now. And following CES, quite frankly, we asked ourselves how do we follow that up? And that's when we came up with the idea, I think a cross country drive is a good next step. And so we planned it out and it was an incredible learning experience for us and it did a couple of things. The first thing it did was really validated our premise that automated driving is really on that continuum of active safety. So if you think about active safety, and where we are today, what we call level two, level two plus self-driving. Level four, level five driving is really on that continuum. And so for us, it was really validated that premise. That as we continued to develop advanced safety systems, the ultimate destination is a fully automated vehicle.

Glen De Vos                       

The other thing I did was it helped us understand just the complexities and the challenges that are involved in, not just the physical navigation of the car on the road, but also working with all of the states, the regulatory bodies, local municipalities. Because everywhere we drove, we had to make sure we had the approval to actually drive in an automated fashion through those states, and through those districts. And so it was a great education that, for us, later as we deploy more fleets, really helped us understand what is involved with the deployment of this, and at scale, across a number of different States.

Glen De Vos                       

And I think the final point I would make, it really galvanized our imagination around, where can we take this? And it was a real, like I said, a proof point for us that, hey, this was real, and this is achievable. It's going to take a lot of work and it'll take time, but we can actually get there, and we have the basic core technologies that enable automated driving. And when you're thinking about the safety benefits that it brings, it really, for us, when you think about our mission about safe, green and connected, we said, hey, this is really a priority for our organization to pursue. And that's what motivated the number of this subsequent investments and moves that we've made up to the recently announced JV with Hyundai.

Tyler Suiters                      

What about your individual point of view, Glen, based on your career and the and the various responsibilities you've had about the point A to point B trip, as it were, from Detroit to Silicon Valley? And I use those as general terms, but of where the auto industry is going, and the fact that has to be, I don't want to carry this metaphor too far, but it's a two way street. You need both entities, right? A hardcore cutting edge technology capability, or minds, or talent or infrastructure, but you've got to have what it takes to build cars on a massive scale, and the know-how to do it.

Glen De Vos                       

Yeah, that's exactly right. That's one of the things that's really challenging about the automotive industry. It's the cloud, it's not a phone, it's a vehicle that moves in space, and weighs 3,500 pounds of metal and plastic and other components, so it and provides tremendous utility and service to the consumer. So it's unique in the sense that it has all of the things technology means that, when you think about Silicon Valley, and the advanced technology that's still out there, it requires all of that. AI, machine learning, compute. At the same time, it's massively complex supply chain management, manufacturing, metal fabric, it has all of those ingredients. That's what makes it, for me personally in my career, it makes it really fun. It's a tremendous challenge and it's really, really fun to work in this space, to bring all that together.

Glen De Vos                       

But I will say it's as Silicon Valley over the past five, six years became more focused on that a mother space that's been tremendously beneficial for auto. It's brought in new methodologies, new technologies, new ways of looking at things that our industry needed. And I think that's been extremely helpful. At the same time, you're still building a car that has chassis, suspension, propulsion and all of those disciplines. And marrying all that together is where it really gets fun. And so for me personally, having been in the automotive almost 30 years now, I said it before, this is just the most exciting time I think I've ever seen over a career would be, my career, with the eyes on the automated driving, with electrification with conductivity, but truly a great time to be in the space. And that's of what makes CES so great, because you see that technology coming out of automotive really showcased at CES, so it's a really fun week for us.

Tyler Suiters                      

Glen De Vos is Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Aptiv, a key player in the evolution of vehicle technology today and tomorrow. Glen, great to have you with us, and hey, looking forward to seeing all that you're bringing, both physically and also your perspective, to CES 2020 we'll see you soon.

Glen De Vos                       

Thanks very much, it was great to talk to you guys.

Tyler Suiters                      

All right, that is a wrap for this edition of CES Tech Talk. A reminder, subscribe to the CESS Tech Talk Podcast, we are on every major platform out there. And that way you can catch up on any of the episodes you may have missed in the run up to CES 2020, and revisit your favorite episodes anytime you choose.

Tyler Suiters                      

Now, none of this is even remotely possible without the true stars of our podcast. Our senior studio engineered John Lindsey, and our executive producer, Tina Anthony. You all are the best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters, let's talk tech again soon.

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