How to set up an organization for effective autonomous driving development

How to set up an organization for effective autonomous driving development

The management departments of car manufacturers face challenging times. Beside day-to-day business, there is a need to establish strategic guidelines for product portfolio and organizational setup to ensure todays‘ and tomorrows‘ business successes. These strategic decisions must be taken within a context of emerging players, global trade disputes, crises (e.g., Covid-19) and trends like connectivity, autonomous driving, sharing/subscription services and electrification.

In the case of autonomous driving (AD), the question does not concern whether it will influence the business, but rather how it will influence and how to act as an established global player. Car manufacturers need to decide between fast following or early adapting strategies, make or buy scenarios for hardware and software components and strategic partnerships or cross-company collaboration. Either way, autonomous driving highly influences product development management.

Autonomous driving development challenges are specified by the following characteristics:

  • In conjunction with a large strategical transformation associated with high investment costs (e.g., powertrain electrification, new business models such as car sharing)
  • Complex global market environment with new rising competitors and potential partners
  • Continuously and dynamically changing legal regulations for product safety
  • New scaling of technical complexity in terms of sensor technology, data processing and homologation
  • High cross-functional interdependencies within AD functions and with regard to other functions of the vehicle
  • Limited experience and competencies with the industrialization of large-scale autonomous systems

The outlined challenges cannot only be tackled by way of classical approaches of product development, instead they require agile practices. The latter focus on iterative prioritization and delivery, flexible resource allocation by separation of technical and disciplinary leadership and continuous improvement through inspect and adapt methods. These practices address the unknown aspects of large-scale autonomous systems and enable easier adjustments of strategic directions. However, they lack proven approaches for efficiently handling the tremendous product complexity in hardware and software, the broad range of interfaces to the development partners and methods to comply to required safety regulations (e.g. ISO 26262). Consequently, it is recommended to adhere to classical product development approaches, such as Systems Engineering. Our experience showed us that classical practices such as clear responsibility for product architecture or approval, a maturity-oriented, top down development logic, from complete vehicle down to component level, defined governance and reporting structures, as well as proven cooperation models with internal & external interface partners are crucial elements to handle complexity and establish processes to comply with the requirements to homologate an autonomous vehicle. The challenge is to decide upon the appropriate practices from both worlds in order to establish an interwoven hybrid working model. This article gives insights and guidelines for mastering the transformation from a classical, Systems Engineering oriented driver assistance development department to an organization which can deliver autonomous driving.

Figure 1 shows the content of this article. A successful organizational transformation begins with the definition of the organizational setup, which forms the content of the first part of this article. It describes five design principles for an organization focused on delivering autonomous driving and seven critical artifacts for steering the transformation and product development.
The second part describes the planning of the transformation and the six success factors which should be considered during this transformation.

Figure 1. Content and structure of the article.

Part 1: Definition of an Organization for Autonomous Driving

As outlined in the introduction, autonomous driving cannot be developed with solely a classical or Systems Engineering oriented organization. Prior to the start of the transformation, a clear vision of the organization and its operating model should be designed.

As proposed, a hybrid model using agile principles and incorporating classical good practices can work well. How should the organization be structured? Which artifacts are require

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Dr. Tim Sturm, Partner bei 3DSE

Dr. Tim Sturm

Dr. Tim Sturm is a Partner at 3DSE Management Consultants GmbH in Munich. In more than 12 years of R&D consulting experience, he gained his deep industry knowledge in Automotive, Industrial, Aerospace & Defense and Chemicals in national and international consulting projects. Here, his core competence lies in the design, initialization and implementation of major change programs at product, process and organizational level with a focus on Systems Engineering as well as agile transformation and scaling. Dr. Tim Sturm participated in several events as host, speaker and expert in the field of product development.

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Benedikt Dechamps

Benedikt Dechamps is a Manager at 3DSE Management Consultants GmbH in Munich with more than 7 years of R&D consulting experience in the automotive, shipping, and household appliance industries. As a mechanical engineer and certified Agile & Innovation Coach (Large Scaled Scrum, Design Thinking and Behavioral Innovation Management), he advises clients on developing customized & creative concepts and turning them into product & process innovations. His focus topics are Systems Engineering, Agile Transformation, and Innovation Management.

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