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Why software-defined vehicles will transform the driving experience forever


Cars have taken us where we needed to be for over a century. And automobiles themselves have completely transformed since their inception, becoming the safe and convenient form of transport we now rely on. The past few years, however, have accelerated this evolution dramatically and, for the first time, cars will be more than just a means of getting from A to B.

Software-defined vehicles (SDV) are leading the major shift facing the automotive industry. Consumers are increasingly purchasing vehicles optimized with software and data platforms which carry extensive functionalities. Just as the iPhone revolutionized our phones, SDVs will have the same effect, especially as the frameworks mature.

Our vehicles will offer the same personalization features as our devices, starting from a login that might involve a password, voice-activated mechanism, or multifactor identification for security. This will unlock individual preferences to benefit the owner and other drivers who, for instance, might have different mirror settings, preferred routes, and favorite radio stations.

Voice assistants will continue to evolve as a tool for getting more out of the in-car experience. Today you might ask your car to call a friend with a voice command, such as “Call Bob.” But in a software-defined vehicle, you might say, “Check email. Send a reply. Sorry Bob, but I need to push this meeting.” Then you propose a new time, as the car manages your tasks while you focus on the road.

People will soon also trust their cars to do the driving, especially as 5G accelerates the development of safe autonomy. In the meantime, drivers can benefit from the productivity, infotainment, and the conveniences we now associate with smartphones. And this will be delivered with a focus on safety and on not distracting the driver. This will automatically eliminate the danger of drivers picking up a phone to send or view a text.

Another advantage is flexibility. Ford recently announced it will sell Explorers without semiconductor chips, bypassing the chip shortage currently slowing down the industry. Drivers can install them later when they become available. This is a pioneering move in the industry, and it is only possible because of robust software architectures. Consider that, in the near future, you could equip your vehicle with new functionalities over the air, just as you might upgrade a component of your computer. In practice, this may be a transmission enhancer or augmented reality heads-up display.

Software-defined vehicles will transform the driving experience by enabling the personalized interactions drivers want, tailored to their needs, while giving greater management options. SDVs bring a potential that remains largely untapped and begs exploration, creating new opportunities for industry players and daring them to experiment.

Daniel Davenport is a Connected Mobility Solutions Lead at Capgemini. He works with a range of global clients to develop connected use cases that drive innovation, enhance the owner experience, and create new revenue streams. He can be reached at or on LinkedIn