Can automotive players cope with autonomous driving's quality implications?
Autonomous driving has introduced sophisticated new components and systems, which run under a heavy load of distributed embedded software and electronics. Without proper safeguards, these highly vulnerable systems could become the Achilles' heel of next-generation vehicle design.
While the auto industry has proved itself adept at managing traditional quality-related risks in the past, this time may be different. Autonomous vehicles and other innovations that rely on advanced electronics and software require new robust quality management systems and advanced tools and methods capable of preventive monitoring and control.
The new functional capabilities of autonomous vehicles will force quality departments to assume a leading role that will include:
- Taking steps to reduce extensive late-stage design changes.
- Stabilizing the supply chain, architecture and functionality performance.
- Reducing warranty problems and associated liability damages.
The launch of the precursors to autonomous vehicles and other advanced technologies has already tripled product recalls over the past five years, a clear sign of the increasing complexity of new products. What's more, traditional problem-solving does not support the root cause analyses in these cases because of the intermittent nature of failures that these complicated integrated systems exhibit.
Take the growing complexity of parking assistance systems, for example. Initially little more than simple ultrasonic sensor-based object detection units, they have evolved into highly complex systems that rely on more than 12 ultrasonic sensors and increasingly complex algorithms.
Automakers need to manage this complexity tightly, and monitor it during product development and production, adapting analytics, tools and methods to achieve standardized results.
Given the shift from a mechanical approach to one based on electronics and software, future automotive quality management must include preventive digital quality controls. Today's conventional continuous improvement and visual quality management methods can't cope with these new challenges, as illustrated by the fact that more than 30 percent of warranty cases today result from electrical and electronic components.