Digital skills in short supply

A lack of digital skills could hamper the automotive industry’s ambitions around autonomy and connectivity.

Key players such as Volkswagen and Volvo have stated their intention to become software companies first and foremost, signalling a sea-change in industry-thinking as customers demand ever more connected experiences from their cars.

To drive this change, car makers must recruit thousands of new software developers as they seek to more than double the amount of code that is written in-house.

However, in the interests of churning out graduates in greater numbers, some universities have dumbed-down their curriculums, leading to a loss of analytical skills that are crucial to the industry.

Tom Blackie, CEO, VNC Automotive, said: “Today’s courses tend to focus on high-level software tools that generate code for you. While they have an important role to play in removing much of the grunt-work of software development, we’ve found this increased abstraction tends to produce graduates with little understanding of how a computer actually works.”

Automated tools that quickly deploy reusable chunks of code for the most commonly-used functions, such as interpreting user input or rendering graphical displays, can speed up development and reduce a product’s time-to-market. However, over-reliance on these predefined building blocks can lead to inefficiencies that can be measured in terms of memory footprint, speed and power consumption.

Blackie continued: “Previous generations of software developers cut their teeth on home computers with very limited resources. “We need to recapture that spirit of efficiency by teaching our graduates how a CPU actually works, how best to utilise memory efficiently, and how to optimise code so that it reduces power consumption – something that’s critical as the industry becomes increasingly electrified.”

Many of the German automotive OEMs have created a culture of nurturing courses at nearby universities, allowing them to steer course content in a way that ensures a steady supply of new talent. In America, Silicon Valley often dictates the path for graduates and that has established a culture of its own.

Blackie said: “We need to be doing the same. Let’s entice more young developers into the industry by creating a sense of pride in seeing their code being used in real life, while at the same time teaching them how to build it in an efficient way.”