Automotive Today and Tomorrow: An Outlook in 2021 and Beyond

EVs and AVs face hurdles like manufacturing, safety procedures, complex self-driving systems development, verification and validation.

Siemens Digital Industries Software has submitted this post.

Written by Nand Kochhar, vice president of Automotive and Transportation Industry Strategy for Siemens Digital Industries Software.

The automotive and transportation ecosystem continues to prove its resilience under the ongoing global health crisis. Indeed, despite the immediate disruptions and challenges posed by the pandemic, the industry continues to determinedly pursue the long-term goals of electrification and vehicle autonomy.

Electric vehicle technology is rapidly maturing, making electric vehicles (EVs) an ever more attractive option to car buyers. Today’s EVs offer a mix of environmental friendliness, convenience, comfort and cool design (Figure 1). This steady march towards mainstream success has been powered by key technology improvements, such as in battery capacity and performance, which have eased much of the range anxiety that beset earlier EVs. Improving charging infrastructure, regional regulations that incentivize or require EV adoption, and increased investment from major automotive brands have also contributed to the growing appeal of modern EVs.

Figure 1. Modern EVs offer upscale features, attractive designs and environmental friendliness, making them an ever-more attractive option to car buyers. (Image courtesy of Siemens.)

Figure 1. Modern EVs offer upscale features, attractive designs and environmental friendliness, making them an ever-more attractive option to car buyers. (Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

Meanwhile, the industry is also taking a pragmatic approach to making autonomy real, one level at a time. Autonomous vehicle (AV) development is well under way at many of the largest automotive companies in the world, as well as several startup manufacturers and even major technology corporations. However, both EV and AV technology face significant hurdles.

For EVs, OEMs must determine how to best adapt their manufacturing technologies, processes and safety procedures to better fit the unique needs of an EV. Also, the industry at large is still determining the best means of battery recycling and other end-of-life considerations. For AVs, verification and validation of exceedingly complex self-driving systems remains as the most significant obstacle to achieving true autonomy.

As OEMs adapted to the constraints of working during a global pandemic, digital transformation proved to be a valuable strategy. Remote collaboration, virtual verification and validation, and a robust digital thread enabled teams to continue their work even while sequestered at home. As companies turn their attention towards mass electrification and full autonomy, they will need to continue this digital transformation of their tools, processes and ecosystems. Modern digital solutions provide convenient and secure cross-domain and cross-organization collaboration methods, intuitive development environments, and massive verification and validation of entire vehicles. With such capabilities, automotive companies can accelerate development cycles while connecting teams and processes both internally and externally.

Electrification Aims for the Mainstream

Electric vehicle technology has undergone a rapid maturation, even when just considering progress over the last decade. When introduced in 2012, the Tesla Model S offered up to about 260 miles of driving range for a full charge (Csere, 2012). The Model S is now rated for driving ranges between 348 and 520 miles on a single charge (Car and Driver, 2021). Across the EV industry, continual improvements in battery technology, battery and vehicle energy management systems, electric motors and vehicle design are making EVs more and more attractive to the consumer. These improvements have helped reduce range anxiety among consumers while also making EVs more attractive and feature-rich.

The environmental benefits of mass electrification further improve the desirability of EVs for many consumers. EVs produce no emissions and use energy very efficiently, making them less impactful on the environment when compared to traditional internal combustion engines. These environmental benefits may prove to be a boon for cities around the world. City populations are growing around the world as more people choose to live in urban environments. Growing human populations usually translate to greater amounts of vehicular traffic, increasing congestion and degrading air quality from vehicle emissions. Developing urban areas around the world can look to EVs as one option for alleviating the pollution caused by a large influx of automobiles.

Figure 2. EV manufacturing requires special safety considerations due to the presence of extremely high voltages in the electric powertrain. (Image courtesy of Siemens.)

Figure 2. EV manufacturing requires special safety considerations due to the presence of extremely high voltages in the electric powertrain. (Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

Automotive OEMs and startups do still encounter a number of challenges in the production and sale of EVs on a mass-scale. First, EV production requires some unique safety considerations stemming from the high voltages present in the electric powertrain (Figure 2). As a result, legacy production methodologies must be adapted or replaced to account for the potential safety risk posed by high voltage components. EV manufacturers also need to determine the best strategies for the recycling, reuse or disposal of EV batteries. New materials have helped to improve battery performance and reduce the cost of battery production, but they can also be dangerous or toxic if improperly handled. The industry must continue to develop appropriate methods for processing these materials at scale.

Furthermore, the EV charging infrastructure is much less developed than the vast network of gas stations on which drivers of ICE vehicles can rely. Even with the impressive range of today’s EVs, the lack of charging stations, and particularly fast charging stations, in most regions present a serious challenge for EV manufacturers and the EV industry. It’s likely that any major developments of charging infrastructure will require the cooperation of EV manufacturers, various levels of government, utilities companies and others.

Ultimately, widespread EV adoption will hinge on the ability of automakers to offer consumers a compelling alternative to the gasoline-powered vehicles with which they are familiar. Contemporary EVs are coming to market with advanced features, plush cabins and exciting styling to rival the best ICE vehicles available. As drive range and opportunities to recharge improve, the scales should gradually, but irrevocably tip towards the EV. Automakers that are able to capitalize on this shift early stand to reap the greatest benefits. Throughout the industry, we have seen that digital transformation of vehicle design, testing and manufacturing contributes to faster time to market, high product quality and greater innovation. For companies competing for leadership in the EV market, these capabilities will prove critical.

The Road to Full Autonomy

While EVs are gaining ground in mainstream consumer markets, autonomous vehicle technology remains under development. Current self-driving systems are limited to specific driving scenarios (such as highway driving) and require optimal weather conditions to perform effectively. These systems are a long way from the fully autonomous chauffer we expect when we think of a self-driving car. For now, many companies are content to take a pragmatic approach to AV development by methodically improving their autonomous capabilities one level at a time.

Figure 3. The SAE has defined six levels of vehicle automation. (Image courtesy of Siemens.)

Figure 3. The SAE has defined six levels of vehicle automation. (Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has defined six levels of vehicle autonomy ranging from 0 (no automation) to 5 (full automation, Figure 3). Level 1 and 2 cars are increasingly common due to the proliferation of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as automated emergency braking, radar-controlled cruise control and lane-keep assistance. The most advanced systems today are level 3, in which the automated driving system is able to manage all aspects of the driving task on the condition that a human driver is ready and able to intervene at a moment’s notice. Levels 4 and 5 continue the progressive transition of control of the vehicle away from the human and to the automated driving system. At level 5, the automated driving system must be able to manage all driving tasks under all possible conditions and scenarios; a tall task indeed.

Technologically, the escalation to higher levels of autonomy requires immense onboard computing power, advanced software, sensor hardware, networks and electrical wiring connecting all these various components together. AV manufacturers then must integrate all of the electrical and electronic hardware needed for vehicle perception, decision-making and action functions within the mechanical structures and systems. The result is a significant increase in the complexity of the processes used to design, engineer and manufacture vehicles.

The most daunting task, however, is the verification and validation of these self-driving systems to ensure their safety and reliability under all conditions. A level 5 AV will need to operate safely in rain, snow, hail and more, at all times of day and in all traffic conditions. It is therefore no surprise that verification and validation of a level 5 AV is expected to require the equivalent of several billions of miles of roadway testing. This is due, in large part, to the nearly infinite number of potential corner cases that an AV may encounter in the real world. The automated driving system must be prepared to navigate such cases while protecting the safety of the human passengers inside.

Figure 4. Simulation solutions now support full vehicle verification and validation in simulated environments. (Image courtesy of Siemens.)

Figure 4. Simulation solutions now support full vehicle verification and validation in simulated environments. (Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

As with electrification, digital transformation can help companies on the road to full autonomy. Modern simulation solutions support full AV verification and validation, from various environmental and traffic conditions right down to the individual sensors, electronic control units and central processors. These solutions allow companies to test and train their self-driving systems in virtual environments (Figure 4). Such virtual testing is much faster and less expensive than physical testing, making it ideal for early system verification and validation. Simulation can also be used to identify and test self-driving systems under extreme conditions and corner cases. When paired with digital design and engineering environments, learnings from these vehicle simulations can be quickly integrated back into the system designs.


Moreover, the outlook for EV and AV technology is favorable. Electrification is already making strong headway in the automotive market. Each announcement of a new EV platform or lineup from a major brand will only boost the profile of EVs in the public eye. While AVs are likely still many years from deployment en masse, dozens of companies continue to develop the technology.

Indeed, challenges remain for both EVs and AVs, but modern digital solutions offer a path forward for all players, from major automotive OEMs to the many startups and technology companies hoping to disrupt a century-old industry. Connected, digital solutions not only improve the efficiency of engineering teams, but also help to break down barriers between functional domains and even organizations. Siemens, with its Xcelerator portfolio of software and services, is well positioned to support companies as they realize the goals of electrification and autonomy, bringing us ever closer to the automotive industry of tomorrow.

To learn more, visit the Siemens Digital Industries Software website.


Csere, C. (2012, December 21). Tested: 2012 Model S Takes EVs to a Higher Level. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from

2021 Tesla Model S Review, Pricing, and Specs. (2021, January 11). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from