Tesla is why Agile Development can work in the automotive industry
The term agile software development which involves a modern collaborative effort of working together, abolishing rigid planning in favor of adaptive planning and early delivery, as well as continuous improvements, has been around for quite some time, and embraced by the tech community wholeheartedly. The automotive on the other hand are notorious for formulating out the requirements gathering in a waterfall approach, years before the cars hit the assembly line and make it to the dealerships. What this means is that customers have to deal with a process that means that the software in their cars are outdated from the moment they pick out their vehicles.
Apps that come with the car’s entertainment unit are outdated, and don’t receive the same level of app updates we are accustomed to on our iPhones. And when the auto dealers do offer a software update, it usually involves an inconvenient drive to the dealer, and some added cost as well, which is usually the case with maps.
While Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto have decoupled the entertainment unit from the vehicle, letting Apple and Google do what they do best, update the platform independent of the car makers, the software is still superficial. That is, unlike Tesla where updates actually add new functionalities (such as adaptive breaking lights, auto pilot), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are merely entertainment apps.
Taking a look at Tesla, we have a truly agile development process. That is, Tesla, ships out the cars first, with a great MVP software bundle and set of features. Every two weeks or so, you start to see a roll out of software updates wirelessly, which update more than just icons and apps on the screen, but actual vehicle functionality, improving the driving experience, adding new voice commands. This year we saw the release as part of v9 of dash cam, the ability to leverage the physical cameras to record incidents. Autopilot logic improves with updates as well, so we are getting more than just superficial changes.
I truly hope with the new batch of EVs coming out from Ford and GM amongst the others, they heed the process and philosophy Tesla are demonstrating, rather than paying lip service to their board members and releasing EV cars.