Automotive Software Development: 2024 Trends, Challenges

Software quality and security top the list of concerns keeping developers up at night.


The 2024 State of Automotive Software Development Report came across my desk recently. It confirms the premise that automobiles are no longer vehicles with onboard computers but rather pretty much computers with wheels. The report from Perforce Software, in partnership with Automotive IQ and the Eclipse Foundation, asked 600 automotive development professionals for their insights into this increasingly digitalized manufacturing sector producing increasingly digitalized products.

Among professionals responding to the survey, 29 percent say software quality is the biggest concern keeping them up at night, taking the top spot from safety, now the most prevalent concern for 21 percent. Concerns related to quality include dealing with a complex codebase, enforcing coding best practices, and how to find time to perform all necessary testing, identified as the most time-consuming activity for 47 percent of teams.

Security Remains a Top Concern

Security also outranks safety concerns among respondents in this year’s survey. In fact, it’s the leading concern for all regions outside of quality-focused APAC. It indicates the shift toward security-first software development that will be the priority moving forward. Some vehicles leverage up to 150 electronic control units (ECUs) to give drivers the convenience of keyless entry and personalized driving experiences in addition to optimal efficiency and performance. Those ECUs can communicate with each other via a CAN bus, which also makes the data they share vulnerable to hackers. Auto Approve reports that car system hacks increased by 225 percent from 2018 to 2021, and keyless entry and key fob attacks were the top targets, resulting in 50 percent of vehicle thefts.

Research for the Perforce report found that 59 percent of automotive software developers are responding with a shift-left security strategy to find and address vulnerabilities as they code. The survey also revealed that 62 percent of developers (a 20 percent increase over last year) are using Motor Industry Software Reliability Association (MISRA) guidelines (MISRA C:2023 and MISRA C++:2023), which help ensure security and reliability in embedded software. The balance of developers, by and large, use AUTOSAR C++14 coding standards.

Are Developers Focused on EVs?

Governments worldwide are setting targets for a shift to electric vehicles (EVs). But are automakers positioning themselves to meet those deadlines? The survey indicates that EVs are definitely a focus, with 51 percent of respondents working extensively on these products, and 33 percent working on EVs to some extent. Only 16 percent of automotive software developers in the survey were not working on EVs at all, which somewhat surprisingly is an increase of 6 percent from last year.

Of software developers who are working on electric vehicle components, 41 percent devote their time to designing the powertrain, 41 percent on EV charging, 44 percent on hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) control system, and 15 percent on other components. While these teams share the same quality, security, and safety concerns of the industry as a whole, they also feel pressures related to time to market and keeping development costs under control.

Autonomous Vehicles, AI, and ML

If you’re wondering where autonomous vehicles are on the industry’s roadmap, the majority of automotive developers (75 percent) are either extensively working on them or working on them to some degree. Concerns among developers center on safety and security, particularly as software replaces an array of hardware components in these vehicles.

Developers also report that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) use has changed. There was a decrease in AI and ML for product design and development, from 25 percent of developers surveyed for the 2023 report to 18 percent in 2024. AI and ML are most widely used in autonomous drive (AD) (49 percent), connected car and V2X (45 percent), LIDAR (44 percent), and chassis and safety (electric power steering, brakes, and airbags)(43 percent).

Rise to the Challenge

The State of the Automotive Software Development Report highlights the monumental task that developers in this industry face. They are stepping on the gas (no pun intended) to bring innovative vehicles to market on a deadline, meet safety standards and regulations, strengthen cybersecurity, and deliver the creature comforts that consumers expect.

Successful developers know, however, that challenges create opportunities. Solutions that can help automotive developers overcome complexities, save time, and enhance security can solve pain points throughout the industry and help innovation advance. What’s your role in keeping people around the world moving safely and securely?

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.