Hyundai’s Next-Generation Cars are Software, Not Hardware

By
Laurance Yap
Updated:
Oct 2022
Time to Read:
5
min
Hyundai’s plans for its next generation of electric vehicles signal a significant change. Built around an all-new architecture, they will be defined more by software than their hardware. Behaving more like a smart phone, these new long-range EVs will upgrade themselves over time.
Car screen updating software
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A Transformational Architecture Based on Software

If you have a mobile phone in your life (and if you’re reading this, it’s likely you do), you’ve likely experienced how software updates can improve a product over time. Overnight, your phone may pull an updated operating system down from the cloud, adding features and sometimes even improving performance.

Many cars, especially in the new electric age, have the capability to update themselves over-the-air, but improvements generally have been isolated to bug fixes and feature improvements within specific areas of the vehicle’s operating system. They still remain, even with electric powertrains, primarily mechanical objects.

Hyundai Motor Group, which owns and operates both the Hyundai and Kia brands, is looking to change that. It says its next-generation vehicles, which are due by 2025, will now be built on a so-called “software defined vehicle” (SDV) strategy. The group expects that by that year, over 20 million vehicles will be equipped with cutting-edge telecommunications features that give them the ability to receive over-the-air updates, including new features and performance enhancements.

Hyundai also says that its next-generation EV platform will provide significantly more range than today’s technology – up to 50% more, in fact.

Car production line

Next-Generation EV Platform With 50% More Range

With 2025 less than three years away, Hyundai is making huge efforts to reduce the time required for all of its mass-production processes, including planning, design, and manufacturing. It’s doing so by developing a shared hardware and software platform for vehicles that will enable vehicle components to be shared across different vehicle segments. Reducing vehicle complexity will also enhance the effectiveness of SDV technology and improve range.

For consumers, Hyundai and Kia’s next-generation EVs will be built on a new platform called eM. Specifically developed to span across multiple segments, Hyundai group claims the eM platform will provide a 50% improvement in driving range on a single charge compared to current EV technology. The eM platform will also support, in the future, Level 3 or higher autonomous driving, which can be added via over-the air updates.

How will such improvements come about? Through modular key components. Batteries and electric motors, for example, currently vary across different EV models, but the group will flexibly apply common components to different vehicles. A new, integrated vehicle controller will also be shared between multiple vehicles. Previously, each vehicle would require multiple control units for different functions, each with its own set of software that would need to be upgraded.

An integrated controller significantly reduces the amount of wiring and hardware in the car, and also enables faster upgrades. One integrated controller eases the process of adding new features and improving performance. Software update cycles are shortened, and become more frequent, making it easier to tailor vehicles to customer needs around the world.

Infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) functions which currently have separate control units will also be integrated.

Hyundai screen powered by NVIDIA

Over-the-Air Updates for All Hyundai and Kia Models by 2025

Starting with the 2023 model year, all new Hyundai and Kia models will be equipped to receive over-the-air updates – a technology already offered on many of its electric vehicles. This functionality will let customers remotely upgrade the performance and functionality of their vehicles anywhere at any time, without any need to take them to a service center.

Hyundai and Kia will also offer FoD (feature-on-demand) services next year. This will give customers the ability to select and purchase additional functions and features that meet their needs and tastes, and the freedom to upgrade their vehicles to match their evolving lifestyles. (All of this data will also help Hyundai and Kia market better to these customers.)

To efficiently collect and process the large amount of information generated by this technology, high-performance electronics are required. Hyundai and Kia are working with NVIDIA, a leader in AI computing to enable large-scale data computation processing at an ultra-fast pace. The Group signed a technology development agreement with NVIDIA in 2015 and is conducting research to apply connected car technology.

Technician updating car computer

What Does It All Mean?

While it may sound like a lot of technological jargon, Hyundai’s 2025 plans signal a significant change in what an automobile actually is. While its future cars will, of course, still have physical components, it’s clear Hyundai feels that software, not hardware is at the core of a car’s being.

That philosophical shift will be reflected in the way that vehicles are sold, and how they’re used over their life cycles. In theory, constant upgradability and the new architecture should mean improved performance and customer satisfaction over time – which would be a big change from the way cars age today. Whether reality will bear out the theory will be interesting to watch.

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