GM's electric vehicle ambitions tied to software, digital transformation

GM plans to hire 3,000 electrical system, infotainment software and controls engineers, plus developers for Java, Android, iOS and other platforms through the first quarter of 2021.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

General Motors is launching 30 new electric vehicles through 2025 via its Ultium battery platform, but the story and ultimate success revolves around applications and customer experiences.

Simply put, GM's EV-centric strategy is closely linked to its digital transformation. Like Ford, GM is looking to deliver profits via ongoing customer relationships and digital experiences.

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And GM is putting its money behind the EV ambition. GM will spend more than $27 billion in related EV spending and hire 3,000 electrical system, infotainment software and controls engineers, plus developers for Java, Android, iOS and other platforms. GM has 20,000 software and electrical engineers today.

The additional 3,000 engineers and IT workers will be added through the first quarter of 2021. 

"To drive and guide our profitability moving forward, our growth strategy is a 360-degree view of the business designed around delivering world-class customer interactions. This strategy is the compass for every business choice we make as we move forward," said GM CEO Mary Barra.

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GM's plan is to lower battery prices over time via scale and architecture, make EVs more affordable and keep customer relationships through the purchase and ownership experience. GM's experience developing the Hummer EV also can be used to cut development time by nearly 50%, said Barra.

Doug Parks, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, said the common battery architecture and platform means heavy systems modeling, simulation and validation are compressed and eliminate the need for prototype hardware. "Direct release of math to production tools cutting over 1 year off typical hardware iteration," said Parks.

Parks also outlined GM's vehicle intelligent platform, or VIP. VIP is a "digital electric architecture" that will feature over-the-air software updates, subscriptions, feature upgrades, 5G connectivity and third party experiences.


Travis Hester, GM's chief EV officer, said the consumer experience layer is Ultify, which will be one platform with cloud, mobile and identity services. Ultify will consolidate multiple systems at GM, which already manages mobile apps for every brand with 33 million interactions per month.


Hester said GM's approach is informed by its experience with OnStar, a brand that will extend into insurance. Hester said:

We announced the OnStar insurance program, which begins soon with a pilot program. In collaboration with our insurance carrier partners, the product will eventually use data from the vehicle's OnStar system to determine individualized pricing based on driving behavior. Our vision is to make the insurance relationship a more transparent, fair and controllable experience that helps keep every driver safer. It's a natural way to leverage OnStar's trusted safety and security services, and it's another example of how GM's leadership in connectivity can help our customers potentially save money on auto insurance, while encouraging safe driving.

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