"You work here with the latest technologies on cars that you will see driving around in fifteen years." Wim de Rooij trains new colleagues starting out in the business with a demo car for which he has developed the hardware.
Cars are increasingly becoming ‘driving computers’. This is due to four disruptive technologies that are turning the automotive industry completely upside down: Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared, ACES for short.
Developing an ACES car is complex, because the various software components affect each other. Consider, for example, the battery and the navigation system: based on the amount of electricity in the battery, the route to be taken (highway or one with many traffic lights?) and the outside temperature, the software calculates how far you can still drive on the current battery charge and suggests the most optimal charging point. "That makes working on software for modern cars inherently complicated. Developing a particular feature is usually not even that complicated, but integrating that feature into the overall software chain is," says Wim de Rooij.
You encounter your own products every day
He should know, because he has been working in the ICT field since 1981 and as a tester at ICT Group since 2007. He has already tested everything from tunnel technical installations and the control of container terminals to a pipe-laying installation on a ship. He currently works for ICT's Automotive divison. "This is where everything I like comes together: innovative technology, complex projects with many cooperation partners and stakeholders, and of course a beautiful end product that you encounter somewhere every day."
For example, Wim was project owner for the audio in the multimedia system of the Audi A1. When his own Audi was at the garage for a service, he asked for an A1 as a loaner car. "I had driven prototypes to test the software we had developed, but then there are all sorts of systems running in the background that aren't normally there and which sometimes make the software react slower. It was very cool to drive a production car that I had worked on myself."
"It was very cool to drive a production car that I had worked on myself."
Automotive Demonstrator as test environment
His most recent project was developing the hardware for the so-called Automotive Demonstrator. Based on a toy van, we developed a demonstration car that can do everything a regular electric car can do: navigate, charge, communicate with an Android app. Wim: "We use this car to test the complete software before it is built into a real car. We can also test new tools and programming languages in this environment so that we can then apply them in a project."
The Automotive division receives many applications, including from techies who have graduated from Eindhoven and Twente, among others. "Enthusiastic young guys who can program very well, but who do not yet see the coherence in such a large and comprehensive project very well. To introduce them to how projects run at customers, we also use the Automotive Demonstrator. That way we can send new employees to the customer well prepared."
"Speed should never come at the expense of quality."
- Wim de Rooij
Stress resistant and fast switching
What you cannot train well with such a demonstration car is the stress resistance you need in this profession. "You just have to gain experience with that in practice," says Wim. "Because there is always time pressure on projects. Customers always want you to finish the software as quickly as possible, but if you go too fast, you deliver software with technical debt: technical development choices that were made with the short term in mind, but that cause problems in the long term. Speed should never come at the expense of quality."
You also have to be able to shift gears quickly. "Because one minute you're on the phone with a development team in India, the next you're having a conversation with the designer of the car, and the third you're consulting with colleagues at ICT Group who may have experience with a particular problem you're running into. No two days are the same and you can never do anything on automatic pilot," Wim warns.