SDV and Customer Experience: Paint for the Empty Canvas?

During the Automotive World in Tokyo Big Sight, we had the experts for customer experience (CX) and SDV engineering at the NTT DATA booth. This article is the result of our collaboration on how to integrate customer experience into classical systems engineering / product development processes.

This is part 2 of the series "Expanding the Possibilities of Mobility", authored by mobility experts from NTT DATA around the world."

During the event, I came across an article in the Ojo-Yoshida report. It was about all the computing power in modern cars – and how to use it to create an exceptional customer experience. I liked the statement "the software defined vehicle (SDV) is perhaps best thought of as a form of art. The SoC (System on a Chip) is the blank canvas, the paints and the brushes are the software". As luck would have it, we had the experts for CX and SDV right here at the booth.

CX for breakfast

Over breakfast, we quickly agreed on the Steve Jobs mantra: "You've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology". We continued to agree that by incorporating CX principles into the process, automotive OEMs can create vehicles that not only meet customer expectations but also exceed them, resulting in increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

SDV for lunch

After some coffees, the consultants in us came through. We defined our problem space and exchanged our respective points of view.

The concept of SDV includes the delivery of software-based functions from the cloud into the vehicle. This works only with powerful onboard computing resources such as big screens for the human machine interface (HMI) and high performance computers (HPC). For more information, please refer to this article. To monetize on the SDV opportunity, new use cases need to be developed and new user experiences need to be designed. The fast-paced lifecycles of infotainment apps need to be integrated with the 3+ year vehicle development processes.

Product Development with Systems Engineering

In classical systems engineering thinking, UX is just one category of requirements that are driven through the V model. These requirements need to be specified, designed, developed, integrated, and tested.

(UX requirements in the systems engineering V model (source: NTT DATA))

For the new territory of SDV, we need to add some innovation to this classical approach. The use cases for software-based functions are yet to be discovered. Methods for this discovery include design thinking, customer journeys and in general agile practices for fast feedback loops. As an example, please refer to the as a cloud-based, rapid prototyping environment for SDV functions.

More software generates more data. This data can and should be used in early development phases for data-driven engineering, for example the usage patterns of functions or the A/B testing of alternative solutions.

Great User Experience

A great User Experience is shaped by many elements, not isolated touchpoints or point solutions. It's a concerted efforts by many departments working tirelessly together that all customer expectations are not just met but exceeded. The customer journey mentioned earlier here is a great tool to identify gaps of solutions and services, either not being addressed properly or existent at all.

Strategy, product, engineering and more departments coming together to build out this ecosystem that modern users are used to from day-to-day life with their smartphones, at work, and home. It also is not just the digital layer that influences a great User Experience, both digital and physical worlds need to be harmonized to enable a hyper personalized, curated experience that drives excellence and that works across all aspects of life.

We are looking into the all-Digital Cabin Experience and how this enables a great customer experience inside and outside the vehicle, for example seamless charging, smart home integration, mobile payments, loyalty programs and an overall AI companion.

(Bringing the SDV to life (source: Launch by NTT DATA))

Systems Engineering meets Customer Experience

Over dinner, we further specified the touchpoints for integrating CX into the product development processes:

1. Customer research and analysis

During the concept generation phase, automotive OEMs conduct thorough market research to understand customer needs, preferences, pain points, and expectations. This information is used to identify unmet needs and develop product concepts that address these concerns.

2. Customer involvement in design

Automotive OEMs are increasingly engaging customers in the design process, inviting them to provide feedback on concept sketches, interior layouts, and feature ideas. This feedback helps to ensure that the vehicle's design aligns with customer preferences and delivers a compelling user experience.

3. User-centered design (UCD)

UX designers and engineers apply UCD principles to ensure that the vehicle's controls, interfaces, and overall user experience are intuitive, user-friendly, and enjoyable for drivers and passengers. They conduct usability testing and gather feedback from potential users to refine the design.

4. Omnichannel customer experience

Automotive OEMs are creating seamless customer experiences across all touchpoints, from the initial research phase to post-sales support. This includes providing personalized interactions, intuitive online experiences, and responsive customer service.

5. Data-driven CX

Automotive OEMs are collecting and analyzing customer data to gain insights into their behavior, preferences, and satisfaction levels. This data is used to improve CX strategies, optimize product features, and enhance customer engagement.

6. Immersive experiences

Automotive OEMs are using XR (Augmented / Virtual / Mixed Reality) technologies to provide immersive experiences for customers. This allows them to virtually experience the vehicle's interior, explore features, and get a sense of its overall design and functionality.

They are also leveraging XR in their design-led product development. CAD can be opened up to multiple functions within the organization, for example Exterior & Interior teams as well as Marketing. The traditional clay model has been more and more replaced by digital tools so that globally distributed teams can collaborate remotely, features and functionalities can be explored and tested faster, and software defined for each regional market. Marketing can leverage the same data for go to market strategies and execution.

7. Feedback loops

Automotive OEMs establish feedback loops throughout the product development process, gathering feedback from customers at various stages, including concept development, prototype testing, and launch. This feedback is used to refine the product and continuously improve CX.

Conclusions for dessert

The canvas is not empty. Modern vehicles deliver already an impressive number of functions with a stunning user experience. But this is only scratching the surface of the opportunities in SDV. For a justification of the substantial R&D investments into SDV and for comprehensive monetization of the data generated, traditional product development practices need to be innovated. User experience design needs to be integrated into systems engineering.

NTT DATA can support this transformation globally with global automotive consulting practices including Launch by NTT DATA.

Based on our rich history in bringing concept vehicles to life we are always leveraging the latest emerging technology trends and fuse them with what would be possible to ship in a certain time frame. A key component of that is the leverage of immersive technology. Unity, Unreal, Nvidia Omniverse are part of our tools along with Figma, Adobe Creative suite and others to transition fast between idea, concept, and product. Our Hardware/Firmware/Software teams support the rapid evaluation from their end, digitizing elements that are not smart (enough) yet. With their knowledge from both the automotive and the IoT space (Industrial and Consumer) we understand the challenges and opportunities of platform development and implementation.

Explore more articles from this series:

Jens Krueger
Head of Global Automotive Engineering Competency, NTT DATA Germany

Clemens Conrad
Practice Lead Smart Mobility, Launch by NTT DATA


NTT DATA Group Corporation

Global Marketing & Communication Headquarters

Shinsuke Yoshinaga, Ayaka Matsuzawa, Toshiki Takei


Related Links

Automotive | NTT DATA Group

Business Transformation for Software-Defined Vehicles | NTT DATA Group