Q&A with EuroBrake 2021 speaker William Wei, CTO of Foxconn and the architect of MIH and EVKit
Foxconn’s automotive ambitions have been the subject of increasing speculation in recent years, and in October 2020, to address what it lists as “three major challenges facing the traditional automotive industry,” Foxconn announced MIH, an open electric vehicle (EV) platform.
Working in partnership with Foxtron Vehicle Technologies, Foxconn has developed MIH to address high development costs, long lead times, and insufficient resources, and the open platform approach makes MIH “available to all partners and third-party developers to utilize as they develop functional attributes and systems that will support the growth of the whole EV market.”
Developed initially for electrification, MIH’s EVKit is modular and lightweight, and thanks to drive-by-wire technology, autonomous drive-ready.
At EuroBrake 2021, William Wei, Foxconn’s Chief Technical Officer and architect of the MIH platform and EVKit took part in the EuroBrake Strategy Panel, which ran under the title “Chassis Systems – a new approach to OEM and Tier 1 collaboration?”
We have seen automaker's modular systems strategies come and go in the automotive industry. What do you think is different about Foxconn’s EVKit skateboard strategy?
In the six months since MIH was founded by Foxconn and Foxtron, its membership has grown to more than 1,600 companies. MIH continues to bring in strong partners and will be spun off as an independent consortium organization after July 2021.
MIH’s EVKit is an open EV platform just like Android is an open smartphone platform. It has a software stack, and a hardware stack in the form of a rolling chassis or skateboard. Being non-profit and open like an open-source community, it will be independently governed by all the partners and the community members. Technically, MIH is intended as a game-changer, software-defined, and using hardware and software isolation layering to enable all domain experts to come in and innovate in an open way with strong go-to-market synergies.
EVKit is an open collaborative engineering initiative. How important is pre-competitive collaboration in the development of next generation vehicles and mobility solutions?
MIH will establish many technical committees from our large member base, including independent technical international certification and standards bodies. We will make sure all generations of reference design EVs are derived from state-of-the-art technologies with best value propositions for all car manufacturers, and the market will decide the next-generation solutions.
MIH breaks ground in automotive because it ignores the industry’s traditional dependence on brand heritage. What has been the response to this from the legacy automakers and suppliers?
MIH has been attracting tremendous responses from different domain experts and from all different sectors, from global tech giants to EV start-ups. Besides the recent announcement from newcomers such as Fisker, we have surprisingly had many legacy automakers making inquiries and showing high interest in talking to MIH with great outcome – look at the recent MOU between Stellantis and Foxconn on developing future products. Stellantis Chief Executive Carlos Tavares said this will change the way cars are engineered, and that it will change the pace of vehicle engineering and the frequency at which cars are upgraded. By the way, both Bosch and Continental have also joined MIH, along with other new players.
The MIH EVKit looks beyond electrification to prepare for autonomous driving. What has been the greatest interest in EVKit – electrification or autonomous driving?
In fact, both electrification and autonomous driving are very much anticipated. The evolution of EEA architecture designs from decentralized to domain-based and then to zonal and to truly centralized is a hot topic for many partners. And autonomous driving will be the immediate must-have applications supported by our open drive-by-wire interface and open AD tool kits.
EVKit is much more than electrification or autonomous driving – it also covers open IVI SDK, battery management system interface SDK, smart city adaptor layer, automotive grade kernel and deterministic runtime, sensor fusion framework and SDK, identity and key management. MIH is charting brand-new territories and trying to make all new user experiences possible for future EV development.
We are seeing considerable evolutions in automotive technology – indeed, we heard at EuroBrake 2021 that “braking is about so much more than stopping.” What other fundamental changes are you seeing or hearing about as you develop an open automotive platform?
At MIH, we describe our approach to EVs in layman's terms as, “Cars are like smartphones that move with mission-critical characteristics.” In this case, the mission-critical characteristics are real-time, security, and safety, to ensure sensory perception, vehicle control, and protection for safety.
Future EVs will co-exist with our other devices like smartphones, but identity and user context will become more dominant than ever. The seamless user experience transition between devices such as smartphone, EV, smart home and office will be the winning ticket, so EV experiences need to accommodate our user's smart devices to ensure smooth continuity at all times.