Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer, knows how to make electronic systems. As the assembler of hundreds of millions of Apple iPhones and many other brands every year, the company also known as Hai Hon Precision Industries understands the consumer equipment market and global supply chains.
With the design and production of electric vehicles dominated by battery technology and electronics, it is bringing its understanding of the difference between a brand and a platform supplier and the role of the contract manufacturer to cars and trucks.
The company flexed its muscles with the acquisition of Sharp back in 2016 to the tune of $3.8bn to protect its supply chain and give it global influence as a component and system supplier.
This is all coming together with the launch of an open platform of hardware and software for ‘software defined’ electric vehicles. A single lightweight chassis of different lengths with a range of battery packs and modular motors and a ‘drive by wire’ architecture will allow brands of all kinds to build their own vehicles on top, slashing the cost and development time.
Those brands can also integrate all manner of technologies, from advanced driver assistance ADAS systems to full level 4 autonomous, self driving vehicles, from small cars to commercial trucks. Different sensors and algorithms can be implemented on standard hardware within a standard software virtualised architecture based on an RTOS microkernel and hypervisor that supports all the other software such as Autosar, Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Open software is a key trend for the company. It says it has learnt from Apple opening up phone software with the App store, and Android opening up the whole hardware and software infrastructure of mobile phones. It doesn’t want to be Apple – it wants to be the Android of electric vehicles.
“The closed system adopted by Tesla and other manufacturers requires a long