Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe provided more details Thursday about the company’s plans to update the hardware in its electric vehicles next year — under a program called Peregrine internally — which he says will lead to significant cost savings.

One of the biggest wins? During an interview Thursday at the Morgan Stanley Laguna conference, Scarring emphasized changing the electronic control unit (ECU) architecture inside its electric vehicles.

“The biggest ever is ECU consolidation,” Scaring said when asked about Rivian’s first cost-savings opportunity over the next six months. “The ability to integrate ECUs is not a few $100, we’re talking about saving several thousand dollars, to go to, you know, a fraction of the number of computers in cars compared to what we’ve seen historically.”

ECUs are basically small computers that have a specific set of functions or areas that they control. Electronic control units are found in every modern car and their numbers have increased as automakers add more technology. Traditionally, legacy automakers purchased electronic control units — and the software that goes on them — from a variety of tier-one suppliers. Outsourcing makes it difficult to improve the software stack, including deploying wireless updates to vehicles, Scarring said.

Rivian, like its predecessor Tesla, has developed its own electronic control units and software. As part of the hardware upgrade, which will be rolled out in next year’s R1 vehicles, the company is turning to what’s called a logic control architecture. This means that instead of the ECU having a specific role, computers are assigned to areas or zones within the vehicle. The result is a reduced number of electronic control units and improved efficiency. It’s also easier to make and eliminates a lot of extra wire.

“We have a firm belief that owning the entire electronics stack — that is, all the computers in the car — and then owning the software stack on it creates an opportunity to have a more comprehensive customer experience and user interface experience, which is great from a standpoint,” Scaringe said Thursday. demand,” adding that it allows them to get regular and meaningful updates to the software suite.

“A lot of OEMs will claim they have the ability to do an over-the-air update,” he said. “But they’re relatively rare and tend to be quite at the surface level like the clock moves on the screen and the color changes on the screen, but they don’t fundamentally change the way the dynamics in the car or the way the sensor buildup is being exploited.”

On Thursday, Scaringe said the company has a “large” demonstration facility in Southern California that is being used to trial new engineering and manufacturing processes, which includes upgrading hardware. The facility has a small production line manned by Rivian’s operations team to work through any assembly or serialization issues, he said.

“We will be integrating a bunch of product updates into the factory and the factory will not be able to be down for several months; the factory should be down for a few weeks and we will be back at full strength.” “So we are working, as we speak, on all of those issues so that it will be easy and immediate to come back.” The plant is up and running very quickly.”

While Scaringe has spoken about the new ECU architecture before and efforts to support the supply chain and become vertically integrated, he has not publicly shared what the total cost savings per vehicle will be through upgrading hardware and improving manufacturing processes. During the company’s second-quarter earnings call in August, Scaringe said the company plans to reduce the number of ECUs in its vehicles by 60% and the length of the wiring harness by 25%.

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