ADAS Features Must Be Intuitive, Magna CEO Says

“If someone has to go through the owner’s manual or a book to figure out how a feature works, it won’t be used,” Swamy Kotagiri says.

Tom Murphy, Managing Editor

August 4, 2021

3 Min Read
Swamy Kotagiri Magna CEO - Copy
“From an industry perspective, we have to make it user friendly,” Kotagiri says of automotive technology.Tom Murphy

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – We’ve all felt it: the frustration of experiencing a new vehicle with advanced driver-assistance technologies that ultimately disappoint because they fail to perform as advertised.

Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, says too many consumers who don’t understand the technologies just turn them off, because they don’t like how they perform or think they represent a hazard rather than a safety enhancement.

At this week’s CAR Management Briefing Seminars here, Bailo asks Magna CEO Swamy Kotagiri how to counter this troubling trend and how the industry can provide more consistency for consumers experiencing adaptive cruise control, blindspot warning, emergency braking, cross-traffic alert and lane keeping for the first time.

“As product engineers and architects, we have to make them intuitive,” Kotagiri says. “If someone has to go through the owner’s manual or a book to figure out how a feature works, it won’t be used.”

He says it’s not unusual for automotive engineers to be disappointed with ADAS technology on new vehicles, so they go in search of information for a better understanding. “If we can’t find it, imagine what the consumer is going through,” Kotagiri says.

He sees more change on the horizon, perhaps the departure of rearview mirrors as camera technology advances, and he identifies voice and gesture control as “great technologies, but they have a ways to go.

“From an industry perspective, we have to make it user-friendly,” Kotagiri says of automotive technology. “I’m confident we will get there, but simplicity is key.”

Kotagiri has worked for Magna for 23 years and seven months ago became CEO of the company, North America’s largest automotive supplier, based near Toronto.

In his Wednesday keynote speech kicking off MBS, Kotagiri refers to “unprecedented times” as the auto industry has been negatively impacted by a global pandemic, a microchip shortage and an ice storm in Texas.

MBS Kotagiri Bailo - Copy.JPG

MBS Kotagiri Bailo - Copy

“Even as we’ve faced some unpredictable and urgent threats to our health, to the global economy and to our day-to-day operations, we have never stopped feeling like we were on the precipice of some truly exciting progress,” he says.

He points to the industry’s “four simultaneous revolutions” happening in the areas of electrification, autonomy, connectivity and new mobility. 

“But the car isn’t the only thing that’s changing,” Kotagiri says. “So, too, are the factories that manufacture them. And in our industry, we’re able to do what we do because we treat manufacturing as a competitive advantage, and our plants as technological canvasses, where employees can thrive.”

He says Magna is looking for people who can “take apart complex problems” and are passionate about discovery, including on the manufacturing floor. “The science of manufacturing has to be found again – which means we all need to be champions for bringing more awareness and introduction to the discipline in early education. Manufacturing is cool. It’s on all of us to show people how.”

Like many multinational automotive companies, Magna responded to the pandemic by devoting people and resources to producing personal protection equipment for first responders.

“You look at the health and safety of your employees, and you start there,” he says. “You play the role of corporate citizen with a social responsibility. You protect your workforce and do what you can with your manufacturing base, your materials. Why not? I’m proud of how the industry came together in a time of need.”

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About the Author(s)

Tom Murphy

Managing Editor, Informa/WardsAuto

Tom Murphy test drives cars throughout the year and focuses on powertrain and interior technology. He leads selection of the Wards 10 Best Engines, Wards 10 Best Interiors and Wards 10 Best UX competitions. Tom grills year-round, never leaves home without a guitar pick and aspires to own a Jaguar E-Type someday.

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