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Technology is Now the Number One Differentiator in the Automotive Industry

Yesterday at CES, it was the automotive OEMs’ turn to present their technology to the media. Press conferences from 8am and every hour thereafter from ZF, Bosch, Continental and Valeo talked about the key factors and the building blocks that will influence the automotive industry. There was one underlying tenet. Technology has become the number one differentiator in the automotive industry.

Smart Cars Need Smart Cities
One of the more interesting questions asked during the press conferences was can you drive smart cars on dumb roads? The answer here needs to be yes. Clearly smart cities have a major role to play, but not every road will become smart. Smarter environments are a major trend in technology and personal assistants are finding their way into every aspect of our lives, including driving.

Automotive OEMs are becoming Digital Companies
The Automotive OEMs are changing; they have recognized that they need to adapt to survive. While they remain specialists in their market and applications area, they are becoming faster moving technology companies. ZF talked about the digital revolution that has occurred in their company and how they have changed the way they run their business and develop products. Digitizing their business and their R&D creates a more agile, adaptable, and faster moving company that can create better digital products.

AI has a Major Role in the Car
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a major trend at CES and the addition of computing capacity through the cloud and the increasing speed and reliability of processing makes AI more reliable, more accurate, and ultimately more intelligent. This increasing trust will lead to a greater use of AI within the vehicular environment.

Partnerships are Everywhere – Auto, Tech and Startups
Nvidia, NXP and Qualcomm are just a few of the tech companies that have partnered with the automotive industry. Some work directly with the car manufacturers and some with the industry’s tier one vendors. ZF and Nvidia announced the ZF ProAI platform, which is slated to deliver AI for everything.

These partnerships are fascinating as they give the automotive companies access to technology and the tech companies access to this extremely important growing market. It looks like the industry and the supply chain are due for some transitions as these two sectors combine.

Automotive players are also partnering and investing in startups to get early access to new innovation and to allow the ability to leverage the agile, entrepreneurial nature of these startups. ZF are a ‘Founding Anchor Partner’ of Plug and Play and work actively with them in Sunnyvale and in Berlin. Bosch has invested in a number of startups, including some launching smart home products here at CES this week. Valeo have built a startup ecosystem and invested in startups like Drivy, a share ownership model.

Connectivity Demands Security
This is true everywhere, but it becomes critical when it concerns autonomous or assisted driving. The more data we move, the more we need to ensure that it is secure and only accessible to the right people. Beyond the risk of hacking comes the need for privacy in data and the balance that needs to be struck between the usefulness of crowd sourced data and the privacy of the individual.

Technology Building Block
It won’t be one technology that revolutionizes the automotive industry and the driver experience, it will be based on a number of technological building blocks and small innovation that can together create a connected solution.

Continental, with over 100 years experience in tire technology, are developing smart tires to inform the driver and the on-board systems about changing road conditions, in the same way drivers respond to the different sounds that they hear from the tires on differing road surfaces and under different circumstances.

Bosch are using cars to crowd source data on vacant parking spots as they drive through cities by passing that data to the cloud to be shared by other system users who are looking for a space.

Valeo has ‘ExtraVue’ which connects to the forward camera of the vehicle ahead in order to see further in front when your view is obscured by that vehicle, making passing safer and faster.

Electrification of the Power Train
The trend towards the electrification of the power train continues, and each and every manufacturer is bringing more sophisticated electric vehicles to the market with extended range and faster, simpler charging. As more cars become electric, the automotive OEMs are adding more value to the vehicle as they provide the key elements of the electric power train.

Changes in Car Relationship and Ownership
Since the invention of the motor vehicle in the late 1800s, the car has been an object of desire. Our relationship with the car has been driven by emotion as well as intelligence. But, as we become more urban, we are seeing a generation that is less interested in car ownership and more interested in connected mobility. New models in urban transportation, like Uber and Lyft, have impacted the need to have cars in many environments and car sharing applications. If cars are able to drive autonomously in those cities then the models of shared vehicle usage will prevail.

This is extremely valuable if it offers access to mobility where it has been previously unavailable.

As our relationship with the car changes and it becomes a place to be and not just a vehicle, the industry must and will also change. The automotive industry is now a high tech industry. Along with partners from the consumer technology industry, the outsourced manufacturing sector, and the innovative startups they partner with, it is moving towards its goal of a safer, smarter, connected, and inclusive mobility.

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