Since 1895 Automotive Industries has been reflecting – and often predicting – the evolution of the motor industry. In November 1917 “The Horseless Age” became “Automotive Industries” – signaling the final break with the era of the horse and cart.
In this issue the term “horsepower” is used to illustrate the difficult to grasp implications of a world of driverless cars. As reflected in the introduction to the TomTom article, just as the “horse” was removed from powering transport in the 1890’s, so is the driver being removed from controling the car in the not-sodistant future. The impact on society is potentially as large as the introduction of the horseless carriage. “Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society. The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space,” Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars told the audience at the introduction of the F 015 during his keynote speech at CES 2015.
There is no debate about whether we will have the technology to produce autonomous cars – they are already on the road in various forms. The technology brings both opportunity and threat to the motor industry. In an interview with McKinsey Quarterly in October 2014, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said “it used to be that the auto industry, and the car itself, were part of a self-contained ecosystem. If there were breakthroughs, they were developed within the industry. It was a much more controlled environment and not nearly as dynamic as today’s”.
He goes on to point out that much of the technology going into modern vehicles is being developed outside the auto industry. “In terms of connectivity, so much of the technology is being developed outside the auto industry. Whether it’s vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, semiautonomous and fully autonomous driving, or connecting to the cloud—these are all major trends coming at us fast and furiously. The reality is that we will not own, or develop, most of these technologies. If we’re not careful, we could become like some mobile-handset makers, where all the value is added by someone else,” says Ford in the article.
He could have added that mobile set makers and technology companies such as Apple, Samsung, AT&T and Google are now eyeing the automotive market – as we see in this edition of AI. The gap has been created by the advent of the electric vehicle. Electric motors are mechanically far simpler than combustion engines which need to be coupled through gearboxes to the wheels. The remaining technology in the form of chassis, seats, steering, brakes and wheels is readily available, and may come in the form of “white label” vehicles similar to the cellphone model referred to by Ford. As we see in this issue it is data which will power the autonomous car of the future. Right now the car being bought by an environmentally-aware and connected generation is increasingly data hungry. Deloitte research has found that the Internet of Things (IoT) is really just that – things talking to things. The company predicts that 60% of the US$10 billion IoT market in 2015 will be bought and paid for by enterprises and industries. Over 90% of the service revenue will be generated by enterprise rather than consumer use.
Automotive companies will be wanting to plug into that revenue stream. The industry makes nothing out the billions of liters of fuel pumped into its vehicles every year. It is not too late to ensure that at least some of the revenues generated by data help fuel OEM and Tier profits. More importantly, there is still time for designers with petrol in their veins have to take the reins of the connected car firmly into their hands to ensure the whole driving experience does not become commoditized like the personal computer.