OEMs are responding to far-reaching changes in the automotive industry by focusing on the supply of mobility services rather than the manufacturing of vehicles.
“The automotive industry is at a pivotal and exciting time in history given the significant transformation underway as automakers expand from traditional manufacturing to mobility services," says Dr Samit Ghosh, President and CEO of P3's automotive division. In early 2016 German firm P3 opened a new Mobility Innovation Center (MIC) in Southfield Michigan to support its North American growth over the past 11 years. "As automotive and technology industries converge, Silicon Valley meets Detroit right here at the MIC,” says Ghosh.
Globally, P3 has more than 3,200 consultants and engineers, including over 450 automotive and telecommunications experts in North America. The new 25,000 square foot P3 MIC develops technologies that support the future of mobility in automotive including autonomous driving, device connectivity, eMobility and telematics. It also is designed to support clients at an organizational level, helping them to strategically navigate shifts in system engineering, the integration of software development, the development of new business models, global platforms, and end-to-end product development including big data-based IT solutions.
P3 has been entrusted with developing the acceptance of a global electric vehicle charging standard along with others in the CharIN e.V. alliance. This group is made up of automotive OEMs, Tier 1 and industry groups that was created to develop and establish the Combined Charging System (CCS) as the standard for charging battery-powered electric vehicles and has members from all over the globe including General Motors, Ford, FCA, Tesla, Faraday Future, Atieva, Audi, BMW, Daimler, VW, Porsche, ChargePoint, NRG and Recargo.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Ghosh who will lead the wave of disruptive changes in the automotive industry.
Ghosh: Because of the emerging technologies and hot competition, we think that the next 2-3 years will be one of the most exciting times that the industry has seen since the development of the first automobile. Less than two years ago the answer would have been that traditional automotive companies would maintain their dominance for the next several decades. But Tesla, Google, Faraday Future and other new players have shown that they are here to stay. The latest announcements regarding autonomous driving and Mobility-as-a-Service platforms have started a race for many companies to be first, also pushing OEMs and Tier 1s to start acquiring technology companies. But we should not forget that it isn’t about just developing a vehicle. You also need to deploy nationwide or even worldwide. Traditional OEMs have a significant advantage regarding customer and dealership base that ultimately helps to maintain a critical market position.
AI: Are traditional automotive players adapting fast enough?
Ghosh: We are still at the beginning of a new era in automotive, and losers and winners are not yet defined. The advantage of the traditional automotive players is their current financial health, their understanding of how to industrialize and manufacture products and their strong track record of mastering challenges over the last decade.
After the financial crisis the automotive players did their homework and improved their operations on many levels such as capacity, organizational setup, process landscape and cost optimization. Competition like Tesla was not seen as being significant. But, those underdogs quickly reached the position to dictate the speed of innovation and disruption for the whole industry in areas such as autonomous driving, connectivity, electric mobility and ride sharing.
Recent acquisitions, partnerships and strategy announcements demonstrate that the traditional players are not sitting back to allow these newcomers to dictate the evolution of the motor industry.
Processes that have been in place for more than a decade or even longer need to improve radically in order to keep up with the speed of innovation and timing pressure from the emerging competitors. A common issue at the moment across all companies is the search for talent able to drive the disruptions. Companies in Silicon Valley may have better access to key talent, but even that pool is getting smaller.
AI: What will be the next industry disruptor?
Ghosh: We see sharing services, mobility solutions, EV battery improvements in capacity and cost, EV car charging parks with integrated charging systems, faster EV charging with high power DC, autonomous driving vehicles, and new connected vehicle technologies as several advancements that could disrupt many business plans.
AI: Tell us about P3’s role in the CharIN e.V. initiative.
Ghosh: P3 will host workshops at our offices in California and Michigan in order to draw up requirements for the evolution of charging-related standards and set up a certification system for use by manufacturers implementing the CCS in their products, in addition to acquiring new members. The CCS standard is growing very quickly across Europe and North America with every EV automotive OEM manufacturer, except for two, supporting CCS by integrating this standard into their vehicles. We are working with EVSE manufacturers, utilities, and network operators to ensure that CCS continues to grow and is the charging standard for all EV drivers.
AI: Are there unique challenges facing the automotive sector in the Americas?
Ghosh: Definitely. A local challenge is the extensive purchases of SUVs, pickups and other vehicles with relatively high fuel consumption. This interferes directly with emission targets for 2025. To reach this goal we have to double our nationwide fuel economy up to 54.5 mpg in just less than nine years. The further deployments of EVs and hybrids will help along the way, but something dramatic needs to happen in order to not fall short.
Other markets like Europe or Japan are facing similar issues, but on lower level due to their focus on smaller engine sizes. Influencing customer choices through taxes and fine that is common practice elsewhere in the world would be almost impossible to exercise in the US.
AI: What new automotive technologies excite you most?
Ghosh: I’m really excited about the technologies needed for semi/fully autonomous driving such as computer vision, advanced sensors, machine learning, virtual driver SW and many more within this domain. We see an increase of advancements and complexity within electric vehicle systems that put the last 30 years of development in the shade. We now have prototype computer systems driving better in city environments than an actual person and series production vehicles almost handling highway driving completely on their own. That alone is already incredible. Using advanced telematics solutions, in a few years we will be able to create an environment inside the vehicle that is not only safe but also enables us to work, enjoy entertainment and even sleep while commuting.
Machine learning technology will definitely enable a system that is improving itself during driving, using input from other vehicles as well. The automotive industry is still at the beginning of implementing such disruptive technology, but we can leverage the findings and improvements from other industries directly for our use cases. However, we can’t just focus on the disruptive technologies themselves. We need to involve customers right from the beginning. User experience, or human machine interface (HMI) as it is known today, is becoming more and more important.