In the 2018 Detroit car show, while there were plenty of power cars, concept designs and amazing colors, it was obvious that the focus was no longer on cars as a driving experience but on cars as a commercial enterprise. It might take some time for autonomous vehicles (AV) to become the main bulk of road transportations, but car companies are preparing their markets by re-gearing production and presenting new concepts and new partnerships.
The car industry was traditionally known for competing in design, power, and comfort. Where the super-rich can buy hypercars for millions of dollars, promoting the formula races to strive for faster engines, better road grip, and steering handling issues, leading to the transfer of technologies for better performance in commercial lines. The industry was also known to be hyper-secretive and kept developments hidden until revealed in car shows.
Formula races continue and super-rich still vie for hypercars. However, the bulk of the industry is shifting its focus onto autonomous vehicle development and partnerships that are aimed to develop working relationships outside the car industry sector.
Let me explain what is meant in the last paragraph.
The traditional automobile industry is split into three supportive sectors; cars, parts, and energy. Each sector works hand in hand to help develop and maintain market needs. Due to the increased relevance of alternative energies to fossil fuels, specifically electric cars and to the new gig economies of rideshare and food-delivery companies creating global transportation giants focused on comfort and navigational efficiency rather than power, as well as huge investment into driverless car technologies. Partnerships are now forming between IT, Food, and Logistics companies. This was something unheard of before the arrival of Uber and Lyft.
Volvo has a 24,000 SUV commitment to Uber, Toyota also has an agreement with Uber, which has billions invested in AV technology development and UberEats is creating partnerships with thousands of restaurants around the world. GM was partnered with Lyft but is now owns Cruise Automation, and AV Tech company, and is developing in-house to compete with Uber and other gig-economies with their own AV platform. Toyota is also connected to Amazon and Pizza Hut, while Fiat is in a deal with Waymo, that is an Alphabet invested AV company, Fiat is also part of an AV development group that includes BMW, Intel, and Delphi.
What we see in Detroit, which is backed up by CES, is an emerging super-market of collaboration across industrial sectors. Add to this the blockchain technology being used to create supply chain networks and traffic control systems employed by collaboration between IBM and Maersk. We see the emergence of a new world market.
The New World Auto Market
Car manufacturers are no longer building cars for drivers; they are building transportation platforms for passengers to interact with other platforms. This is a brand-new market with new core values and new principles that are emerging on a daily basis.
The AV Community
The search for a perfect AV solution involves more than just cars, it involves cars, IT solution providers that produce; mapping systems, optical and sensory input solutions, software platforms to manage car environments as well as traffic environments, apps for ridesharing, deliveries and other transportation needs, restaurants and supply chain companies, municipalities and national governments all participating in the development of an AV community.
Blame it on Uber
While AV technology was being researched by the car industry, it was not until Uber hit the scene that it got the boost it needed. Uber is the catalyst that created this new spurt of technological development. Through Travis Kalanick’s megalomaniac mindset, came forth a whole to the industry. The reason AV was central to Uber’s vision was to introduce a driving alternative that removes the human cost of transportation. Basically, Kalanick was looking for a robotic taxi service that only required IT and mechanical maintenance, which is part of any cars life cycle. Through the removal of a driver, Uber intends to remove safety risk issues, as well as reduce overheads.
From Private to Corporate Giants
The car industry has gone through three decades of restructuring without the AV intervention. Where many brands are part of a global group, such as Land Rover Jaguar are part of Tata. When you categorize the car industry, you effectively remove the need for small private companies, leading to corporate giants that create different car models and makes under one roof. Small specialized companies such as Koenigsegg are not in the equation since they are focused on niche groups seeking hyper-thrills. Although companies like Koenigsegg do provide technological excellence that improves fossil fuel engines such as their Koenigsegg One with the worlds first and only 1:1 hp-to-kg curb weight ratio. While this is a fantastic achievement, I doubt it would be useful in pizza deliveries in downtown Chicago.
The IT Upgrade
Another industry that will benefit greatly is the IT industry, and this includes software and hardware. Where software upgrades, as well as apps connecting the cars to services such as Google Maps, Amazon and Apple Music, will provide unlimited third-party connectivity. It is already happening, and the Byton is a classic example of where this industrial collaboration is headed. Regarding hardware, Intel, AMD, and Arm are all suppliers of microprocessors that will continue to improve computing performance, and with the constant desire for the elusive Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform that will enable A platforms to evolve their safety and security features, collaboration within these companies is mandatory for development.
Design is for Comfort
The new trend in car design is shifting from speed and power to comfort and safety. Where AV’s will compete for in-car entertainment, the comfort of travel and gadgets for every whim. We are seeing changes in internal design, materials, sizes, and gadgetry in many models, and new concept cars such as Byton provide this in ample amounts. Although there are other considerations for design, such as Toyota’s e-palette, an AV concept for commercial (gig economy and delivery) use.
This software architecture is being developed as a solution to global supply chain and financial transactions. It is also a good platform for managing traffic issues and when added to the overall AV platform, will provide an interesting global transportation management system. It also provides transparency for all transactions, and a transaction can be anything from the transfer of funds to traffic light control.
The car making industry will start to develop new technologies exponentially, similar to how the IT industry started to transform after the emergence of the microprocessor. We will be witness to leaps and bounds in Detroit car show, and we will constantly be surprised as never before.