Are they cars? Or are they personal computers? The recent 2018 North American International Auto Show in Chicago revealed that the automotive industry is becoming an advanced technology industry. Many of the exhibiting companies at the auto show do not even appear to be automotive companies, “a sign of the melding of consumer electronics, software and cars,” according to crainsdetroit.com.
Rapid innovation in the technology used in connected and autonomous vehicles, Crains noted, indicates that the future business model in the industry hinges on the buzzword “mobility.” The Mobility Advisory Board for Automobili-D, formed at the show, is intended to help start-ups find opportunities. The Mobility Advisory Board includes a consortium of universities that are tech leaders, including University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clemson University, Stanford University, and Ohio State University.
The week before the auto show, automotive technology was a highlight at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where many exhibitors focused on technology aimed at the move toward the self-driving vehicles that manufacturers are betting on to appeal to consumers in the near future. Autoweek asked readers to “imagine that while you’re driving, new technology could read your brain waves and anticipate that you want to turn or take other action and thus make the vehicle respond more quickly,” a project from Nissan.
Less fancifully, at the auto show in Chicago, CBS reported, “Many new cars not only include advanced communication and information systems, but also use video game-like technology to make driving easier. The engines that power cars …are where automakers are competing most heavily on the technology front, with hybrids, plug-ins, and even hydrogen cars now available and affordable to the mass market.“
The advent of huge tech companies will also have an enormous impact on the automotive industry. Writing in businessinsider.com, VItaliy Katzenelson predicted, “Over the years, [Apple} has accumulated incredible goodwill with consumers. … The Apple car…will be able to grab a disproportionately large market share from the General Motors of the world because of that deep well of goodwill.” Moreover, the dominant corporate giants like Apple, Amazon and Google, will want to control the consumer experience of purchasing vehicles as closely as the control their consumer interfaces now. “Apple is not going to be using a dealership model to sell its cars. … The traditional dealership model is unlikely to survive anyway, as its economics dramatically degrade in the electric-car world.” The rest of us will just have to wait and see.
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