Auto manufacturers are well aware that most of the innovations in the industry are coming from technology companies like Goole, Apple, Samsung, and others. Some top executives are quietly nervous that the tech crowd could overwhelm traditional car makers. Prior to the 2017 Technology in Motion conference in Detroit next week, Mike Ableson, vice president of strategy and global portfolio planning for General Motors, told Automotive News there is a need to look at “the innovations coming out of Silicon Valley from Apple and Google and Samsung and put boundaries around that, not just for the OEM but also for the consumer. How far into the car do you let them come?”
One of the buzzwords in the industry recently is “connected cars” — vehicles that allow drivers and passengers to access the internet while driving so they can check their e-mails, send out tweets, and share selfies with their thousands of Facebook followers. Someday, connected cars may even talk to each other. Technology is also a major component of driver assist features like lane keeping, blind spot monitors, emergency braking systems, and self driving programs like Tesla’s Autopilot. Enhanced navigation capability is also tech driven.
Frank Weith, director of connected services at Volkswagen Group of America, says automakers need to ensure their identity isn’t lost with the incorporation of a wide variety of new technologies. “We don’t want to be just a commodity, selling bulk vehicles to Google or Apple or Uber,” Weith said. “We want to be part of the consumer experience and keep our product up there.”
Nvidia is deeply involved with automotive technology. It has recently showcased its new “supercomputer in a box” which employs machine learning to teach itself how to drive. Nvidia is now the provider of the computer that makes Tesla’s new Autopilot 2 possible. Bill Veenhuis, senior solutions architect at Nvidia said it is possible to strike a balance between the car culture and tech culture. The best way of doing that is speeding up the pace of innovation in the automotive industry while making automotive technology more long lasting than conventional consumer technology. “It’s about forging Silicon in Detroit and creating technology that lasts,” he says.
So far, automakers feel they ultimately have the upper hand. “At the end of the day, you have to build cars at rate,” said Lear Corp. CEO Matthew Simoncini. “It’s one thing to make a concept and sell 10,000 of them out of a mall; it’s another thing to actually go out there and make 250,000 vehicles.” That last part is aimed directly at Elon Musk and Tesla Motors. Of all the car companies in the world, Tesla has done the best job of merging auto manufacturing with technology.
To paraphrase an old adage, “Coding is easy, making cars is hard.”
Source: Automotive News