The Unusual Suspects
Ever since I was a little boy I loved cars and dreamt of working at a big car company when I grew up. Later, I even had the privilege to perform my internship at the Volkswagen R&D Headquarters in Wolfsburg Germany. Things have changed however…
Cars…..in the early days a symbol of ultimate freedom and expression, nowadays primarily associated with pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and under utilised resources. The romantic view I once had as a little boy was replaced with a realistic vision on transportation, ownership and sustainability. Over more than 100 years, the automotive industry was able to gradually adapt to changes. Lately however, the world develops so quickly that you can question the adaptability of the big players in the automotive industry.
One of the biggest future developments in my opinion is the autonomous or self driving car. Potentially it will make personal transportation more efficient and safer. Past year, several companies demonstrated self driving cars in public and predicted the time to market to be between 5-10 years. Noteworthy however is the type of companies that are working on these cars.
We have of course The Usual Suspects……BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Nissan to just name a few. What these companies are doing is gradually equipping existing cars with more and more autonomy and smart systems. In order to secure essential road information data, the German OEM’s even joined forces to acquire Here, the map devision of Nokia.
The Unusual Suspects
Then we have established companies, mainly from Silicon Valley, that are currently not present within automotive. Both Google and Apple are seriously investigating the possibility of entering the market with an autonomous car. Google has already multiple cars driving autonomously around San Francisco, while Apple is hiring talent from car companies (Tesla) and is a bit more secretive about their developments.
Also from Silicon Valley (Europe wake up!) are smaller but also interesting companies. Tesla (still small) already shook up the luxury car market by beating Mercedes, Audi and BMW with the electric Tesla Model S. They are not afraid to do things differently, and more then the established manufacturers, software is in the DNA of the company and product. Tesla already has a select number of customers that will start testing autonomous functions, called Autopilot, that eventually will result in complete automation.
Uber disrupted the taxi business and openly stated that they are pushing for a self driving Uber service. It’s not likely that they will make a car themselves, but they can partner up with Google for instance, or with another startup like Faraday Future. Combining the business model of Uber, connecting supply and demand, with self driving cars will also change the way we own and use cars (and will have a big impact on anybody who now is earning money by driving a car, bus or truck).
From the (limited) information available, these Unusual Suspects are rethinking how we use our cars, how they look and how they interact with the user. This impacts the way we design our cars. Since the vast majority of accidents are caused by human error, is there still a need for safety equipment and crash testing? Furthermore, electric cars (Apple, Google and Faraday Future are electric) are easier to construct and design compared to combustion engine or hybrid cars. Result…..it becomes easier for newcomers to become successful in this competitive industry.
The trick in being successful with self driving cars is being able to quickly and accurately crunch large sums of data, make the correct decisions and communicate with the surroundings. Typically something tech companies (Apple, but especially Google) are good at. This puts them in a very good position to become successful and shake up the conventional automotive industry.
Driving a car will never be the same anymore…..reason why I stepped over to motorcycles as my new passion.
I’m the founder and owner of Fransiscó. I have a passion for lightweight and high performance engineering. In this blogs you will find occasionally a write-up of things that keep me busy. I you want to know more about my background, please have a look here…