The automobiles of today are moving towards becoming what we imagined in the 1980s— driverless, connected to the Internet and more fuel-efficient. This paradigm transformation in the automotive industry will continue well into the future to create vehicles that will be mind boggling. With the introduction of autonomous cars, the use of emerging technologies is only poised to increase. Incredibly precise and clear vision will converge with technical expertise and dedication, on a global scale.
By Sekaran Letchumanan
There is a massive overhaul taking place in the automotive industry, as we speak. What we knew to be cars that could ferry us from one place to another are fast becoming super charged computers that can do much more than just transport us. The very definition of the word ‘automotive’ is going to be expanded and perhaps even redefined. Companies that were traditionally considered car manufacturers, now go by the name of ‘mobility companies’. If you add high tech to mobility, what you used to define as transport could now be a service.
Let’s look at some of the most noticeable trends being witnessed in the automotive industry today.
New manufacturing processes and collaborations
Automotive manufacturers know that they must revisit their existing operations and processes in order to be relevant and remain competitive. According to a study conducted by AlixPartners in 2019, it is estimated that over the next five years, US$ 400 billion will be spent by major auto companies in the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs). This will translate into massive overhauls in factory setups, equipment reconfiguration, the reskilling of workers and the need for new vendor partners. Fundamentally, the business models for the automotive industry will change.
The consumer will be provided with more choices in terms of the features in the AVs, in this new era of automation and digitisation; however, the onus of developing these new vehicles will fall on the automakers, who will have to take on all the associated challenges too.
Besides, it has not yet been established that customers are truly ready for Avs, so that factor will have an impact on how much manufacturers choose to focus on this emerging segment of transportation.
The emerging Industry 4.0 technologies provide cost benefits, improve efficiency and change the competitive landscape. No longer are auto manufacturers competing only with each other. Emerging technology has also ushered in a new competition segment—that of the data companies. In order to work, AVs will require unique sensors and processors to collect huge volumes of data that will make the car smart. This will entail different industries collaborating to take the AV to the road.
Associations with new partners
In this new future, OEMs will not be the only specialists in manufacturing. Given the pivotal role of both hardware and software, OEMs will have to define their unique value addition, be it in design, assembly, safety or customer experience. Beyond the automobile space, in areas such as data security, data storage and human machine interface (HMI), all the concerned parties will need to collaborate with each other closely to deploy and integrate the new technologies required to make AVs a reality.
Moving from car manufacturers to mobility companies
Automotive manufacturers are now shifting from being automobile manufacturers to defining new age mobility. The concept of mobility expands today’s definition of a vehicle and of even transportation, overall. The car, with added high-tech elements, is on track to becoming a service. For example, AVs will eventually be comparable to fleets of taxis or airplanes, created to operate around the clock. Manufacturers must grapple with the idea that AVs in these fleets may only last a year, and therefore, adapt the life cycle management from ten years and 150,000 miles to three years and 300,000 miles, for instance. This would require a paradigm shift in how vehicles are designed and constructed.
These changes within the industry gives customers more choices to personalise their transportation efforts; however, the growth in consumer expectations will dictate future demands. In addition to altering the nature of the industry, autonomous vehicles will present many new and unprecedented challenges to manufacturers and the status quo. It’s time to either adjust or be left behind.
Cars will become living rooms on wheels
As the technology to stay connected increasingly converges with the automotive functions, the pace of innovation will accelerate even more. Our cars will become our ‘living room on wheels’ or an ‘office on wheels’ (https://flex.com/resources/4-waystechnology- drives-the-automotiveindustry). Infotainment systems were only the beginning. In an effort to always be ‘in the know’, communication options from, and to, medical and consumer devices are all finding their way onto our dashboards.
Technology is transforming the automotive industry and the potential disruptors are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), domain controllers, AV powered sensors, electric vehicle applications, autonomous (AV) cross collaboration, Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) features, IoT partnerships, 5G and Level 4 autonomy. This is where technology is really replacing humans. Automakers must remain ahead of the curve and strive to get inside customers’ minds to anticipate their current and future needs, working within a complex ecosystem of technology partners to prioritise and meet those needs. Manufacturers with this level of insight, with the capability to implement these dramatic innovations will thrive, as technology transforms the automotive and transportation industries.
The author is the vice president –operations at Flex India.