Who will put the the consumers on wheels of the autonomous vehicles? Automakers or technology firms in the future?
Certainly, on the hardware front the automakers strike an edge but is the software at par with silicon valley experts?
Connected Car Technology:
A connected car is a car that is linked with the Internet and has access to it. By having the internet access, the car can connect to other devices both inside as well as outside the vehicle.
General Motors was the first automaker to launch OnStar in 1996 in Cadillac DeVille, Seville and Eldorado. With Onstar 4G LTE and wifi hotspot, the vehicle can be turned into a connected mobile hub mode.
By the end of 2003, connected car technology started providing services such as health reports, navigation, weather reports and accessing wireless devices across the network.
Tech Firm – Google’s Journey in automobile sector:
The Google self driving car project began in 2009 which became an independent Alphabet company named Waymo in 2016 which aims at providing self driving car technology. This technology uses sensors and software to detect pedestrians, vehicles and other objects on the road sides.
The sensors detect the hand’s movement of the cyclist and predict the movement of the cyclist. Accordingly, the software plans to slow down the vehicle and make space for the cyclist to pass in a safe manner.
On January 6, 2014, Google formed an Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) which aims at providing and bringing the Android platform to automobiles. The OAA includes Audi, GM, Honda, Google, Hyundai and Nvidia.
Google launched Android auto, a smartphone standard that allows mobile devices that run in android operating system to operate in vehicles through a dashboard headunit. It was announced on June 25, 2014, at Google I/O 2014.
The Android Auto mobile app was released on March 19, 2015. With Android auto, users can make and receive calls, get turn by turn navigation, see recent places and explore google maps.
The car models supporting Android Auto are Hyundai Sonata, Skoda Fabia, Skoda Rapid, Audi Q7, Mitsubishi Pajero, Chevrolet Cruze and many more.
Fierce Competition & Alliances – Tech Firms & Car Manufacturers:
Many tech firms such as Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple are giving fierce competition to car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, GM and many more. The tech firms are putting enormous efforts into vision of mobility that takes away the limelight and profits from the automakers as their driver-less technology and car connectivity would dominate the tech firms in this 21st century.
Who aces the Patent Race?:
When it comes to intellectual property, there is a tug of war going on between tech firms and car manufacturers. In this patent race, Google is driving ahead as it has been patenting in this mobility space as far as possible.
There were around 5000 mobility patents being filed by 12 leading automakers and global tech companies, according to research conducted by Oliver Wyman and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Out of these, 3800 were filed by major car manufacturers such as Audi, Daimler, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla. These patent assets relate mostly to electric cars, batteries, fuel cells, and alternative fuel. The tech firms are behind in this patent segment.
However, a different story emerges in patent trend when we talk about the patent trend involving ug analysis of connected and self-driving cars. You will be surprised to hear that Google filed almost as many as tech firms such as Audi (Google 221 vs Audi 223) and even larger asset than many big car manufacturers such as BMW, GM & Daimler.
Even in some of the mobility services that include car-sharing, navigation technologies and app development, the tech firms won in this race with 55 versus 44. Google leads with approximately 30 patents in this sector.
Web of Alliances
In order to develop electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, ford has invested $180 million in Pivotal Software, a cloud computing firm.
General motors, Nissan and VW have started using Israeli firm Mobileye’s camera-based sensor systems in their automobiles which will soon give them an edge over Google in the precision required for driverless car segments.
However, in order to stay ahead, the tech firms such as Google dealt with the traffic data start-up Inrix to supply data for navigation service that will help drivers to find parking spots. By sensing the potential in this automobile industry, even the chipmakers like Intel and Nvidia are seeking out partners among the automakers. Chip maker Nvidia announced partnering with hardware suppliers Bosch and ZF and would also power Audi’s self-driving system. Ford also invested in Chinese Internet giant Baidu that makes LIDAR for self-driving vehicles.
An Era of competitive collaboration :
From the market analysis and patent trend, it is pretty much clear that the automotive industry is undergoing a great transformation. Therefore, in order to survive in the industry, the car manufacturers need to concentrate on R&D resources and build alliances.
As the tech firms are leaving no stone unturned in order to stay ahead of the game, the car makers are experiencing great disruption. Hence, there is a necessity of alliances for these car makers in order to maintain their leverage.
Collaboration will ultimately give many benefits to both the automakers and tech firms since it will combine extensive manufacturing and testing facilities, all-important dealership networks to retail the finished product by the automakers with the scientific thinking by the tech firms to develop the type of products and components to transform cars into computers on wheels.
Recently, the Ford Google alliance is one of best example of how techies and automakers working together and change the entire industry scenario. However, because of the variation in the culture of tech firms and auto mobile industry, collaboration can sometimes prove to be a hurdle. Whether there are alliances or fierce competition, industry will certainly boom with the competitive collaboration.