In anticipation of the upcoming “Connected car” event in Berlin, let’s take a quick look at what people are excited about when talking about the future of the automobile industry.
Driverless cars are closer than one might think. By August 2012, Google's ongoing driverless car experiment had reached the point of riding 500 000 km without accidents. The most optimistic predictions say that driverless cars will hit the market within the next 10 or even 5 years in the US.
While car manufacturers are testing security standards and connectivity between cars, we can try to imagine how our time could be spent if our hands weren’t occupied steering an iron horse all the time. Could cars become our own mobile business cabinets? A place to regularly hold meetings? And how soon can a city’s public transportation infrastructure evolve into a net of driverless vehicles?
Car sharing, car-as-a-service
The streets of German cities are covered with vehicles from car-sharing providers like citeecar, car2go and DriveNow. The services are often provided by an alliance between car manufacturers and car-rental agencies (for example, BMW and Sixt with DriveNow). Depending on the plan, one can easily go on a shopping trip for 5 euros or a long-distance trip for 20 euros. Parking, gas and insurance included.
Just this weekend, while in Vaasa, Finland, I missed the opportunity to visit the remote island of Replot because of nonexistent public transportation during weekend evenings. With a heavy sigh, I had to accept that the ability to rent a car for 30-60 minutes for a reasonable cost was not yet available in Finland. Will car-as-a-service become an everyday thing in the near future? How will the ecosystem and service offering evolve?
During the past 10 years, Tesla Motors has been leading the way in bringing electric cars to the mass market – even making a profit while doing so. Electric cars are finally something that you might encounter in the street. The percentage of electric cars in relation to traditional cars showcased at automotive trade shows grows every year. Every carmaker has taken steps towards launching its own electric car product line.
However, e-mobility is not only about a new kind of engine inside your car and eco-driving. It is also about changes to the infrastructure, about new use cases and new players in the field. Energy companies, for example, enter the market looking for ways to serve customers who have a high energy demand – when and where it’s needed. What other service innovation does the ecosystem surrounding electric cars allow for?
One of the big announcements from this year’s CES was Ford’s plan to open up their SDK for developers. This is nothing new; back in 2010, the BMW Group became the first carmaker to enable comprehensive, application-based integration of the Apple iPhone into its vehicles. GM have had their SDK in the open for a while, allowing a customized in-vehicle experience with a growing mass of applications.
Using manufacturers’ APIs allows third parties to build services for the car, ranging from infotainment and voice control to teleconferencing while driving and cloud-based embedded software updates. Hackathons and application challenges organized by car manufacturers are seen regularly on the agenda of tech events. In the meanwhile, more and more carmakers are moving to Silicon valley. Will we be able to expand a car’s capabilities in new directions by using a car’s API from now on?
Lots of new data
There are two third of billion of cars in the world. Vast amounts of data can be gathered about the car’s environment and the driver's personal behavior. What if this data could be used for added-value services, like usage-based insurance or personal driving assistance?
In summary, we are observing two major disruptions in the car as an entity (electric engines and driverless driving), as well as disruptions in usage (car-sharing) and 3rd party customization (open APIs and possibilities for developers).
To learn more about these and other trends from the auto industry, feel free to join us at our Connected Car
in Berlin on the 20th of June at 6 PM. You can also tune in to the#futuaw
hashtag on Twitter on Thursday.See you then!