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The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas kicked off the year by showcasing the connected future of technology. According to Automotive News, CES has become one of the most important events for the automotive industry. I had an opportunity to experience this momentous occasion first hand. Among the more than 3,800 exhibitors, automotive companies presented their latest innovations, signaling where the industry will take us in the next couple of years. In total, some nine automotive manufacturers, 11 tier-one auto suppliers, and more than 300 vehicle tech-related exhibitors attended the massive tech conference. Many of the big car manufacturers – BMW, Daimler, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen – conveyed their messages around the most important topics about the future of automotive. From my perspective, the focus s revolved around mobility services, autonomous driving, electric vehicles, the role and integration of artificial  intelligence and machine learning. This focus intertwined the showcases of all nine manufacturers and highlighted different aspects of how the players in the industry are extending and reimaging their business to react and define the automotive digital transformation.

In the Tech East Automotive Pavilion, I saw futuristic concept vehicles equipped with gesture recognition, looking like an extended living room or office, communicating with smart home appliances, recognizing drivers and adjusting to personal preferences, vehicles equipped with assistance technologies becoming a part of the ‘connected life’ just to mention some of the innovations.

Auto companies delivered an impressive presence and remarkable showcases, but for me the story and i-concept ideas from Toyota were the most notable. Besides the futuristic and eye catching design of the vehicle, we were introduced to ‘Yui’ the ‘soul’ of the vehicle, which allowed us to imagine this vehicle becoming a partner in our life, knowing the owner, reacting to emotions, providing safety, and really becoming a companion. Although I’m really looking forward to some of the features of autonomous driving, more safety and the added value to the driving experience delivered by ‘Yui’, I get a funny feeling about a vehicle becoming a companion , mimicking human interaction. I am personally ready for all aspects of the digital world? I’m not so sure. Nevertheless, while other companies emphasized their messaging around the role and effects of shared economy, ride sharing, car sharing, and extended mobility options, with the i-concept Toyota managed to shine the spotlight on brand loyalty.

I believe with recent technological advancements supporting autonomous driving and transforming mobility needs of the future we will soon see a decisive change of the traditional vehicle ownership experience. But what role will brand loyalty play? Will people still buy vehicles or just consume mobility services? How will connectivity support the countless number of ‘things’, and how will this complex eco system work in the future? All of these questions come to mind as we delve into the exciting future of automotive digital transformation.

Digitalization has an immerse impact on the industry in all areas from manufacturing processes and the complete supply chain. Products become smarter with embedded technology and software. Customer expectations and requirements driving companies to rethink the traditional vehicle ownership models and extend their portfolio with new consumption based services.

No question, CES 2017 was yet one more event highlighting the tremendous transformation that the automotive industry is going through. With its digital solution portfolio SAP is well positioned to support automotive OEMs and suppliers by providing a robust development platform for the rapidly changing new and bigger business models, supporting the Internet of Things ecosystem with our SAP Leonardo portfolio. I am truly excited to be a part of the automotive transformation journey, to help companies to reimagine and to redefine the future of mobility.