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Former Member

A recent conversation launched on the Voice America Business Channel, The Future of Cars with Game Changers, provides an interesting lens through which to view the automobile industry. Presented by SAP, the conversation covered game-changing technologies and disruptive innovations, car-style.

Below we offer a recap of the first installment of this exciting conversation. In it, we will reflect the speakers’ opinions on the future of automotive engineering. We will also summarize what’s needed to make these possibilities reality. Let’s get started.

Hyperconnectivity and Cars

The public imagination is currently afire with the possibilities of driverless cars. With Industry 4.0 enabling sensors in almost any object, it’s now possible to imagine a connected vehicle that speaks to roads, to cities, to other cars. And not only that, explains Larry Stolle. He’s senior global director of automotive marketing at SAP, a company that specializes in digital transformation and business insights.

Hyperconnectivity can transform the auto world long before cars reach the road, Stolle explains. Smart manufacturing and smart logistics will influence the auto industry in a big way. Much of this information will come in future episodes. For now, Stolle points out, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

If you want cars to talk to roads, you have to integrate the design of both. If you want to make better, more intelligent vehicles, you have to gather data. And if you want sensors that can gather data, you have to build that into the supply chain. This will impact risk and reward heavily.

But before the automotive industry can truly innovate, all must embrace a new idea of innovation.

A New Definition of Innovative

Another guest on the show, Heather Ashton, is a research manager at IDC Insights. She kicks off the spotlight on innovation with a quote from General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra. The quote reads: “My definition of innovative is providing value to the customer.”

How does this relate to the auto industry? Because, Heather explains, “The customer has to believe that technology is valuable to them. That it provides something they need or want.” It is not enough, in other words, that technology simply be advanced. It must also be useful, ideally in multiple ways. Think driverless cars, which not only stand to be safer and more efficient, but which can offer a means of personal transportation to the blind.

Otto Schell, Global SAP Business Architect and SAP’s CCO, adds that it’s not enough to innovate in just one area. Any innovation you make must take the entire care into account. That said, he offers the following quote from Henry Ross Perot: “If you see a snake, just kill it, don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” The takeaway? Innovate in the here and now rather than focusing on what’s come before. But make sure that innovation is meaningful in the present and useful to customers.

To return to Ashton’s quote, it’s all about what the customer will find meaningful. That requires a high degree of digital customer engagement. And that’s a job for technology companies.

Who’s Driving Technology?

It isn’t just auto companies responsible for new tech in the car world, Stolle explains. Increasingly, companies like Google, Uber and Apple will have a share. These companies won’t be directly involved with the creation of new cars. Instead, they’ll create technology that allows cars to be used in different ways. Think Uber, which allows consumers to engage with the road in such a novel way.

Ashton adds that these companies will ally themselves with car companies, and that we’re seeing some of that already. This kind of digital transformation will rely heavily on data from the customer as well as from sensors. Automotive companies who can use that data most intelligently are likely to be the most successful in future.

Technology will also overtake common aspects of the auto industry that for decades seemed unchanging. Think gas stations manned by drones, says Schell, or drones that deliver gas to your home. As for car ownership, Ashton adds, this will change too. In 15 years, people may stop thinking of cars as something they have to own and start envisioning them as another transportation service.

Sports cars will still exist, for example, even if a consumer does not own one themselves. This may mean a decrease in the number of makes and models available, but that’s okay. Transportation will be increasingly tailored to purpose.

Transportation Rehabilitation

The future of the auto industry will also bring many changes in how we currently drive. Consider commuting, which currently takes up tons of time for many workers. What if instead cars were routed by magnets? This would enable cars to be more responsive to road conditions as well as safer. It could save commuters a lot of time.

However, “the car is the easy part,” cautions Stolle. Such changes will require much in the way of updated infrastructure, which will be harder.

A shift in mindset can substantially help to reduce the challenges that come with the necessary updates to the infrastructure of cities and countries around the world. As long as innovators keep innovating, the future of cars is bound to be much more exciting than it is difficult, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.