The ways the car industry is changing in the Digital Age
We live in a world of technological revolution, one where literally every industry is impacted in various ways. The automotive industry is not an exception. We see more and more influence of the digital age on the way we interact, buy and use our vehicles.
It is estimated that within the next few years, the car industry will invest more than 80 billion dollars in technology and innovation. Most automobile manufacturers have already understood and embraced the imminent onset of the digital world. Below we will discuss the six primary ways in which modern technology influences the automotive industry.
Purchasing a car in a digital age
Back in the old days, if you wanted to buy a car, you would go to your local dealer, buy a used car, go through newspaper ads, etc. Whatever your choice was, it induced unnecessary pressure and stress. In this day and age, individuals can purchase their dream car, without leaving the house. Not only can you use a plethora of websites that give you thousands of offers trimmed to fit your preferences, but showrooms themselves are already implementing modern technologies in their points of sale. Incorporating virtual reality is just one example, where users can take tours around and inside the car before buying it. The big players (such as Audi) are already doing it, with others to follow shortly. Since most people today live online, dealerships are more likely to move most of their activities to the web to accommodate their customers’ needs.
We all like driving cars right? But none of us enjoys having accidents. This is where autonomous vehicles come into play. The problem with people is that we make mistakes and machines do not (or at least not so often). It is estimated that autonomous cars could save us a lot of money and what is more critical, human lives. While complete autonomy is still not possible drivers’ assist functionalities are already quite prevalent in most mainstream high-end cars. It will still take a few years for these features to be fitted in low-end vehicles, but it will be the beginning of the autonomous revolution. The benefits of such technologies are that by using GPS sensors, cameras and transmitters, cars can predict dangerous situations and save drivers lives.
Most big corporations such as Uber or Google are already testing autonomous cars. There are still, however, a few questions regarding these technologies not only from the technological standpoint, but also ethical and legal ones. What is more, since modern cars are fitted with onboard computers there is a potential risk of cybersecurity infringements.
Streamlining manufacturing and supply chain
Since everything is becoming more digital today, both supply chain and manufacturing must follow as well. Car manufacturers receive more feedback from customers and therefore they can react and act accordingly to satisfy customers’ needs. Also, there is a shift to a more regional production rather than national, creating a more decentralized mindset for supply and manufacturing. We also see a significant number of improvements and innovations within the factories themselves. People on the assembly line are accompanied by a plethora of technologies including AI and robots which allow for much higher productivity levels. A crown example is one of the manufacturing facilities in Germany which has grown exponentially over the last 25 years due to the implementation of automation. The growth and improvements are especially noticeable in areas such as defect rates ( dropped below 12/1 mln) and output which has grown a whopping 8.5 times.
Wouldn’t it be great if your car could just know when it needs maintenance, an oil check or a change of tires? Well, guess what, the future might be coming down your way, with self-diagnostic computers already being installed in the most expensive cars and prototypes companies can monitor performance and any potential failures in cars without you having to think about it. What is more, such systems would allow to predict the problem long before it would happen. With more and more cars being constantly connected to the Internet data can be sent to manufacturers who can then monitor and analyze it in terms of potential threats. Companies are also slowly resigning from mechanical components such as gauges, buttons or switches which are susceptible to damage. Instead, they are incorporating digital gauges and LCD panels which can be updated over the Internet without you having to go to a garage or an official service station. The over-the-air updates are already used by companies such as Tesla Motors.
What is more such mindset can be expanded and used not only in personal vehicles, but also in trucks. By installing sensors and diagnostic tools companies have access to data which can be used to ensure the safety of drivers and cargo, as well as control fuel efficiency.
For the love of sharing
Buying a car is a massive financial undertaking. That’s why companies such as Uber or Lyft have become so popular and started a new revolution in service-oriented means of transport. Such services allow for huge savings among people who don’t necessarily need to buy a vehicle and also create an additional revenue stream for people who already own one. Instead of trying to fight the new trends, the key players in the automotive industry are also joining the game. (e.g., Volkswagen is creating its own ridesharing application)
With more and more technologies and computer systems installed in our cars, manufacturers can collect a vast amount of data about our routines, daily habits, destinations, holiday plans, shopping patterns, etc. While collecting this data may be beneficial for the customers for it allows the manufacturers to create more compelling products and services based on customer preferences, the danger is that this information could be compromised and used against the customer. Data protection is becoming one of the most crucial elements for companies implementing modern technologies in their vehicles. We all heard stories of General Motors vehicles that were attacked by hackers who could then control a number of functionalities posing grave danger to the drivers.
Implementing new technologies and innovations within the automotive industry will be a huge challenge. There is, however, no progress without sacrifices. At the end of the day, the benefits we will reap should be able to sweeten the pill of minor failures.