What does the future of vehicle technology look like?

April 14, 2017
The race is on for automakers and technology companies to stake their claim when it comes to the future of the vehicle market.

As the market for autonomous vehicles continues to evolve, companies sometimes must reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

I recently came across a headline that gave me pause in the New York Times: “Intel Buys Mobileye in $15.3 Billion Bid to Lead Self-Driving Car Market.”

Intel, the same technology company that developed microprocessors found in nearly every personal computer built in the late 1980s and 1990s (forever engrained in the collective consciousness with the marketing campaign “Intel Inside”), is now shifting gears to be part of the automotive technology market.

Mobileye, a proven workhorse when it comes to advancing autonomous vehicle technology, provides a bulk of the sensors used on vehicles today for driver assistance systems.

The article focuses on the benefits this acquisition will have to the computer chip maker’s portfolio: “[B]y acquiring Mobileye, whose digital vision technology helps autonomous vehicles safely navigate city streets, Intel aims to broaden its offerings beyond just chips to a wider suite of products that driverless vehicles will require. It hopes, as a result, to appeal to automakers that want to offer autonomous driving but lack the in-house expertise and do not want to rely on the likes of Google.”

What kind of implications does this have for automakers?

It appears partnerships and collaboration more than anything at this point. After all, Intel already agreed to a partnership with Mobileye and BMW last summer to introduce an autonomous vehicle in the next five years.

Not to mention, this acquisition comes weeks after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this past January, where automakers and technology companies continue to join forces to showcase a number of new vehicle technologies.

The Vehicle Technology Marketplace, where automotive technologies are on display at CES, increased its space by 41 percent over last year. The space designated for vehicles in 2017 was more than the size of nine football fields.

There were a number of partnerships showcased by vehicle OEs at this year’s show:

Voice command systems in vehicles. Amazon enters another field with Ford’s introduction of the Amazon Alexa voice command system in its vehicles, while Nissan and BMW have both partnered with Microsoft to implement Cortana voice assist. This functionality will allow drivers to provide audible commands to the vehicle, and allows for integration with technology outside the car (e.g. opening your garage door or changing your home’s thermostat).

Ride-sharing concept cars. Honda, in particular, went all out by introducing the first concept car specifically designed for ride sharing. The NeuV is a two-person car that integrates a number of AI and sensor technologies to customize the user experience. A number of other manufacturers introduced revamped interior layouts more conducive to ridesharing, where driving may not be the primary responsibility of the occupants.

Improvements to sensors and software. This is a big one - but doesn’t have as much glitz and glamour as the other displays at the show. Auto suppliers of autonomous vehicles - like MobileEye and Delphi - showcased incremental improvements to autonomous vehicle functions like better analysis and reaction to changes in traffic and more human-like reactions to functions such as accelerating and braking the vehicle.

Taking a look to the future, here are some points we may need to watch, based on these shifts:

  • As partnerships evolve and technology companies become more involved in the development of vehicles, it adds another player into the mix of who owns the data. This isn’t welcome news, if you’re familiar with the current state of aftermarket phone repairs, for example. Access to information on how to repair smartphones, and the introduction of “right to repair” legislation for this industry lags far behind the automotive world. Technology companies may understand the benefits of proprietary data better than any other industry.

  • If automakers and technology companies develop fleets of vehicles to service ride-sharing programs - it’s more likely they’ll have service centers, too. Consumers may not even have vehicles to service or repair.

  • Programming and computer diagnostics will play a more integral role in diagnosing and repairing these vehicles. This only points to a continued and increasing shift on the education and training involved with vehicle repairs.

Not to put the doom and gloom on your plate as we look ahead. This technology is exciting for our industry. It’s just a matter of figuring out where independent repair shops fit in. How will the changing landscape force aftermarket shops to reinvent themselves - one, five, 10 years down the road, and beyond?

About the Author

Erica Schueller | Editorial Director | Commercial Vehicle Group

Erica Schueller is the Editorial Director of the Endeavor Commercial Vehicle Group. The commercial vehicle group includes the following brands: American Trucker, Bulk Transporter, Fleet Maintenance, FleetOwner, Refrigerated Transporter, and Trailer/Body Builders brands.

An award-winning journalist, Schueller has reported and written about the vehicle maintenance and repair industry her entire career. She has received accolades for her reporting and editing in the commercial and automotive vehicle fields by the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA), the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), the Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Azbee Awards.

Schueller has received recognition among her publishing industry peers as a recipient of the 2014 Folio Top Women in Media Rising Stars award, acknowledging her accomplishments of digital content management and assistance with improving the print and digital products in the Vehicle Repair Group. She was also named one Women in Trucking’s 2018 Top Women in Transportation to Watch.

She is an active member of a number of industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC),  the Auto Care Association's Young Auto Care Networking Group, GenNext, and Women in Trucking.

In December 2018, Schueller graduated at the top of her class from the Waukesha County Technical College's 10-week professional truck driving program, earning her Class A commercial driver's license (CDL).  

She has worked in the vehicle repair and maintenance industry since 2008.

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