No turning back - new players are revolutionizing the auto industry

It is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for the traditional auto industry. There is the political will for electric cars and stricter emissions standards for combustion engines. And as if that wasn't enough, new players are entering the market. These are not upstart from China. Revolutionaries are coming who will completely change the industry.

Sony Vision S on the move in Austria
Sony Vision S on the move in Austria

The electric car discussion still revolves around the topic of range. It won't be long now, because the first vehicles with a range of more than 2021 kilometers have been announced in China for 1.000. This should gradually dissolve the fear of range into thin air. It is a hardware discussion anyway that nobody will have in 10 years.

Hardware anachronism

As with a tablet or smartphone, the hardware and its origin will become secondary. An electric car is a smartphone on wheels with one or more electric motors and a certain battery capacity. The fact that Volvo has decided to build its own electric motors in the future is an anachronism that is still based on old hardware thinking.

The prospect will not care where this engine comes from. Worse still, he won't notice any difference in everyday life.

The decisive factor is the software that will stand for what is called the driving experience. The traditional auto industry is struggling here in particular. Their weaknesses are obvious, the transformation from automaker to software developer will not succeed overnight. If it is possible at all, because the corporate culture of the IT industry is very different from that which you maintain in the hardware-based automotive industry.

Software bugs and beta testers

You could marvel at how badly this can go wrong at last year's new releases. VW ID3 customers became beta testers who paid for it. In addition to the officially communicated 22 software errors of the ID, there are likely to be more. There was hardly anything public in Germany because Volkswagen managed the remarkable masterpiece of gathering its customers in a closed “First Mover” Facebook group moderated by VW.

Beyond Germany, in Norway, they were more open about it. ID3 that do not charge and vehicles with windows fogging up to such an extent that they are no longer safe to drive in winter are some of the anecdotes. Polestar was no better. Some Polestar 2s simply switched off while driving, the software had significant bugs, and the Gothenburg-based Chinese urgently needed to make improvements.

In contrast to Volkswagen, Polestar deals with the problems more openly and has one Support page for current software problems that keep appearing in new variants.

The problems of the auto industry are closely monitored by those who know software from birth. The IT industry knows its strengths and sees the market of the next decades, which will be limitless and lucrative. With Europe and China, the most important regions have committed themselves to the electric car, driven by subsidies.

The risk is low, and this fillet is too tasty to not be eaten.

IT giants are getting ready for the storm

It is therefore not surprising when the IT giants set out to revolutionize the auto industry. You will do this in the usual way. The hardware, which will be less and less interesting in terms of added value, can continue to be built by others. Design, software and infrastructure make up the user experience and the added value - the IT giants know that.

MBUX Hyperscreen from Mercedes
Mercedes EQ. MBUX hyperscreen

Anyone who manages to establish a closed ecosystem here opens up the market of the future. Apple, Sony, Baidu and Foxconn and others recognized this long ago. They're just waiting for the perfect time to get started. Baidu, one of the top three search engines focused on China, sees the time is right. The group enters the mobility business and has electric cars built by Geely.

Foxconn, Apple's Taiwanese hardware assembly partner, has also discovered the moving smartphone. Foxconn also recently docked with Volvo owner Geely, but the background remains blurred. The electric cars could be made to order for smaller brands, and Foxconn and Geely are unlikely to produce for Apple.

Because Apple is, once again, in talks with hardware manufacturers to make their own electric car a reality. In addition to a German manufacturer, Hyundai is primarily mentioned. The choice of partner is still open; Apple is more likely than ever to get involved.

Sony's plans have made further progress. The Japanese electronics giant's Vision S Concept is nearing series production and was spotted during test drives on public roads in Austria.

The AI ​​is on board and anticipates wishes

Mercedes showed a foretaste of what the car of the future - and it will not start in 5 years, but tomorrow - look like at CES 2021. Unlike other brands, the manufacturer is traditionally not far from IT, and the MBUX Hyperscreen demonstrates which will soon be standard. Mercedes speaks of an electric aesthetic, because there will only be a single control button left for the user.

The start button.

Everything else is solved via the MBUX hyperscreen with haptic feedback. Artificial intelligence (AI) is always one step ahead of the user and predictively shows what is desired.

In order to get to the relevant applications on the MBUX Hyperscreen, the user does not have to scroll through submenus or enter voice commands. That is why Mercedes calls the system a zero-layer. The most important applications, for example navigation or telephone, are offered - always situational and related to the context - on the top level in the field of vision.

MBUX Hyperscreen - "Zero Layer" concept
MBUX Hyperscreen - “Zero Layer” concept

Over 20 other functions - from active massage programs to suggestions for the to-do list - are automatically displayed with the help of artificial intelligence when they are relevant to the customer.

This forecast shows how thoroughly the electric car analyzes its passengers. There are no more secrets, the AI ​​researches travelers down to the smallest detail. The resulting treasure trove of data is so extensive that only the imagination can set limits to its utilization.

Impressive IT infrastructure

The hyperscreen therefore has computing power that in 1969 would have been enough for a whole armada of moon landings at once. The data reads impressive.

A total of twelve actuators are located under the touchscreen surfaces for haptic feedback during operation. If the finger touches certain points there, they trigger a noticeable vibration in the cover disk. Eight CPU cores, 24 gigabytes of RAM and 46,4 gigabytes per second of RAM memory bandwidth are among the highlights.

That alone is not enough, of course. The hyperscreen communicates permanently with the cloud, asks, compares and updates. The effort of the IT infrastructure for smartphones on wheels is gigantic; Nobody analyzes the consumption of resources for what we so belittled as a cloud, but in truth are energy-guzzling data centers.

Because as fascinating as the progress and its resulting possibilities are, a critical questioning of what we are doing could lead to answers that we do not like. So let's not even try.

18 thoughts on "No turning back - new players are revolutionizing the auto industry"

  • Bergsaab has already put my opinion perfectly and crisply to the point.

    At no time can my iPhone foresee what I'm about to do with it, even though it watches me from morning to night.

    For fun, I used Google Chrome for everything on my main computer for a while and permanently allowed all tracking / cookies / advertising ID: at no time were the advertising or search suggestions shown personalized to my interests in any way.

    "Over 20 other functions - from the active massage program to the suggestion for the to-do list - are automatically displayed with the help of artificial intelligence when they are relevant for the customer."

    Sounds like a colorful soap bubble to me ...

  • Zero Layer Concept

    All the cars I've ever driven have one. And it will stay like that. Without any touchy, touchy, wischi-waschi.

    The more touchscreens life imposes on me, the more enjoyable it becomes for me to press and grip buttons, switches, keys, levers, handles, etc.

    Simply wonderful to feel a resistance, a stop, a snap, shapes, surfaces and materials. I need this.

  • An iPhone in the SAAB is enough, and it doesn't matter which SAAB it is! 😉

  • I don't think that I would like that ... As an IT manager, burdened with the eternal praise of the blessings of modern technology, and as a trained machine fitter horrified everything that is controlled with software today. And of course, it becomes more and more vulnerable to IT attacks.
    Do I want to move a connected vehicle at tens of km / h that is constantly at risk of being hacked, taken over? No. I have too much respect for the mechanical energy that, when it crashes, not only frees rare earths but also redeems me from this earthly suffering.
    I praise my 9-5 I with a clear operating concept and good drivability, which enables me to concentrate on the road, arrive safely and still enjoy the journey.
    I'll buy my girl a gas conversion and see how long the two of us can stand up to rising fuel costs.

  • Whether the hardware becomes uninteresting so quickly probably also depends on how mobility develops. If the trend is actually more and more in the direction of mobility services instead of individual transport with your own vehicle, technical aspects of the vehicles naturally take a back seat.
    But if you stay with your own vehicle, you lose z. For example, the question of front, rear or all-wheel drive does not suddenly become significant. And if you are interested in technology, there are also reasons for electric cars to prefer an asynchronous machine to a permanent magnet synchronous machine and to consider a battery with solid electrolyte to be better than one with liquid electrolyte, or vice versa.

    Of course you have to see as a big trend that in many areas there is an increasing trend towards virtualization. I've read that in shops, people dream that every customer is automatically identified when they enter, sensors record what they put in the trolley, basket or bag and when they leave the shop, the bill is automatically debited. In contrast, Big Brother is a child's birthday.

    But I fear that the real treasure trove of data is not necessarily hidden in mobility, but in immobility, keyword SmartHome. Now, of course, houses don't fall off the assembly line like cars, but if all the human-machine interfaces there actually generate data that anyone can evaluate, then that's it with 'my home is my castle'. Instead you have 'my home is my jail' and you are guaranteed not to be the director yourself ...

  • I don't have a lot of trust in IT at all. Who of you has not had major difficulties with the software on your PC in your life? And what do you say about the cell phone? Last week I installed the new software update 14.3 on my iPhone. After that all my contacts were gone !! OK then take a look in the I-Cloud. All my contacts were gone there too. Apple called; “Yes, we know that something like this can happen. I am actually not allowed to say it because I work for Apple but I never download a new software version myself as long as my phone is working well. There are too many problems with these new software versions ”.
    And who would that happen to the software in the car? Great prospects …… I'm not yet interested in a smartphone on wheels.

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  • @ AERO-9-3 A good question. The other question would be what happens if this fantastic high-tech part has a defect after 4 or 5 years. The exchange, combined with dismantling the interior trim, should be everything, but not cheap. An economic total loss? Do you then throw away the whole car?

  • Quote: If the finger touches certain points there, they trigger a noticeable vibration of the cover disk. Eight CPU cores, 24 gigabytes of RAM and 46,4 gigabytes per second of RAM memory bandwidth are among the highlights. ??? What am I supposed to do with it ???
    After this article at the latest, I ask myself, do I want to sit, drive, be transported in such a vehicle?
    I'm afraid not.
    Let's see how I can avoid something like that in the future ...

  • @ Jean-Pierre Unfortunately correct. China is technology-open and is increasingly decoupling from Europe. Burners, alternative fuels, hydrogen and large-scale switching stations for electric cars. Research is carried out in these areas and real investments are made. Modern next-generation combustion engines come from China or have Chinese licenses for them.

    Europe (Brussels) only knows the battery electric car. No alternative, again, and unfortunately very short-sighted. We saw massive amounts of the branch we are sitting on and take our prosperity for granted and forever.

  • Critical questions & inconvenient answers

    The last paragraph (the conclusion) of this rearview mirror has it all.
    I assume that the answer to the range will remain ecologically uncomfortable beyond 10 years. A miniaturization as in IT (e.g. of storage) is physically not possible with energy storage.

    Even a Stromer can only save resources by not using them during production and operation. An EV should be small, light, and recyclable. But they won't ...

  • In 2014 I ended up at SAAB because I was immediately enthusiastic about the operating concept. After various test drives in new cars, I was often annoyed by illogical and / or overloaded control elements. As a former software tester, I am doubly critical and reserved about the whole thing. Is this operating concept really the future? Not to mention the drive. But the buyer is helping to shape a lot and of once five fans of e-mobility, after 3 years only two are left. Two have landed back on the gasoline engine (hybrid), one is now trying hydrogen. I try to keep my SAAB as a daily driver. I don't need more myself, but I don't want less either.

  • Brave new world or a totalitarian state or almighty corporations?

    Do you have to want it all? I am clearly too old to be able to answer that with yes.
    Driving Saab as long as possible, that's hip for me. My fear is simply that we will be spoiled with a lot of regulations and very expensive fuel.

  • Many thanks to Tom for this thought-provoking contribution.
    Even a 9-3 younger date cannot do without electronics, a little helper there, a control unit there. And data is also collected, safely. They just stay where they belong on the vehicle. And are limited to vehicle data, not expanded to include body temperature and the driver's sellic condition.
    I am not a fan of data collection mania, less is more.
    As long as I can and may, I will take part in traffic with my saaby combustion engines, knowing full well that my Saab only reveals its collected data to the workshop's diagnostic device 🙂

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  • Madness on wheels. Germany doesn't even manage to build a nationwide mobile network, what should I do with a smart car ?! The development is terrifying. I want to be mobile, for everything else I use my smartphone (when I have a network) and that's it. I am unable to answer the question of the drive technology of the future.

  • “The complexity of the IT infrastructure for smartphones on wheels is enormous; the consumption of resources for what we so belittlingly call a cloud, but in truth energy-guzzling data centers ”This is exactly what the Chinese government seems to have recognized and is therefore constantly dropping more subsidies for electromobility and is turning back to the combustion engine. If I got it right, some Chinese engine manufacturers have already achieved a thermal efficiency of more than 50% with their engines.

  • Scary! There I preserve my SAAB's for a long future. Just new multimedia radios with DAB + and other gadgets, that's enough. The rest can stay “old”.

    A 9-3 I, even a 9000, drives like today's car. Almost nothing happened there. A 9-5 I or 9-3 II is at eye level if you don't want to drive electrically.

    And it is more sustainable than if you later have no idea how to cleanly dispose of all electronic waste, or how to generate the resources for construction.

    And then there will probably only be Sony, Samsung, Huawei as car manufacturers. The old brands then disappear completely from the market.

    As the example showed back then, from the manual or electric typewriter to the PC! The old former manufacturers of manual typewriters are almost all gone.

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  • Moin
    Thanks for the informative article.
    1. I also love buttons in the car.
    The button amader in the 9-3 II was too much for me until 2006. But as of 2007 there were few buttons that I can blindly operate. So z. B. set the cruise control or wipe interval without taking your eyes off the road at 130kmh ...
    2. Let's see how GM and the owners of Opel will do with the IT task.
    VG André

  • Great contribution! I'm a fan of buttons and ease of use. Nevertheless, the development is fascinating and scary at the same time. I think that as a driver you get “naked” in a car like this.

    It is of course the future and I suspect the industry will change much more than the majority think. The only question is whether I want to drive this? Or would you prefer to stay with my old Saab? I have a strong tendency to

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