The Automotive Gold Rush in the Making

A massive shift is underway across the global automotive industry. Over the past few months, everyone from GM to Ford, Apple to Huawei has been making big moves towards a zero-emission & connected future of mobility.

As digital era takes over, the true potential of mobility has been unlocked against a global backdrop of vehicles virtually becoming computers on wheels. Globally, e-cars are changing the auto industry that has basically stayed unchanged since the German engineer Karl Benz invented the vehicle in 1885.

Today, cars can greet the drivers when they get in, take their voice commands and even alert them when they get sleepy. Many cars can update their software wirelessly, and some can even park themselves, and return later to pick them up with a tap on the phone screen. Cybersecurity, of connected vehicles, is all set to become an important aspect of automotive.

And, the inevitable switch to sustainable energy has buoyed the development of electric vehicles (EVs) and positioned them as the inevitable replacement for internal combustion engine, with hydrogen-based fuel cells also making remarkable progress towards the urgent goal of zero-emission vehicles.

In 2021, the automotive industry is facing its zeitgeist and industries across the spectrum are jumping on the new gold rush of car making, with carmakers themselves bracing for the transformation ahead.

Electric takes over

From Volkswagen to Honda, a slew of major carmakers have been announcing their commitments towards net zero emission by promising to shift entirely to electric vehicles (EV) over the next few decades. In January, General Motors announced that it now plans to sell only vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions by 2035.

For General Motors, our most significant carbon impact comes from tailpipe emissions of the vehicles that we sell — in our case, it’s 75 percent. That is why it is so important that we accelerate towards a future in which every vehicle we sell is a zero-emissions vehicle. — Mary Barra, CEO General Motors, via LinkedIn

In April, the Japanese automaker Honda made it clear that the company intends to only sell EVs and fuel cell vehicles by 2040. In Europe, the American automaker Ford said it will only be offering electric cars from 2030. And by 2025, Volkswagen wants to build and sell up to 3 million all-electric cars per year with over 50 purely electric-powered vehicles. With companies like Xiaomi of China also announcing an investment of $10bn in electric vehicles in March, the fiercely competitive electric car market is open for all.

Mobility as a service

Personal mobility will become more of a service, and cars are expected to become one of the largest products in the field of smart technology. Not surprisingly, internet and technology companies have jumped on the bandwagon hoping to pick their slice of the pie in return for their expertise in computing abilities, software, and content.

So, we have Huawei vowing to become the Bosch of the smart vehicle era, prompting the German suppliers Bosch and Continental, themselves keenly aware of the forces reshaping the auto industry to take action. Volkswagen established its software division last year, and expects its in-house developed software to account for 60 percent of all the software it needs.

In the coming years, it will be crucial to also reach a leading position in-car software in order to meet people’s needs for individual, sustainable and fully-connected mobility in the future. To that end, it has doubled the investment plan to 27 billion euros ($33 billion) by the middle of the decade. — Herbert Diess, CEO Volkswagen Group via VW Newsroom

Tech giants invade carmakers territory

With autonomous driving becoming the much-hyped selling point of new entrants, the search and computing giant Google too has recognized the importance of mobility and become deeply involved in creating automated vehicles.

But, the most recent information which indicates that Apple has overcome development problems and is moving forward with plans to develop a consumer-facing autonomous vehicle, has got the industry abuzz. Apple is expected to create something genuinely revolutionary with its legendary technical record. According to Reuters Apple’s car team is said to be aiming to create a self-driving vehicle that would let a user input their destination and be driven there with ‘little or no other engagement’, and is aiming for 2024.

We’re focusing on autonomous systems. It’s a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on. — Tim Cook, CEO Apple via New York Times

The world is witnessing the next biggest technological leap with the core technologies of vehicles itself changing to electric, autonomous & connected. Connectivity is making cars potent information platforms that not only provide better experiences for drivers but also open new avenues for businesses to create value. This has opened up an expanded ecosystem spanning data security & mapping, applications in insurance, ridesharing, leasing, in-vehicle entertainment.

This ecosystem is coalescing, as high-tech players enter the market, and incumbents form new partnerships. Acceleration of investments in relevant technologies, semiconductors & sensors for advanced driving-assistance systems, and autonomous driving continues. The automotive industry is indeed turning into a true mobility ecosystem.



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