Much as was once the case with electrification, digitization is now transforming industry after industry. In media and communications, for example, everything seems to be changing at once, from the way content is produced and delivered, to the sources of revenue and profits. In financial services, money and payment ecosystems are becoming increasingly digital now that just about everyone in the world can afford a personal mobile device. Smart, connected products are reshaping industry boundaries and forcing companies to ask themselves a fundamental question: What business am I really in?
This is also the case in the automobile industry, one of the largest in the world. “Not since the first automotive revolution has there been such stunning innovation in the industry,” notes an excellent recent KPMG report, - Me, my car, my life… in the ultraconnected age. “Autonomous vehicles are only part of the story. The convergence of consumer and automotive technologies and the rise of mobility services are transforming the automotive industry and the way we live our lives.”
Self-driving cars have commanded our attention in the last few years. The advent of self-driving vehicles like the Google car is not only a truly dramatic milestone in AI, but concrete evidence that digital technologies are having a huge impact on the future of the automobile. Opinions vary as to the commercial prospects for such truly autonomous vehicles. Some feel that they will be all around us within a decade, navigating our present roads right along human-driven cars. Others are not quite so sure due to the highly complex technical and societal issue that remain to be worked out. Time will tell.
In any event, car companies are working hard to try to keep pace with the speed of innovation in consumer technologies, a huge challenge to the auto industry, notes the KPMG report: “Melding the two worlds - consumer electronics, with its rapid new product launch cadences and willingness to accept iterative software releases, and automotive engineering, with its mass customization, millions of product configurations, and critical safety, durability, and reliability requirements - is not an easy prospect.”