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What happens

According to Ptolemus Consulting, by 2020 the connected car market will be worth 350 billion US dollars.

so what?

Consultant, journalist and specialist on the car of the future

Laurent Meillaud is a consultant, journalist and specialist on the car of the future. He has been tracking technological developments in the car industry for 25 years...

At the World Motor Show an increasing number of announcements are being made regarding the intelligent car. Far from being made to look old-fashioned by GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon), car manufacturers have entered the race against the clock to develop connected and driverless cars.

Is GAFA in the process of "Uberising" car manufacturers?

Any time Silicon Valley is mentioned it always leads to much speculation and numerous scare stories. Is Apple manufacturing cars today? The answer is no. Indeed, it would be a grave mistake for Apple to start developing an Apple Car, and not just because it would have an enormous amount of ground to make up. The simple fact is that you cannot improvise being a car manufacturer. The administrative and regulatory framework is vast. It is much simpler to make smartphones. We can, however, imagine someday a car "powered by Apple", a concept car or a limited edition model. 

Similarly, I don't think that Google will ever start manufacturing cars. Of course, the web giant did develop a Google Car that covered some 2 million miles (3.2 million kilometres), but under exceptional circumstances, that is to say under the California sun and following very precise routes. The technology found under the bonnet was developed by Bosch Continental, which is a traditional player in the car industry. Indeed, we are now accustomed to Google leaving projects in the early planning phase, as with connected glasses.

That said, GAFA is already present on board connected cars...

Apple and Google, with their respective inbuilt operating systems CarPlay and Android Auto, have effectively positioned themselves as software providers in this domain. They are integrating their smartphone content into car dashboards. This means that the connected car offers more than just being able to stream music or allow you to read your text messages. 

Such technology can also lead to diagnostics provided remotely or advice regarding eco-friendly driving. These two options are essential for manufacturers if they want to retain control of their relationship with their customers. They would enable car makers to go beyond their network of dealerships and to be in direct contact with drivers, thus being able to say, for example, "If you are a loyal customer, we will reward you by activating the remote diagnosis option".  

What other assets do manufacturers have?

If we are to believe the media, car manufacturers are set to die out like the dinosaurs, but the latter still have a few tricks up their sleeve: the automobile industry has always known how to reinvent itself. It has moved from mechanical to electric and then to digital. At the World Car Show, new electric car models will have an range equivalent to that of Tesla's models (400 kilometres).

These driverless cars will arrive in 2020. Manufacturers will use the same traditional suppliers and will incorporate new technology at the same time. These technologies have already proven their effectiveness. The driverless car already benefits from around 10 years of experience and feedback. It is no coincidence that Uber has teamed up with Volvo to accelerate its project to develop a driverless taxi. 

Manufacturers are also gaining a better understanding of software and big data. This explains the recent partnership between Renault-Nissan and Microsoft concerning the latter's Azure Cloud. A user's personal settings or digital environment can be stored in this cloud and are therefore accessible even in a hire car.   

Constant interactions between vehicles and between vehicles and their environment will also enable drivers to know the state of traffic, accidents and road works in real time. Renault-Nissan has just recruited a former top executive of the GPS application producer Here, which Merecedes-Benz, BMW and Audi bought from Nokia. We see Renault-Nissan becoming a real trend setter, bringing together its outfitters and its accessory suppliers alongside start-ups and digital technology stakeholders. 

Who cares?

  - The automobile industry in its entirety, from outfitters to dealerships, is affected by the dawn of the intelligent car, but also, as a consequence, car hire companies and specialists in carpooling, chauffeured car and taxi services.

  • - Stakeholders in the home automation and public electronics sectors, although not as highly anticipated, are also concerned. Ford and BMW are associating Amazon's connected software "Echo" with their cars so that users can regulate the heating in their homes while driving. As for Volkswagen, it has teamed up with LG. Even Dyson has plans for an electric car. 

    • - Concerning digital stakeholders, it is not only Silicon Valley that is breeding innovation. In South Korea, Samsung, LG and Hyundai are particularly active stakeholders. In Israel, home of Waze and Moovit, Renault has set up an innovation lab dedicated to mobility and to the electric car, and Volkswagen has set up another lab focusing on cybersecurity. Furthermore, this summer in China, with its 1.2 billion inhabitants, Alibaba launched its operating system for connected cars.   
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