Day Two TU-Automotive Detroit 2018: Partnerships and data to drive forward

The connected-car industry is coming together, for real. Susan Kuchinskas wraps up the second day in Novi, Michigan.

Continued from Day One.

The importance of breaking down siloes and forging equal partnerships was a major theme on the second day of TU-Automotive Detroit 2018 with the emphasis is on that word “equal”. Carmakers have seen themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to partnerships but a fresher idea is to place the car within a variety of ecosystems and not necessarily at the centre.

Steve Surhigh, vice-president and general manager of applications services, HARMAN International, noted that services are no longer only about how the driver can engage with the vehicle – now it’s about how other entities can engage with it. He pointed to the recent announcement of General Motors’ deal with Amazon to deliver packages into cars. The question, he said, is: “How can you integrate the vehicle into the value chain and create value in other business models?”

Juergen Daunis, vice-president of global sales, connected vehicles, for Ericsson, concurred, saying, “The car is now entering into the stage where the value will be at the system level in an ecosystem. This is where we need to go as an industry.”

One good example of such collaboration is Ionity, a joint venture of BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche. The JV is building 400 EV fast-charging stations across Europe, allowing battery-electric vehicle owners to travel long distances without range anxiety. Said Mike Tinskey, director of emerging services of connected vehicle, Ford, “When you can get automakers aligned around a vision with equitable ownership, you can do amazing things. He thinks the framework could apply to other industry initiatives.” Brian Simmermon, CIO of Subaru of America, headed a panel of partners in a frank discussion of what it took to launch Subaru Gen2 Services. “For us, Gen 2 was picking the right partners and having strategic partnerships,” he said.

Data, baby, data

Connected services, to say nothing of SDCs themselves, run on data. Almost every conference session at least made some reference to the need for more data and for better ways of crunching it. Two Ford executives talked to Strategy Analytics senior director Roger Lanctot about how the carmaker wants to make its Transportation Mobility Cloud (TMC) a multi-use, multi-user platform for connecting automakers with customers and developers.

Sundeep “Sunny” Madra, vice-president of Ford X, explained: “Ford X is responsible for incubating new ideas – interacting with the start-up community and people within Ford who want to leverage our experience as entrepreneurs to build new initiatives.”

TMC will provide APIs that let developers and third parties access data from the network. “Developers s don’t have to worry about data protocols and formats, or differences in different makes and models. They can just focus on building unique experience,” said Nithin Rao, co-founder and vice-president of product management, Autonomic, another Ford company.

Ultimately, Ford hopes TMC will become an industry-wide platform: data contributed by other carmakers would remain discreet but accessible to partners.

Martin Rosell, managing director of WirelessCar, also hit data hard. “We have a lot of data but not a way to share it. need interconnectivity between every part that feeds the flow. It would be different for every use case but it’s about the flow of the data,” he said. “Self-driving car makers won’t be able to differentiate on safety, so we might as well collaborate and sharing data will enable us to get to our end goal quicker,” said Andrew Hart, director of SBD Labs.

Rosell laid out a vision of a platform for automakers to share data. To truly profit from connected-car data “requires ecosystem thinking”. His idea is to connect every part of the data stream. There might be different datasets for different use cases, as well as different ecosystems for different purposes.

Look into the future

Forward-looking sessions included Sebastien Henot, business innovator with Renault Innovation Silicon Valley, giving us a crash course in blockchain. With use of this technology, he said, “The car could be economically autonomous,” paying for tolls, fuel, etc. from a stash of cryptocurrency.

Mardan Kerimov, a managing consultant with the IBM Global Automotive Centre of Competence, demonstrated how artificial intelligence is already permeating every aspect of the automotive industry, from analysing consumer behaviour to guide product design, through validating manufacturing processes to providing customer service via intelligent bots.

Then, there’s Virgin Hyperloop One. Chief of staff Diana Zhou painted a picture of a future where pods holding ten to 20 passengers will travel on-demand at the speed of a commercial jetliner. The pods use electromagnetic propulsion, lifting off via a magnetic levitation system, traveling in a low-pressure tube. Zhou said the company is developing algorithms to predict loads and get pods in the right places. The ultimate vision, she said, is that Virgin Hyperloop One would feed into other local transportation hubs while connecting cities in the United States in five hours or less.

As we debated the nitty gritty of security, services, mobility and monetisation, Zhou provided a sizzling look at what the future may hold. That’s one of the things we look forward to at TU-Automotive Detroit: building solid businesses in the present with an eye on a fabulous future.

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