TU-Automotive Detroit 2017: Day One – Ecosystem is the word

Certainly, partnerships have always been central to the automotive industry and they're one of the prime drivers of the TU-Automotive Detroit Conference 2017. The fact that, this year, the word ecosystem – long a darling of Silicon Valley VCs – is on everyone's lips is indicator of the rising influence of West Coast thinking on Detroit. In a keynote discussion streamed from Germany, Thilo Koslowski, the former Gartner analyst now managing director and CEO of Porsche Digital: "Ecosystems will replace supply chains. Data is the new fuel."

Start-ups wanted

A decade ago, start-ups and smaller vendors were frustrated in their attempts to get in front of OEMs and Tier 1s. Today, they're courted by OEMs and start-ups within OEMs such as Porsche Digital. The big players are figuring out how to deal with the firehose of demand from innovators.

Claes Herlitz, vice-president of global automotive services for Ericsson Automotive, detailed how one of its nimble partners was able to develop a service in a matter of weeks with a budget of $5,000 (£3,869). This is the kind of speed OEMs crave but Herlitz was careful to point out that much work had been done upfront in outlining the terms and conditions of the partnerships, developing use cases and creating mutually advantageous business models.

He said: "You need to be able to have access to wider range of suppliers and a simple way to engage with them."

Autonomy a given

Speaking onstage with Koslowski, Holger Weiss, CEO of German Auto Labs, said of autonomy, "It's done. Check the box." What he meant was that, with autonomy firmly entrenched within OEMs and Tier 1s, plus a mushrooming, erm, ecosystem, the industry is looking around at what this will mean for business models and society.

A representative from Volkswagen of America's mobility services outlined four challenges for VW and the industry at large:

·         Changes in society to an always-online experience in which people have become used to interacting with machines and artificial intelligence in a more natural way.

·         Newcomers including EV start-ups as well as consumer electronics and services companies including Google and Apple want to be able to connect with consumers while they’re commuting in autonomous vehicles.

·         Transportation networking/ride hailing services may reduce the desire to own cars.

·         VW believes the that connectivity will let the company develop new business models that will make cars more affordable, as well as new financing models, as well as services that will bind consumers. The goal, he said, is to “build an experience that you don't want to leave and continuously engage you throughout your car ownership lifecycle”.

Doug Davis, senior vice-president and general manager of Intel's Automated Driving Group, called for rapid adoption of autonomy. Noting that previous safety upgrades including safety belts, air bags and antilock brakes were mandated decades after their invention. For the first time the show included an autonomous vehicle test track where a bevy of vendors took attendees for joyrides.

Cities and states at the table

Some states have pushed back on autonomous vehicle tests, but representatives from Michigan and Nevada outlined the ways they were leading in terms of regulation. Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, updated the audience on the state's certifications and licensing for autonomous vehicles which allow for driving on any road at any time no special operating requirements. “It's complete operation, not just testing,” he emphasised, adding that Michigan created a council of future mobility with the mandate of removing barriers and “helping government get out of the way”.

April Sanborn, manager of driver and autonomous programmes for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, noted that her state was in the process of changing regulations so that a person is no longer required to be inside an autonomous test vehicle. It's also working with makers of low-speed vehicles to help them work around a requirement of 10,000 test miles for certification, something that's hard for them to achieve.

When it comes to cities, the process takes many hours of discussion, according to Peter Kosak, executive director of General Motors' urban mobility programmes. He noted that cities are preparing for transportation disruption by hiring creative and entrepreneurial individuals to lead mobility projects. It's important, Kosak added, for companies and cities to be clear about their goals. Yes, mobility companies and OEMs need to make money but cities want to improve the lives of citizens.

A panel of such innovators from Detroit and Beverly Hills discussed how planning must change to accommodate new mobility options and how difficult it can be to balance that against more basic needs. It's hard to explain future mobility to taxpayers, too. As Richard Wallace, director of transportation systems analysis at the Centre for Automotive Research and moderator of the panel, said, their attitude is often, “Don't tell me you're investing in DSRC. Just fix the potholes”.

Security: still a work in progress

Day One was filled with robust presentations on security, from the level of the ECU and CAN bus to the car's connectivity to the greater connected ecosystem.

David Miller, chief security officer of Covisint, emphasised the difference between security (keeping things out) and privacy (letting desired things in). Security is easier than privacy. One survey found that security and privacy will be key differentiators in consumers' future vehicle purchasing decisions, he said but “monetisation requires privacy and security is easier than privacy”.

A panel on cybersecurity standards identified many key standards and noted the formation of the Automotive ISAC. There was agreement that the industry should set its own standards. As Jeff Jaffe, CEO of the World Wide Web Consortium, said: “Let's understand the technology first rather, than have bureaucrats who don't understand the technology making regulations. The best way to move forward is to get the entire ecosystem involved in the definition of these standards.”

Yet Chuck Brokish, director of automotive business development at Green Hills Software, said the auto industry has far to go. He said that most automotive operating systems today would be considered medium-robust, that is, assumed to operate in a non-hostile and well-managed user community.

Tina Srivastava, a member of MIT's Strategic Engineering Research Group, pointed out that there are many standards and technologies that the auto industry could leverage, especially those security techniques used in aerospace and aviation.

All happening at the Showplace

This year's conference included an innovation stage, 150 exhibitors and live demos, as well as eight outside exhibitors and an autonomous vehicle test track.

TU-Automotive Detroit remains the best place to get up to speed on current technology and trends; meet potential partners and reconnect with established ones; and be informed by industry leaders in this rapidly innovating sector.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *