While the vast majority of media, industry experts and car executives believe the ramifications of technology companies into the traditional auto industry are vast and bound to surge, there are voices that believe otherwise.
For example, The Economist recently took the opportunity – after the recent reports that Apple is having its own pet car project – to dismiss Silicon Valley as the cradle of disruptions for the traditional auto industry. An article in its February 21, 2015, print edition makes a daring forecast: “established carmakers, not tech firms, will win the race to build the vehicles of the future.” Their assumption relied on five reasons that have been evoked on numerous occasions to argument that traditional carmakers can win the race to build autonomous cars. We actually agree there’s a possibility they do so – though giving the edge to them is a hard sell today.
First of all, they said electric vehicles are irrelevant to fully driverless cars – which is just part of the argument. Petrol or diesel autonomous cars will exist, but the self-driving segment will mostly favor the cutting edge green tech because it opens the door to numerous new business scenarios. Secondly, V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communication is essential – actually partially and even fully autonomous functions have been trialed and demonstrated to work without any of these communication technologies. Third, incremental updates are a pre-requisite to full self-driving capability – that might be the case, but Google is already jumping towards a direct-to-driverless strategy and it seems to pan out so far, with 100 test cars on their way. Fourth, regulatory approval gives the edge to carmakers – mainly because of its slowness. But that’s a disadvantage for all, actually. And fifth, drivers would not give up control to the “robot car” – but studies have found it otherwise, especially when it comes to people that would otherwise have no possibility to use a car.