Wanted: A combination of auto, IT and telecom solutions

The car industry has reached a tipping point favouring the emergence of new business models and has put smart mobility at centre stage


The areas of connected and self-driving vehicles are garnering more attention due to the possibilities created by digital technologies such as SMAC and Internet of Things. Photo: AP
The areas of connected and self-driving vehicles are garnering more attention due to the possibilities created by digital technologies such as SMAC and Internet of Things. Photo: AP

Vehicle technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Traditional areas of technology enhancement, such as vehicle light-weighting and alternative fuels/power train, have been overshadowed by new areas in the digital domain. The areas of connected and self-driving vehicles are garnering more attention due to the possibilities created by digital technologies such as SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) and Internet of Things.

Connected vehicles

In the digital landscape, consumers’ expectations of cars are changing. They want their car to be “just another node on the network”—an extension of their home, office or club. Connected vehicles meet these consumer expectations by facilitating communication between consumers, cars and buildings, and sometimes between different vehicles, via the Internet of Things. There is an ongoing “Battle for the Dashboard”—whoever wins, a new market is emerging that will forever change how we drive. It’s not about using WiFi with your smartphone/tablet to access the Internet; tomorrow’s vehicles will behave like “apps on wheels”.

Mahindra Reva is opening up its telematics unit for developers to build apps that would make the car a device. Today, technology plays a key role in dealing with issues around battery life, diagnostics, location, car start, etc. Tomorrow’s vehicles will see technology playing a key role around location-based services, self-fixing vehicles, self-driving vehicles, over-the-air updates, V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication, and much more, using next-gen telematics protocols.

And it’s not just the car that is undergoing a transformation; dealerships are slowly transforming into digital showrooms.

Virtual showrooms can enable dealerships to provide immersive 3D visual and sound experiences of vehicles that are not physically in stock.

With increasing technological capabilities, the car industry has reached a tipping point favouring the emergence of new business models and has put smart mobility at centre stage.

The development of virtual keys and associated IT platforms for services, combined with the next generation of connected cars, will enable new services. For example, French automotive supplier Valeo’s innovation, InBlue® technology, developed in collaboration with Capgemini, is a vehicle entry/start system allowing drivers to use their smartphone or connected watch to lock, unlock and start their car, control applications and remotely access certain vehicle data.

The imperative for realizing the vision of the connected vehicle is strong, but making it happen is not easy for original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs.

Structured, stable and flexible IT services and infrastructure are required. Major challenges here include uncertainty about the business case, difficulty in extracting insights from data, and the unsuitability of current development and specification processes.

Self-driving cars

Capgemini’s annual automotive consumer survey, Cars Online 2015, indicates that many customers are willing to try out the new cars from technology companies (for example, Google and Apple). There is a considerable amount of interest across many countries, including India. In fact, 81% respondents in India indicated their willingness to switch from their current brand to technology companies.

Due to the huge investments needed, it could be several years before these self-driving vehicles become commercially viable. Critical elements of this solution include not just the sensors/hardware but also the intricate software. The latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class contains about 15 times more software than a Boeing 787. Indian OEMs, such as Tata Motors, have started on the road to developing driverless cars for India. Mahindra Reva has submitted a proof of concept of driverless technology to the Singapore government and is planning to test the prototypes on public roads.

Data as a science

Data and analytics will be key business drivers for successful OEMs as well as dealers, who will eventually need to employ their own data scientists. The automotive industry will change dramatically in the future. It will combine automotive, IT and telecom solutions with new business models. Whoever can make bold bets will create value and capture the rewards.

Vikas Kumar, vice president & head of consulting (India), Capgemini