LAS VEGAS: Technology companies transformed smartphones and televisions into continuous fountains of revenue. Now, big tech wants to work with carmakers to do the same thing for your car.
With the widespread roll-out of autonomous vehicles still years away, the two industries have converged on the idea of cars providing services and features delivered “over the air” – that is, over the same wireless data networks used by smartphones.
Those services – streaming video, vehicle performance upgrades, dashboard commerce – could answer a pressing need for carmakers. They need to learn how to milk their hardware for revenue long after vehicles roll off dealers’ lots. Tech companies see cars and the time people spend in them as a new frontier for growth.
Both car and tech companies used the big CES technology show this week to showcase their determination to make the vision of vehicles as connected revenue machines a reality. Cloud computing giants Amazon and Microsoft were in the forefront, chasing the opportunity to manage torrents of data flowing to and from connected vehicles.
“It’s absolutely huge,” General Motors President Mark Reuss said in December of the opportunities to generate revenue after a vehicle is sold by providing streamed services and over-the-air upgrades facilitated by GM’s new high-capacity onboard electrical system.
Tesla pioneered the model for charging for over-the-air upgrades, now asking customers to pay $6,000 to turn on the full self-driving option.
Other carmakers are eager to try their hand at turning cars into upgradeable, revenue-generating gadgets.
Chinese carmaker Byton’s new M-Byte sedan features a 48-inch screen as a dashboard, as well as a steering-wheel display and a digital tablet for passengers. When parked, the car can be an office, enabling video conference calls, or a roadside cinema.
BMW showed at its CES display a concept of its future interior with reclining lounge chairs and a windshield with augmented reality built in to annotate the road ahead. BMW executive Klaus Froehlich said the it is seeking approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to get US approval for the seats.
Tech companies and suppliers want to accelerate the transformation of vehicles into subscription bundle-ready machines by helping carmakers sort out the tangle of computer chips that make most current vehicles difficult or impossible to upgrade over the air.
The current crazy quilt of vehicle processors “is not cost effective, and it’s hard to get (vehicles) developed and launched so that everything works all the time,” said Glen De Vos, chief technology officer of car supplier Aptiv. Aptiv’s solution: A new Smart Vehicle Architecture that consolidates most computerised functions.