Smart Cars For Smart Consumers

Larry Stolle

Batman’s Batmobile was pretty revolutionary in its day, but it had many technological features that we see in today’s cars. Along with its impressive array of armor, weaponry, and ejection seats, the Batmobile also featured titanium alloy wheels and body panels. It included various stealth technologies. And of course, it had the Batphone. But it also had an onboard computer that was radio-linked to a main computer in the Batcave. The car could even be remotely operated. In short, it was a technologically connected vehicle.

That is exactly what the automotive industry is striving for today. And in fact, the industry is no longer just striving—these things may be in their infancy, but they are already here.

Today’s revolution in digital innovation has spurred the development of smart vehicles. And in some ways, they are a lot like the Batmobile. Connected vehicles are driving a transformation of the auto industry from a product-oriented industry into a service industry. And the digital transformation is made possible by our digitally connected vehicles.

Digitally innovative equipment

We have customizable cars that are equipped with sensors. They can process their own analytics and transmit them on various communication interfaces. In short, they are smart cars connected to a network.

Like the Batmobile, our cars can communicate with external computers. And they can relay information to the driver or the external computer in real time. Like the Batmobile, they have two-way video-conferencing screens.

Wearable technology is also becoming part of the automotive landscape. Google, which is working on integrating its successful Google Glass technology with automotive travel, envisions trip-planning and execution from door to door before you ever leave your home. Wearing Glass, you compute the entire trip ahead of time. The Glass communicates with the car, informing it of the destination and route. The car door unlocks, you slide in behind the wheel, and the car starts itself. The door-to-door trip is already calculated and in the car’s computer database.

During the trip, you can listen to and respond to incoming text messages without taking your eyes off the road. Using a simple voice command, you can take a digital photo of whatever you are looking at or start a short video recording, all while never taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

Some vehicles are accomplishing the same things without wearable technology. Simple voice commands to the car activate various procedures. The car monitors itself and transmits a transparent virtual display right onto the windshield in front of you, which you can look through or focus on to read. Like television’s Knight Rider, you can talk to your car. And like Iron Man, you see a visual readout of the car’s sensor data in real time.

This all points to a simple fact: We are on the threshold of the completely autonomous vehicle. In fact, BMW already has an autonomous prototype that can not only drive itself, but at high speed can execute a four-wheel drift in a curve.

The BMW is equipped with radar to judge the distance to the vehicle ahead. A 3D laser scanner maps surrounding vehicles and other obstacles. A high-definition stereo image camera records the car’s surroundings. It feeds live video to image-recognition software. The software identifies white pavement lines and road signs. The on-board computer decides what to do with all this information: accelerate, brake, or steer.

According to Gartner, by 2025, 30 percent of vehicles in mature markets will offer vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, and 25 percent of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2030.

Financial benefits to digital transformation

In addition to obvious savings in insurance costs, this innovation will also produce massive financial benefits for providers in the supply chain and elsewhere. We are already witnessing this in the hybrid-electric vehicle market. Revenue from electric vehicle charging services, for example, is expected to top $ 2.9 billion annually by 2023.

The international management consulting firm Oliver Wyman suggests that this value chain emerging from autonomous cars will be considerable. It will include software integrators and third-party data processors. It will include infrastructure providers, component suppliers, insurers, and advertisers. The firm predicts, “Self-driving cars will enable up to 30 percent of these mobility services, resulting in a value contribution that could easily exceed US$100 billion in 2035.”

Location-based services will also grow. Such services as refueling, parking, and payment systems can all be integrated into the connected network, creating a strong environment for multi-channel sales and marketing opportunities.

The autonomous vehicle is almost a reality. It will further transform the industry and create an overflow of additional value streams.

To learn more about digital transformation for the automotive industry, view Automotive. Reimagined for the new economy.

Larry Stolle

About Larry Stolle

Larry Stolle is the senior global marketing director for the Automotive Industry at SAP. He has over 45 years of experience in the automotive industry with experience, ranging from dealerships to manufacturers and importers to technology companies such as IBM. Stolle currently holds two patents for dealer and manufacturer communications and for quality insights.