From petrolhead to chiphead

The future of the automotive industry is more than the new powertrain

Powertrain 2020! The EV vision! The lust for lithium! The fuss about fuel cells! The automotive industry is alive with a debate over the replacement of the gasoline powertrain.

This is an extremely important debate, and will have major impacts on the strategic positioning of the OEMs. For example, what would happen if the future is rechargeble batteries and in the future the electricity supply companies give away vehicles in exchange for exclusive recharging contracts? Don’t believe it could happen? Look at the mobile phone handset industry.

But creeping up quietly is another technological shift that could have even more impact

Telematics is likely to completely change the way consumers choose, use and maintain cars.

Telematics will feed frequent, perhaps daily, maintenance data feeds to the dealer network where analysis will determine service needs in a far more precise manner than the current mileage-based approach. The data will also be used to predict imminent component malfunctions.

Telematics will support the driver with applications that are orders of magnitude more advanced than the existing satellite navigation systems. Want to take a break? Well just lock into an automated convoy.

Telematics will bring to automotive accident investigations what the “black box” has brought to aircraft accident investigations.

Telematics will enable usage-based insurance – and not just “how many miles?,” “where?” and “when?” but also speeds, severity of breaking, amount of skidding, etc. – indicators of driving style that might be indicators of propensity to be involved in an accident (let’s wait for the cries of “unfair” regarding whether or not these indicators really are predictive).

And where in the list of “telematics will” did I mention gasoline or internal combustion engines? I didn’t. The vast majority of the telematics enhancements are powertrain-agnostic and will be incorporated into future vehicles irrespective of their means of propulsion.

Add to this the fact that the vast majority of car drivers really don’t understand the technical details of their vehicles – they assess them on cost, looks, ride quality and user interface. Telematics could be the determining factor for the final element in the list of criteria.

If I wanted to predict the winners to dominate the next generation of vehicles, I would be seriously examining the telematics suppliers.

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