Over the past few days, I spoke to about a dozen industry veterans to understand their perspective on what really are the challenges and opportunities for the automotive industry and for individual companies in the near future. Almost unanimously, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers talk about three to four megatrends that would define the future direction they and the industry in general, would undertake.
The top priority for most is ensuring automobiles do no further harm, or at least contain the harm they do to the environment. All major global automotive markets have put in place increasingly stringent emission legislations, aimed at controlling CO2 as well as exhaust gas emissions like NOx and PM. With a variety of options available, finding the right mix is becoming a challenge for manufacturers, considering demands from the society and government regulators. However, most we spoke to believe there would continue to be a progressive electrification of the powertrain.
The second most critical challenge is with regards to connectivity or connected technologies. While conventional automakers continue to invest millions into understanding how much more of the vehicles could be connected with our lives, there are new entrants that are completely looking at changing the dynamics of the market. As consumers find new ways to purchase, operate and share their vehicles, automotive players would need to fast need to adjust to new challenges and create opportunities.
Talking of connectivity, the other big concern currently is with data privacy and security. This is becoming one of the most critical business concerns for many automakers. A standard called SHE (secured hardware extension) has evolved and SAE has proposed a new framework for cyber security, called J3061.
The third aspect most on business leaders' minds is that of autonomous driving. Automakers are pursuing fairly aggressive targets when it comes to autonomous driving. There's phenomenal amount of developmental work being done with regards to artificial intelligence or more specifically machine learning. Many believe the industry would be able to roll out fully autonomous vehicles over the next 8-9 years. Of course, there have been many experiments, and not every experiment has met with success. But it's only a matter of time when this would become a reality, say most people we spoke to.
Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
New Delhi, May 2017