The Road To The Future

What do driverless cars mean for the automotive industry?


Digital innovation has been causing market disruption across all sectors, with high profile cases including disruption in the hotel and taxi industries where Uber and Airbnb have embraced the opportunities provided by digital to become industry leaders. The recent news that the first models of driverless cars have been released for testing suggests the automotive industry is next in line for a shake-up.

The British car maker, Westfield Sportscars, will be testing its driverless car designs this July in Greenwich, London, along with three other destinations across the UK. The £8m project will see seven driverless cars undergoing three months of testing before the general public are invited to try out the models.

The new prototype takes its design from the pods currently in operation at Heathrow Airport, shuttling passengers between terminals. Despite the finished design not being released to the public, it is known that the adapted vehicles will not run on designated tracks, meaning driverless cars may soon join traditional cars on the road.

Industry innovators

The driverless car is set to revolutionize the car industry and the way we transport ourselves. It will change our perception of the traditional car and what we come to expect from the wider automotive industry. Beyond the driverless models themselves, a plethora of new opportunities will be opened up for automotive manufactures, giving them the chance to interact with and impact other sectors.

For example, the driverless, electrical cars will be combined with data sharing platforms that have the potential to change the way businesses in many industries communicate and engage with their consumers. Through the use of location-based marketing and data collection, the technology, music and food industries - among many others - will all have the opportunity to collect information based on users’ locations, preferences and behaviours. Beyond data sharing, other areas such as the healthcare sector could benefit, with driverless cars aiding those that rely on a third party to get around.

Despite the advantages that the innovation will bring, the concept behind the driverless car has split the automotive market. Some companies, such as Ford, are expected to announce a tie-up with Google to work on their own brand of driverless cars. However, it would appear the luxury market is keen to distance itself from the digital revolution, with Porsche Chief Executive, Oliver Blume, recently stating that the brand has no plans to follow suit.

Beyond existing brands, digital innovation is allowing for small start-up companies to not only break into the market, but compete with the big names. Uber and Airbnb have proved within their respective industries that digital is the way forward, with these innovative companies leap-frogging their competitors and setting the benchmark for the industry.

Full speed ahead

One thing is clear, it is only a matter of time before technological advances lead to disruptive start-ups and initiatives entering more industries and changing the game for existing companies - and only time will tell how individual manufacturers are affected. However, with a recent prediction from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers suggesting that all UK cars could be fully driverless by 2050, digital innovation in the automotive industry has only just begun.

In order to thrive in the fast-moving market, every business must be aware of these incoming changes and the large impact it will have on them, and implement a digital development strategy early to remain competitive.

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