The smartphone age has brought a revolution in the availability and accessibility of technology. Integrating people's appliances into a single ecosystem of products that work together seamlessly is the next big step in ingraining technology into people's daily lives. This has taken on the form of 'Connected Tech' – smart TVs, virtual assistants, earphones, refrigerators, lights, fans, and other appliances. However, it is strange to note that the automotive industry has lagged behind other industries in embracing the silicon age. This is all set to change as the industry transitions into an all-electric future.
The argument for connected tech in cars is multifold, with a seamless experience being at the center of the argument. Customers receive perks like Over-The-Air Updates for their cars while sitting at home, whereas adding features would've taken a group of technicians at a showroom several hours otherwise. Owners can control and monitor their cars from their smartphones (imagine turning on your car's AC while at work). It is also a solid marketing asset for OEMs, as informed buyers see the benefits of connected tech. But arguably, the resulting improvement in-car infotainment systems and user interfaces are the most significant. The digital age has made interactive software more critical than ever. The way that users interact with a product can make or break public perception.
Tech companies know this. Large tech companies like Google, Samsung, Huawei, Apple, and Sony already hold a large share of the consumer electronics market. The next logical step to expand their product ecosystem would be to venture into the automotive industry. The barrier to entry is relatively low, with a large percentage of users already using services of these brands through their smartphones, ensuring seamless integration with other products in the umbrella. The software of larger tech companies is often much more straightforward and familiar than that of automotive companies, hence finding favor among customers. This is made evident by the rise of services like Android Auto and Apple Carplay in modern cars and the power they have to influence buying decisions.
As a result, tech companies have positioned themselves to exert much more influence on how the automotive industry moves than ever before. In addition to Android Auto, Google has developed Android Automotive OS, currently in use in Polestar's cars. Running the full version of Android enables better integration with existing Google services like Google Maps and Google Assistant. In addition to this, the car becomes a node of an existing smart home system. This unlocks a new level of capabilities, including but not limited to:
I. Scheduling and monitoring charging through virtual assistants
II. Sending maps and directions directly to a user's car from their phone
III. Controlling critical car functions and setting up a car for journeys
In addition to these, Android is entirely open-source, which means the combined efforts of developers from around the world can help drive the industry forward, rather than fragmented growth by manufacturers alone. The same can be said about Huawei's plans to run Harmony OS on cars, a distributed operating system. To sum it up, a distributed operating system can potentially run on most appliances without significant modifications to the code.
Smartphone companies like Apple, Huawei and Samsung are already sitting on top of the Lithium-ion battery technology. Lithium-ion batteries are also used in Electric Cars and act as a vital component for EVs. The battery alone can constitute 40% of the total cost of an Electric Vehicle. These companies produce millions of phones each year, all running on a Li-ion battery.
Many tech giants have also been working on self-driving cars for decades. The idea behind it is pretty simple: Build up a vehicle with cameras that can track all the objects around it and have the vehicle react if it's about to steer into one. Technologies like LiDAR and high-resolution cameras have already been integrated into smartphones and tablets by these tech companies. Day-by-day, the tech companies are buffing up their image processing power which they can leverage in the application of autonomous vehicles.
Apple has long been rumored to have been working on a car. Google has also been working on self-driving technology for years now in the form of its subsidiary Waymo, who have developed their product significantly over the past few years.
But arguably, the most underrated but impressive tech company in the automotive space is Sony. Their Vision-S Electric Concept Car, unveiled in 2020, was an exhibit of what the company brings to the table for automotive companies and clients. This includes - Camera and sensor technology for autonomous driving and driver assistance systems. Battery technology for electric vehicles. High-quality displays and interior ambiance. Audio equipment for cars.
For tech companies, the move into the EV space makes sense as for years, they have provided the automotive space with software, audio systems, console interface, image processing sensors, and other electronic components. It's only natural that many of them now want a bigger piece of the pie, while some want to make the entire pie themselves.
With such giants entering the EV space, it will be interesting to see how the story will unfold and who will sit on top when we live in a world full of all-electric autonomous cars.
That's it from us today. We write every week on some compelling topics around the Electric Vehicle ecosystem. You can subscribe to our newsletter below!