Samsung, Sony and BMW are fighting for the car of the future
Las Vegas The stage at the Las Vegas convention center is darkened. Then suddenly two headlights flicker on. A little later rolls here at the leading technology trade fair CES a vehicle towards the audience. Afeela calls Sony the prototype with which the Japanese tech group wants to enter the automotive industry.
“This is just the beginning,” Yasuhide Mizuno announced on Wednesday. He heads the joint venture of Sony together with the carmaker Honda. Together, the companies want to develop a self-driving electric car. Pre-orders should be possible in the first half of 2025 and the first cars should be delivered in spring 2026.
For the ambitious project have Sony and Honda more partners secured. The chip company Qualcomm contributes the semiconductors for the vehicles. “We are pleased to be able to help with the project,” said Qualcomm-CEO Cristiano Amon. The game developer Epic, which has released titles like Fortnite, is supposed to provide entertainment while driving.
The cooperation between the Japanese technology giant and the automaker is a signal. The fair CES shows: The tech companies are pushing hard into the automotive sector.
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But at the same time, the presented Sony car also shows that it doesn’t work without partnerships. “Sony deliberately brought a partner from the automotive industry on board. Honda has the service network and market experience that Sony lacks,” says Stephan Durach, head of development for the user interface and user experience of the “New Class”, the upcoming vehicle generation of bmw.
“New car brands are currently growing like mushrooms out of the ground”
“The tech giants have focused on the automotive sector. But their full-bodied promises have not been fulfilled,” he says. For a long time, the tech companies made fun of the car manufacturers’ “software zoo”. “They have now realized how complex the car actually is as a product.”
New offers launched with great hype such as Google According to Durach, automotive services have not overrun the market, but are now just one solution among many. That Apple Car from Cupertino is still a long time coming. And even Teslawhich has consistently built its own architectures and lean software solutions, is reaching its limits.
“Does it make sense to develop all software in-house? Or give everything to partners? I don’t think so,” says Durach. “It’s important to have a good mix. And not to lose the customer interface.” Example BMW: In the future, the Munich-based company will integrate the app store Faurecia. But: “We develop the user interface ourselves,” says Durach. “The car always has to follow bmw looks.”
According to Durach, it is clear that the market will face major changes in 2023: “New car brands are currently growing like mushrooms. But the competition remains tough.” Only tech players with very deep pockets could afford to build a car brand from scratch. And even then, there is often a risk of disillusionment: “Returns in the car business are by no means as easy to generate as some in Silicon Valley imagine.”
In the medium term, autonomous driving remains an opportunity
An important topic for the future is autonomous driving. 2022 was a year of upheaval. With the closure of Argo AI through ford and VW an important player was buried. ford wants to concentrate its development efforts in this decade on driver assistance systems (called Level 2 and Level 3), not on fully autonomous cars (Level 4).
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Many large car manufacturers are disillusioned with the pace of development. Want to write off the topic on the CES but not a player. “The developments devour a lot of money, for example ford would rather invest in the conversion to e-mobility,” explains Guidehouse chief analyst Sam Abuelsamid. “But the technology offers great sales potential for those who master it.”
For example, the McKinsey consultancy assumes that the further development of advanced driver assistance systems through to autonomous driving will represent “an important source of sales for the automotive industry” in the future. The market will grow at 15 to 20 percent annually, growing from around $50 billion today to $300 to $400 billion in 2035. “Most of the revenue comes from Level 4 functions, i.e. driverless driving under certain conditions,” says McKinsey.
Among the German manufacturers is Mercedes Benz particularly far. In the coming weeks, the Stuttgart-based company expects its level 3 autopilot to be approved in the first US state, which will enable S-Class drivers on the highway to legally watch videos or edit e-mails while driving. Mercedes would be the first provider to receive US approval.
“Autonomous driving is coming,” says Bosch North America boss Mike Mansuetti. “The focus this decade is on driver assistance and comfort and safety improvements that customers will want to pay for.”
Also IF from Friedrichshafen and the US provider Beep present the new generation of their shuttle bus. In the future, the electric minibuses will primarily be used in local transport and in demarcated areas such as national parks. To date, Beep has relied on vehicles from Benteler. In the future you also want to IF-Set buses, explains Beep boss Joe Moye.
The shuttles can accommodate up to 22 people and initially travel at 40, later at 80 kilometers per hour. The buses are equipped with the latest sensor technology, consisting of lidar, radar, camera and noise detection systems. The “Virtual Driver” – the autonomous driving software from IF – processes the information.
The new minibus complements the already established autonomous shuttle from IF, which is mainly used on separate lanes. “The new model is primarily used in urban environments and in mixed traffic,” explains Torsten Gollewski, Head of Autonomous Driving at ZF.
Struggle for sovereignty over the screens in the car
He loves cars, but the experience during long drives is sobering, Gene Cho said. The manager from the car division of the Korean technology manufacturer LG presented “Cockpit Computer”, a new system that can be used to check from the car whether the oven at home is still switched on, or with which an emergency call can be made.
But these should only be the first functions. “We will significantly expand the system,” announced Cho.
Samsung was a step further with its “Harman Ready Care” system, which was introduced shortly thereafter. “We evaluate a number of different data sources,” said manager Marcus Futterlieb. The system can not only analyze data from the vehicle, but also combine it with other devices.
As an example,futterlieb mentioned a scenario in which not only a camera in the car but also a connected smartwatch measures whether the driver is getting tired at the wheel and can then issue a targeted warning.
>> Read also: BMW turns the windshield into a giant display
The goal is to take control of the screens in the car. want that too Apple with Carplay and Google with Android Auto. The vehicle manufacturers like VolkswagenDaimler or bmw respond with improved systems of their own.
But the competition is intensifying. In the USA many buyers are already demanding support for the systems from Apple and Google when buying a car because they want to be able to easily connect their smartphones to their cars.
One reason many customers prefer Google’s system to car manufacturers’ onboard computers is the high quality of the Google Maps service. The German car manufacturers want to make up for this deficit. In 2015 they bought Nokia the Here map service.
Here announced on the CES the new technology UniMap, with which it should be possible in the future for maps to be updated in a few hours to minutes in order to always be up to date. For this purpose, images from vehicle cameras, radar sensors and also aerial photographs are to be evaluated.
E-mobility wins the race
The question of the type of drive of the future has been settled at CES – this is fully electric. Hybrid cars no longer play a role. So puts Volkswagen in its own pavilion, for example, will present its new ID.7, the all-electric successor to the Passat. It is still covered with foil over a large area, the final design will not be presented until spring. But the car appears pleasingly designed.
VW brand boss Thomas Schäfer does not want to name a starting price, but emphasizes the long range in the conversation. “With a range of up to 700 kilometers, the ID.7 is ideal for business travelers or families, for example.” USA early 2024.
In addition, preparations are being made for the construction of small electric vehicles in Spain, according to Schäfer. The names have not yet been determined, but the designation ID.2 is possible, among other things. The classic golf, on the other hand, should not be phased out. “We won’t have to decide how things will continue with our VW Golf until after 2025. One thing is clear: we will transfer this icon to the electric world – by the beginning of the 2030s at the latest,” explains Schäfer.
There is no way back: “The future is electric.” And the postponed future car Trinity? “The development of Trinity is being pushed further.” Around 2028, the all-electric VW beacon of hope could then appear. The luxury strategy of the competitors of Mercedes Benz And according to Schäfer, BMW is an opportunity for VW: “That plays into our hands. Volkswagen remains the brand with a wide range of products for every budget.”
The importance of the CES for the automotive industry continued to grow this year. “It’s important for us to be here. As a tech trade fair, CES is the leading trade fair of the future.”
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