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  • Writer's pictureJesus Grana

Code-Driven Wheels (A Coder, a Coder, My Kingdom for a Coder!)


CX Insights - Trend Watch - Automotive Industry (ICYMI June 2024)


ICYMI - Is it just me, or is it becoming clear that the hottest engineers in the auto industry are of the digital variety? Give the people what they want!?! I guess what the people want is an autonomous driving experience. This WardsAuto article nicely summarizes what we are to expect over the next few years … great promise with a side order of fears and uncertainties.


Don’t tell that to Alphabet. Waymo's autonomous ride-hailing service, Waymo One, is now available to all in San Francisco. The software giant expanded the service launched just four years ago in Phoenix, Arizona. Why? Because they see the consumer driving commercial success despite investor concerns and government scrutiny.


Out on a limb all by themselves? I don’t think so. Amazon’s Zoox will soon expand testing of its self-driving cars to Austin and Miami. Hey, I wonder if Zoox could add a porch pirate detection service? Just saying. All kidding aside, Zoox blogged that they are “laying the foundations of our autonomous ride-hailing service across the U.S.” … stay tuned; they must expect serious consumer interest, or they wouldn’t be able to make the expansion.


By the way, with GM announcing a new CEO of its Cruise self-driving unit, we see continued investment in digital success stories. As a reminder, the new CEO was a founding engineer at Xbox. Coincidence, I don’t think so.


Of course, this activity is not limited to the U.S. A recent Just Auto article tells the story of Nissan beginning trials of the self-driving Leaf prototype with 14 cameras, 10 radars, six Lidar sensors and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, maybe not that last one. The trials are taking place on the busy streets of Yokohama, close to the company’s global headquarters, where Nissan said the Leaf can “smoothly demonstrate its ability to predict the behavior of pedestrians, conduct lane changes when merging and judge when to safely enter intersections.”


Not satisfied that the trend is continuing? China is testing more driverless cars than any other country. Yup, you read that right. The Chinese government continues its investment in driverless technology, while cities are designating large areas for testing on public roads. Any chance of China sharing their results? Not really, so we will most likely learn more as they attempt to enter non-domestic markets.


Beyond the robo-taxi business model, Ford agrees with Tesla’s Full Self-Driving and GM’s Super Cruise that even higher levels of autonomous capabilities will emerge within the next two years. “We’re getting really close,” CEO Jim Farley said in a May 31 interview with Bloomberg TV’s David Westin. “We can do it now pretty regularly with a prototype but doing it in a cost-effective way is just the progress we’re going to need to make.”


It seems that we are still on-track for an autonomous future – stay tuned for an update on the flying part next …


| HARDWARE IS THE CANVAS, BUT SOFTWARE IS THE MASTERPIECE

Getting fatigued by all of this digital news? Stay with me – there’s a bit more to consider. In this WardAuto article, we hear Ford’s Zafar Razzacki state, “The car’s software will be more valuable than anything else in the years to come. There is all this data coming in, while at the same time compute power is getting cheaper, and this is where AI comes into play. This means cybersecurity is a big challenge, but AI can solve these problems…” How’s that for a teaser!?!


And beyond the much written features like over-the-air (OTA) updates, Stellantis reminds us in this article how it’s using software development to enhance the mobility experience for consumers. “In a little more than two years we have made a decisive shift from a traditional auto industry mindset to operating much more like a startup company, including a sharp focus on speed and building up our own software creation capabilities,” says Yves Bonnefont, chief software officer at Stellantis.


Don’t forget about some of the headline partnerships making a combined effort in this space. Volkswagen Group and Rivian have announced a joint venture to create what they are calling next-generation electrical architectures and software technology. The partnership, announced June 25, is based around Rivian's zonal hardware design and integrated software platform.


Not to be left out of the sandbox, Honda Motor Co. and IBM have agreed to collaborate on software-defined vehicles. This agreement outlines intent to research and develop solutions to new challenges related to processing performance, power consumption and design complexity … stay tuned, when elephants dance, the ground shakes.



| HOUSE CALL IN YOUR DRIVEWAY … LITERALLY

We have to end with one totally customer-centric story. In case you haven't noticed (we know you have), modern vehicles are packed with features and technology. Even the Nissan Versa – the least expensive new car in the U.S., has a 7-inch touchscreen with voice controls and buttons all over the steering wheel. The basics are usually straightforward, but figuring out all the tech can be intimidating. Nissan wants to change that.


The automaker is launching a new program called Second Delivery. It's essentially a no-cost follow-up visit for people who buy a new Nissan, designed to help them learn just what their car can do. P.S., it turns out the answer to that question is “a lot!”

 

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