The auto industry can excel by loosening the grip on its products

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Why car makers are moving from older, slow-moving proprietary in-car software development approaches to ones that involve using the latest standardized technology that adds value and encourages loyalty?

Industries can often learn from each other, and automotive manufacturers should follow the lead of the technology sector and let go of the desire to design, manufacture, and control every element of the vehicles they produce.

A great example of this can be found in the tug of war between tech companies and auto industry OEMs over the last 10 years. For example, in that time Ford went from having a proprietary solution co-developed with Microsoft, called Sync, to a new offering called Sync 3 that embraces both the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay apps to better integrate with drivers’ smartphones.

Other recent examples include BMW’s partnership with Amazon to deliver built-in Alexa voice recognition technology and Qualcomm’s work to build in-car voice recognition and infotainment solutions around its Snapdragon chip set and Amazon’s Alexa technology.

These moves have created an interesting choice for consumers: pay a significant amount of extra money for a high-end built-in infotainment system that may not get functionality updates very often, or leverage the power of a smartphone they already own and which has a vastly superior range of apps, great voice control, and an ever-cheaper data plan.

Automakers have acknowledged this issue and appear to be collectively following Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ lead. In the early 1990s, when Microsoft software was not yet the dominant force in business that it eventually became, Gates came up with the notion of what he called “embrace and extend” as an approach to competing in a serious way against existing players.

The idea was simple: embrace all the features, functions, and capabilities of competitive products, interoperate with them, and then extend the capabilities of the Microsoft product to include so many additional useful features that the barrier for businesses to switch became extremely low.

That’s why car makers are moving from older, slow-moving proprietary in-car software development approaches to ones that involve using the latest standardized technology and tweaking it in a way that adds value and encourages loyalty.

They are also doing so in a way that leverages the decades of experience that automakers have in designing car interiors – knowing what works for both passengers and drivers. Just because, for example, a function is going to be delivered digitally doesn’t mean it needs to be controlled via a touch screen. There are many functions that you don’t want to control through a screen, and it may be better and safer to use buttons, levers, or dials.

The issue of safety as it relates to distracted driving and touch screens in cars has been raised in a number of thought-provoking studies recently, including a 2017 report by the UK’s Institute for Advanced Motorists (IAM), which suggested that manufacturers “make vehicles to support drivers and avoid distraction: in-vehicle warnings and intervention-based systems can mitigate distraction – their uptake as standard may be a faster route to risk reduction than modifying driver behavior.”

By embracing already-popular and proven technology from outside the automotive world, car manufacturers can build both brand loyalty and safer cars.

To learn more about Capgemini’s automotive practice, contact Mike Hessler, North America Automotive and Industrial Equipment Lead, at michael.hessler@capgemini.com.

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