MUNICH -- Automakers will have to collaborate more and adapt to change faster as pressure from companies such as Tesla, Apple and Google intensifies the need to offer connected, electrified, autonomous cars. That was the consensus from a panel of industry experts who spoke at Automotive News Europe Congress here on Wednesday about the challenges automakers face as they try to compete in a fast-changing, digitally driven environment.
“We have to embrace change and make sure our processes are leaner and more transparent so we can adapt,” Bernd Schmaul said referring to traditional players in the automotive industry. Schmaul is on the frontline of this challenge as chief marketing officer at Moovel Group, a Daimler-owned mobility unit that includes the Car2Go car-sharing service. He said that the rules governing his piece of Daimler’s automotive business are very different from those that affect the parent company’s core brands.
“We need to launch it, test it, tweak it,” Schmaul said. “[We need to] fail fast but learn from it and move forward. It is not a linear process.”
Part of the learning process involves getting help from outside of traditional automotive circles, said Volvo’s Marcus Rothoff, who is the company’s autonomous driving program director.
“You have to recognize you don’t have all the knowledge in-house,” Rothoff said. “You need to work with people you never would have thought you would work with five years ago.”
He was referring not only to new component suppliers but also city planners and other government authorities, who are playing a crucial role in Volvo’s Drive Me pilot to test a fleet of 100 self-driving XC90s on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden, starting next autumn.
One of the suppliers helping Volvo with the Drive Me project is Nvidia, which is providing the Swedish automaker with a supercomputer that utilizes so-called "deep learning" to enable self-driving capabilities.
Nvidia Director of Automotive Danny Shapiro told the Congress that his company’s relationship with Volvo is an example of the collaboration that is now taking place within the industry.
“Our engineers sit directly together with Volvo’s engineers. We develop and design the system together,” Shapiro said.
Kristin Schondorf, who is EY’s global automotive and transportation mobility leader, said this type of collaboration didn’t happen when she started working in the industry two decades ago.
“The automakers used to be more closed. They were not talking to competitors. But they found they needed to develop a new model that allowed them to work together,” Schondorf said. “They had to do it to survive.”