Auto industry takes cues from mobile phone industry

The automotive industry is taking cues from the mobile phone industry as software as a service is driving the transformation of a business historically focused on hardware.

Thomas Mueller, global head of automotive engineering at Bangalore, India-based Wipro Engineering, said Monday at the Automotive News Congress in Detroit that the mobile phone industry separated the phone from the software and embraced mobile application services. That’s what’s currently happening in the automotive industry, said Mueller, who also is Wipro’s chief technology officer.

Mobile phone applications are powered by cloud computing, and the car and cloud are on a similar path.

Automotive startups and legacy automakers are embracing changes at different paces and for different reasons.

Currently, startup automakers and traditional automakers have different motivations when developing their vehicles and services. The former is looking to extend its ecosystem of lifestyle services that integrate into customers’ lives — think music and other applications, said Maria Anhalt, CEO and managing director at Erlangen, Germany-based Elektrobit, a global supplier of embedded and connected software products and services for the automotive industry.

The startups generally move quicker, while most legacy automakers are slower at integrating technology and look for products and services that are interchangeable with their different vehicle model offerings. But they are changing their thinking, Anhalt said.

Offering “microservices” is not how traditional automakers have operated. In the past, when they came to software markers for services it was basically a transaction, said Wendy Bauer, general manager of Amazon Web Services’ automotive division.

Now the industry wants to collaborate with the software makers in improving their products continuously, upskilling their workers and getting more data to know their customers better, Bauer said.

When it comes to safety, Steve Schwinke, vice president of customer engagement at Silicon Valley-based Sibros, which offers over-the-air software updating services to automakers, said the transformation the automotive industry is undergoing can help improve car safety.

Schwinke used the example of automakers sharing data from their advanced driver-assistance systems with each other to improve the software that powers this service.