Victor Haydin
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Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

With autonomous technology hitting the market, car manufacturers are facing safety issues, fierce competition, and a shift in business models

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Ready or not, the autonomous car race is on. Today, both established companies and young startups are striving to make fully autonomous vehicles a reality. But what’s really important is that autonomous vehicle technology changes the rules of the game for the automotive industry.

To stay competitive in the market, automotive manufacturers have to provide high-tech solutions for consumers. Beyond that, software-dependent connected and autonomous cars change the whole landscape of the automotive industry. OEMs, tech companies, and software vendors are now in the same boat, making self-driving cars their common future.

Intellias has prepared an overview of the main challenges for the automotive industry. Read on to find out how autonomous vehicle technologies are changing the market.

Autonomous car technology depends on software systems 

Researchers define self-driving cars as “cyber-physical systems” because their components are both physical and virtual. Take a Mercedes-Benz S-Class vehicle with an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), for example — it contains 15 times more lines of code than a Boeing 787. Autonomous car technology isn’t possible without complex software systems. In fact, modern vehicles with ADAS contain approximately 100 million electronic control units (ECUs). And because of that, the global software market for autonomous cars is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 76.1% from 2017 to 2021.

Read more: Learn how Intellias developed data-driven protocols for advanced driver assistance systems

Safety concerns stand in the way of autonomous driving technologies for the industry 

According to research by Statista, 50% of US respondents say they wouldn’t feel safe in a self-driving car. Currently, customer safety concerns are a major drawback for autonomous vehicles. And these concerns are one of the biggest challenges for the automotive industry. Consumers are generally skeptical about self-driving technology. And two recent fatal incidents involving partially autonomous vehicles have made the reputation of autonomous cars even worse.

After two fatal incidents involving a Tesla Model X and an autonomous Uber vehicle Volvo XC90, consumers have become less trusting of autonomous vehicles.

The 2.000 US adults compare the safety of self-driving cars and vehicles driven by humans

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Source: Statista – Fatal Accidents Damage Trust in Autonomous Driving

To make self-driving vehicles successful, they have to be proven safe first. No one will buy autonomous cars if they have a long history of failures. On the contrary, customers want a track record of successful rides.

An established track record of safe rides and car brand are the factors that increase a consumer’s feeling of safety about driverless trends in the automotive industry.

Factors making consumers feel safer riding in a fully self-driving vehicle

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Autonomous vehicles need to be tested to ensure their safety 

Before hitting the road, a self-driving car has to be carefully engineered and thoroughly tested. Autonomous driving tests involve not just on-road test drives but also computer simulations and mathematical modeling. A combination of virtual simulation and real driving allows companies to test a vehicle’s performance under different conditions like bad weather and collisions. During testing, a vehicle runs through different scenarios to see how it reacts in different situations.

Sounds simple? It’s not, particularly because autonomous driving is built on machine learning algorithms that learn within those tested environments. Thanks to these algorithms, it’s not always clear why a vehicle makes a certain decision in a particular situation.

Autonomous driving generally uses sub-functionalities that are based on machine learning. However, machine learning results in black boxes with no explicitly specified behavior.

Manfred Broy, Professor at Technical University of Munich

This makes testing autonomous vehicles a bit tricky. Experts say, however, that testing autonomous cars doesn’t differ much from testing medications. In both cases, you simply evaluate the outcome. Many trials of a car with machine learning technology will help to evaluate its safety and see how it makes decisions under different circumstances.

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Cybersecurity is a real threat to autonomous and connected vehicles

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Modern vehicles are only partially autonomous. Customers will have to wait until 2020 for a fully autonomous car to be available on the market.

According to a report by McKinsey, 15% of all passenger cars sold will be autonomous in 2030.

New vehicle market share of fully autonomous vehicles 

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Source: McKinsey&Company – Automotive revolution – perspective towards 2030

For now, the leaders on the global car market are traditional automotive manufacturers. Research by Deloitte shows that people trust OEMs more than any other players in the market.

Half of consumers worldwide believe that traditional car manufacturers will bring self-driving cars to the market.

Types of companies consumers trust most to bring fully autonomous vehicles technology to market

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Source: Deloitte – A reality check on advanced vehicle technologies

But the truth is, new trends in the automotive industry bring new business opportunities. This means that new players can enter and conquer the auto market. And it’s highly likely that they will come from other industries. Since autonomous cars depend on software, traditional automotive manufacturers are going to face competition from tech companies.

Both young startups and large high-tech companies are attracted to the auto market. Google’s Waymo and Apple’s Titan project are evidence of that.

Our competitors no longer just make cars. Companies like Google, Apple, and even Facebook are what I think about at night.

Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation

Another group competing with automotive manufacturers are mobility providers. Companies like Uber and Lyft are also serious about autonomous driving. For instance, Lyft has recently received a $200 million investment from Manga, a leading global Tier 1 supplier, to continue development of autonomous vehicle technology.

While previously OEMs had to compete only with each other, by 2030 they will face tight competition from new market players: tech companies, mobility providers, and emerging OEMs.

New competitors for OEMs

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Not only will completely new competition appear for automotive manufacturers; the whole business model will change. According to analysis by A.T. Kearney, the latest trends in the automotive industry such as connectivity and autonomous driving will cause two major changes. The first will affect the value chain. Previously, OEMs were on top of the auto value chain, coordinating all other participants to produce a vehicle. But with autonomous cars, traditional auto manufacturers won’t keep their leading role in the production process.

The value chain model will transform from a pyramid to hub-and-spoke. In this new order, OEMs will lose their dominance and all participants of the value chain will become equal players.

Automotive value chains

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

This equality is possible because other automotive industry players are better focused on vital steps of autonomous car production than are OEMs. Traditional automotive manufacturers have broad specialization while tech companies, suppliers, and mobility providers are experts in their narrow fields.

Focus of companies related to automotive

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Another change, according to A.T. Kearney, is a shift in the value share. Leading car manufacturers will still have a place in the market because many hardware car components will remain the same (like engines/motors and drivetrains). Software systems, however, are more vital for a high-tech car. Software systems are both more expensive than hardware for an autonomous vehicle and are considered more valuable by consumers. This means that tech companies hold all the aces, since they contribute the most to an autonomous vehicle’s total value.

Read more: Learn how Intellias built a cloud-based data platform for autonomous driving

Automotive manufacturers will become team players to win big 

The impact of self-driving cars on the auto industry will result not only in new competition but also in room for collaboration. Having limited expertise in technology development, traditional auto manufacturers will seek professionals to work with. In fact, 82% of automotive executives believe it will be a Silicon Valley company that launches an autonomous car to market in the next four years. Beyond that, 78% say that this vehicle will be assembled by a traditional OEM.

With all new technologies merging, you have to have partners, because you can’t be expert in everything.

Henrik Fisker, Chairman & CEO, Fisker Inc

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Today, the race for an autonomous car is a team competition. And many companies have already found their teammates from other industries. Take Toyota, for example, which recently announced its list of partners at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018. Amazon, Uber, and Pizza Hut are among them. Toyota’s new autonomous car is the e-Palette, a vehicle designed for different lifestyles and businesses including e-commerce and package delivery.

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Two years ago, General Motors bought a Silicon Valley startup called Cruise Automation that focused on the development of autonomous vehicle technologies. This year, GM and Cruise revealed their fourth-generation autonomous and fully electric car, the Cruise AV, which has no steering wheel. The vehicle is production-ready and will be deployed in 2019. Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi are also betting on startups. The famous Auto Alliance has said it’s planning to invest $1 billion in automotive technology startups during the next five years.

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Automotive manufacturers collaborate with both hardware and software suppliers. Tesla, Volvo, Airbus, Uber, and Bosch are just some of the 370 partners of Nvidia, the leading chip supplier for autonomous cars. The Ford Motor Company, Audi Group, and 5G Automotive Association work with Qualcomm, which makes wireless technologies for connected cars.

Challenges of the Automotive Industry in the Face of Autonomous Driving

Tech giants are looking for established car manufacturers to test their technologies. Fiat Chrysler is partnering with Waymo. Apple has recently signed a deal with Volkswagen. No doubt there are many more partnerships to come because to get an autonomous car to market, it takes a deal more than just manufacturing, but also software comes to play.

The impact of self-driving cars on the auto industry is immense. Autonomous vehicle technology is transforming the automotive market. Although they are still trusted more than any other player, traditional car manufacturers no longer hold the dominant position in the value chain or the vehicle’s value share.

New technologies create opportunities for other players to get a larger bite of the market. Tech companies, mobility providers, and new OEMs are creating serious competition for traditional automotive manufacturers. Since autonomous vehicles depend on software even more than on hardware, tech companies can take the lead.

Nobody knows, however, who’s going to win the autonomous car race. But one thing’s for sure: it won’t be a single player. Only a team that consists of a traditional auto manufacturer and focused tech professionals can overcome the challenges for the automotive industry and bring innovative technology to market.


If you’re looking for a software vendor to team up with, contact Intellias. We’re one of the leading Tier 2 companies in Eastern Europe, with 15 years of software engineering experience and extended expertise in automotive R&D.

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