The global automotive ecosystem is extremely complex. Thousands of companies are producing parts and products that go into a vehicle. A massive network of original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s), suppliers, vendors and contractors are work together to move customers from point A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. This vast ecosystem is creating and collaborating on a tremendous amount of intellectual property (IP) and complex digital content. Everything from the initial concept of an idea and accompanying design iterations, to the ad campaign related to a new model release will be seen and shared by thousands of people prior to commercialization. This process will only expand as technology and the industry continue to intertwine.
“The automotive ecosystem itself has multiplied with the thousands of new problems to solve. What used to be an industry dominated by a few well-known Tier 1’s in Detroit now encompasses startups from around the globe providing new parts, systems and applications required for autonomous cars.” - Oded Sagee
As the automotive ecosystem continues to explode, industry leaders are generating a tremendous amount of IP. From 3D designs, to video captured throughout the research and development (R&D) process the amount of complex digital content that is created and collaborated on is tremendous.
3D models are the backbone of automotive R&D. They are the blueprint for the vehicle and can also be used in the additive manufacturing (AM) process for prototyping parts before they go into production. Once additive parts are produced X-rays are taken (just like medical imaging) of the component to validate it was produced correctly.
In addition, automotive makers now believe acoustic testing is a crucial part of their quality control workflow. Acoustic testing is done for two main reasons - by law there is a limit to how much external noise a car can produce, and drivers are continuously expecting a smoother and quieter ride. Bosch Engineering has set up a whole facility dedicated to test automotive acoustics.
“In acoustics analysis, we take advantage of the synergies resulting from the close collaboration within Bosch Engineering and with the Bosch Group’s acoustical engineers,” says Jörg Vetter, Senior Manager, New Calibration Services & Products at Bosch Engineering.
To improve both the manufacturing process and driver experience several mobility companies are also now collecting video data from drivers. Tesla plans to significantly increase the amount of video it captures and analyzes by going directly to its customers and asking permission to use what the car captures during driving.
“We need to collect short video clips using the car’s external cameras to learn how to recognize things like lane lines, street signs, and traffic light positions. The more fleet learning of road conditions we are able to do, the better your Tesla’s self-driving ability will become.” - Tesla Email to Customers.
by leveraging new technology, automotive companies face substantial challenges with how they manage internal IP and employee data, as well as data generated by their consumers. Due to the global nature of the automotive business, the industry faces multiple compliance requirements whether it is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe or California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States.
“Data plays a key role in this ecosystem and its supply chain. With more data than ever before residing within autonomous cars to support systems such as telematics, voice recognition, augmented reality, drive recorders, V2V communications, and more, it will change the way we think about the necessary parts in the supply chain. Today data storage is somewhat of an afterthought; however as these new autonomous cars generate and consume more data than ever before, as much as 0.75 GB of data per second, the ability to capture, preserve, access and transform data must keep pace. Storage becomes a huge part of this data deluge! Decisions such as who owns the data? What data needs to be captured? How much data? How long does it need to be stored?
A massive amount of IP and complex digital content is being created as automotive companies increase their investments in additive manufacturing (AM) and distributed manufacturing. Volkswagen recognizes the value of AM due to the speed that parts can be prototyped as well as the ability to create unique parts for specific vehicles, and customers. BMW plans to mass produce at least 50,000 components per year with AM, and over 10,000 spare and individual parts. Lamborghini is partnering with 3D printing company Carbon, to produce parts for its SUV. Carbon has the ability to mass produce parts at an extremely high speed and scale. This helps achieve a faster time-to-market and keeps associated production costs as low as possible.
In addition, Ford utilizes 3D printing for many of its vehicles and components. The company used AM to prototype an intake manifold - one of the hardest and most time consuming pieces to make. In a traditional environment the piece would take 4 months and over $500,000 to build. However, using AM, Ford can now print that same part in less than 4 days for $3,000. In addition, AM keeps warehouse and physical production costs down, as parts can be reproduced on demand. A member of the Audi Sales Team recently said, “Reproduction on demand is a vision for us. In the future, we will be able to economically and sustainably ensure a supply with fewer original replacement parts. Regional printing centers will simplify logistics and warehousing operations.”
McLaren and Stratasys have teamed up to print parts for the McLaren F1 team. McLaren plans to print up to 9,000 parts per year that are crucial to the aerodynamics of the vehicle. Additive manufacturing accelerates the manufacturing process and reduces cost by allowing manufacturers to consume less raw material to make the part.
Traditional automotive makers are increasingly becoming aware that consumer needs and trends are shifting the market place. Consumers no longer feel the need to own or be tied down to property, if on demand, or a subscription based model is available for consumption.
Emerging trends in mobility technology, such as the rise of ride-hailing, car sharing, and subscription services are changing the way people use, value, and relate to personal vehicles. These new mobility services are contributing to a change in preferences, away from vehicle ownership and towards “vehicle usership,” exploring new business models that do not necessarily involve the user owning a vehicle and having all the inconveniences associated with it.”
Traditional ownership is still an automotive company’s primary revenue generator, however in the future it is speculated that consumers would rather be able to change to the latest and greatest version of a vehicle over long term ownership, even if it doesn’t necessarily reduce cost for them. This mindset of course will not be adopted by the entire population, but currently 4 out of 10 consumers believe that while transportation is necessary, owning their own vehicle is not. For this reason auto makers are starting to test subscription based services and on demand options for their vehicles. With the maturation of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology this new potential business model has the potential to change what "car ownership" means. This consumer behavior has already been adopted in multiple industries containing household names such as Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Blue Apron just to name a few, so it would only make sense for the mobility industry to follow suit.
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