I got the chance to discuss cars of the future — the near future — with Stephen Perun, coauthor with Sebastian Wedeniwski of My Cognitive autoMOBILE Life: Digital Divorce from a Cognitive Personal Assistant (Springer, December 2017), which I reviewed for this site. Cars as we know them are about to get a whole lot different, he said. Buckle up.
I find this book fascinating — and I think readers will too. But when you were writing it, how did you decide what to present in terms of your reader? Some of the information is technical, but it’s also mind-blowing.
We wrote the book to help people understand a Cognitive Life better by using the history of connectivity in the automotive industry to put it into context. Everyone is writing about autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, but the autoMOBILE is just one part of the ecosystem now becoming a Cognitive Life. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Samsung are moving beyond their traditional businesses to create more touchpoints with their customers, with cognitive personal assistants at the center of their strategy. We introduced these technologies with definitions and level-setting, then discussed Cognitive Vehicles, and concluded by looking at the future of our Cognitive Life.
Can you explain connected cars and data-defined vehicles? The terms don’t sound like cars as we think of them —
Connected cars really started with a simple idea: safety, and a way to remotely notify authorities if you were in an accident. This was accomplished by adding cellular technology to a vehicle. That created new services an Original Equipment Manufacturer (or OEM) could offer to its customers. Connectivity was the foundation, but the value comes from creating a customer experience through new services and interactions.
The first way to do this was the software-defined vehicle: like a smartphone, applications or software provide services like entertainment and navigation. Future software and personal assistants will learn more about you — and based on that data, offer new services. For instance, it will provide a different experience on weekends than it does during the week. You car will use what it learns to function as a service robot, configuring itself to your needs.
Can you explain the difference between an automobile and your term, autoMOBILE?
Sebastian who introduced the distinction — in his 2015 book, The Mobility Revolution in the Automotive Industry: How Not to Miss the Digital Turnpike. The AUTOmobile reflects industry’s focus on the AUTO — physical means of transportation and mobility. The autoMOBILE reflects industry’s new focus on the MOBILE — the new digital services around transportation and mobility. Today, Uber and car2go, are built on an entirely new mobility business model: they’re really mobility companies.
Are there other kinds of companies on the forefront of this shift form cars to mobility?
Uber, car2go and other mobility-focused companies really started the transformation, but now OEMs are building, partnering or acquiring their own mobility services to meet changing customer needs. Apple (who proved that customer experience is Number One) and Google are discussing getting into the mobility business, because customers spend a good part of their day on the move. Companies like Samsung have embraced the strategy of a Cognitive Life, looking to interact with customers as often as they can. Samsung started with their smartphone business and are building a personal assistant. They just acquired Harman International to get into vehicles. This is all combined with their appliance and smart home offerings.
Why is it only going to take a decade or so for cars to transform?
The digital world can move so much faster than the physical world. The smartphone is a great example. Did ever think you would purchase a new device every two years? This translates to the automotive industry. We’re seeing that new generations prefer mobility services to purchasing vehicles. So new forms of transportation around autonomous vehicles will be more economical, with better user experience. Non-automotive industries bring new and innovative ideas that accelerate the change. Amazon is a great example: it’s growing into other industries — such as the cloud, personal assistants, and even grocery shopping — all to build its own brand.
What about people with “old-fashioned” cars? Will they still even be able to use the roads? I’m imagining a driver / self-driving car collision.
The world will always have a mix. We won’t see Iowa farmers using Uber for daily commutes, or luxury car buyers signing up for car sharing. Regulations and safety will drive the change, just as seatbelts and airbags changed the industry a few years back. It’s already happening, with more sophisticated iterations of autonomous vehicles that have safety features like active forward collision warnings. That system will stop me from hitting someone, but the “old-fashioned” driver following me probably won’t be able to stop.
Any advice for the next generation of car buyers?
If you are thinking about safety, it’s hard to imagine the days when you bought a car and kept it for ten years. Ownership models will also change. Think about your mobility needs, and align those to how you will move through your Cognitive Life. Maybe it’s with a brand that focuses on the physical, or maybe it’s with a new brand that’s grounded in this new digital era.
Learn more about the authors and their new book at think-automobility.org.