Roch Thaller, Executive Vice President Automotive & Transportation at Expleo, identifies the key tech trends in the automotive industry. While digital innovation and collaboration will make regular headlines, the science of quality assurance and testing will need to develop at the same pace.

In SatNav terms, consumers have set their destination. They want to drive in a world with lower fuel emissions and they expect digital technology to be integrated within their means of mobility, linking up their cars with all the other elements of their connected lives. Society is not yet united on fully-autonomous vehicles (there are still too many ‘what ifs’) but drivers certainly want cars that are more connected, autonomous, comfortable, safer and personalised.

The boundary lines between car companies and tech providers continue to blur, as OEMs and Tier1 suppliers recognise the need to keep pace with these changing customer expectations. The conversation has evolved from “what does this mean for us?” to “here’s what we’re doing about it”. Disruption is becoming “business as usual”. I predict that investment in research and development will increase in the coming months. Firms are outsourcing challenges to specialist outfits that can deliver turnkey solutions – creating a growing new market for those partners that can find the right talent in the right locations.

The various international car shows at the start of the year showed just how much things can change in a short period of time, with some fascinating prototypes in infotainment, instrument clusters, HMI navigation, driver-assistance, facial recognition, voice activation and passenger gaming devices. These innovations will go mainstream very soon.

Not all about technology

As the worlds of car manufacturing and technology continue to collide and merge, so the premium on skilled people – and flexible teams – with the right technical and domain expertise will continue to grow in step. Partnerships and relationships will also prove to be an advantage. How brands collaborate and share the heavy load will be a big feature moving forward. Even five years ago, who would have put Cisco and Hyundai, Mercedes and Nvidia, BMW and Lyft, or Audi and Disney in partnership with one another? Already, different sectors are overlapping like never before. Innovation will be as much a matter of imagination and networking, as technological development.

I think we’ll see the focus sharpen on the infrastructure needed for autonomous cars and e-mobility. Leading OEMs such as Renault and Volkswagen are already moving the agenda forward on aspects such as regulations, charge points and safety systems. Likewise, I think the clamour for different mobility models will intensify. Options for ride-sharing, fractional ownership, subscriptions and  mobility as a service are all disrupting the traditional decision to simply purchase a car.

Electric batteries, which owners can rent out or use as an energy store, may likewise emerge as a new asset for the e-mobility market. As cars become more connected, secure blockchain technology will facilitate peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, such as cardless fuel payments and in-car purchases like apps and movies. Blockchain can also enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) connectivity, such as the sharing of telematic data. Let’s not forget B2B too, as blockchain has the potential to protect data flow all along the supply chain.

Watch the speed limit

Quality safeguards, which run in parallel with innovation, may not earn the same headlines as self-driving, infotainment and e-cars. But without them, news reports can prove very damaging. All this change is risky, and expensive too. Brands are jostling for position in an ultra-competitive market. They want to be known for setting the pace, not for the recalls. In parallel with innovation, the systems for continuous testing, cybersecurity and enhanced safety will need to develop rapidly in the coming year.  

The race is on to shape the mobility of tomorrow, but that means ensuring the uncompromised safety of products, people and our planet. The future will need some bold thinking, but also plenty of rigour. Fuelled by both, our destination will be much closer by the end of the decade.

This is an excerpt from our 2019 Automotive Trend Report. Download your copy here.