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Before Self-Driving Cars: Four Tech Challenges the Auto Industry Faces Today 

by Dykema Automotive Industry Group

Published: January, 2015

Submission: March, 2015

 



Self-driving cars are still years away, but technological advances are making vehicles safer and more personalized right now. Here’s what that means for the industry. If you’re on the streets of Northern California in the next few months, you might pass a tiny car that looks like a smiling kid’s toy. It may be cute or creepy, depending on your perspective, but to some it’s a vision of the future: a Google-made, self-driven car. But even as the idea of a Jetsons-like future dominated by robotic cars enthralls the media, that potential reality is at least a decade away. Meanwhile, the auto industry has undergone a less whimsical but far more sweeping shift, from the business of metal bending to the business of chips and sensors.


This revolution is still young. As technology seeps into every facet of a vehicle’s makeup and production, the industry faces new and unprecedented challenges. Today’s auto-industry executives must bridge the divide between Silicon Valley and Detroit. They must address entirely new dimensions of safety concerns, such as how to protect their customers’ privacy and data. Detroit moved beyond traditional assembly-line manufacturing a long time ago. GM introduced OnStar, which provides a way to contact the police or fire department in case of an emergency and unlock your car at your request, in 1996. And it’s no longer just high-end cars that offer things like collision-avoidance systems, blind-spot warnings and automatic braking. Cars like the 2014 Chevy Malibu and the 2014 Mazda 3S come with high-tech safety features and price tags just under $30,000. It’s rare to see a new car on the market today that doesn’t feature Bluetooth technology to let drivers make calls and stream music through vehicle speakers.


The technological revolution has been a boon to the auto industry. The market for smart vehicle systems is expected to reach $22 billion by 2020 as consumers increasingly demand—and expect—their cars to be sophisticated tech hubs. “About 55 percent of people won’t buy a car if it doesn’t have the technology they want in it,” says Scott McCormick, president of the Connected Vehicle Trade Association. “That’s a big change.”

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