Tech giants work together: want to turn a car into a “smartphone”

Netease Technology News on January 11, according to foreign media reports, technology companies have turned smartphones and TVs into a steady stream of revenue. Now, big tech companies want to work with automakers to do the same by turning cars into smartphones.

It will still take several years for the widespread launch of autonomous vehicles, but the technology and automotive industries have converged on the idea that cars provide “over-the-air upgrade” services and features. The so-called over-the-air upgrade refers to the use of wireless network downloads to create and install software updates on smartphones.

 At CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, the United States on January 5, 2020, Byton showed off its all-electric SUV M-Byte. It is expected that this car will be mass-produced this year.

These services include streaming video, car performance upgrades, dashboard commerce, and they may help meet the urgent needs of car manufacturers. Car manufacturers need to learn how to continue to squeeze hardware revenue for a long time after vehicles are released from dealers, while technology companies see cars and the time people spend on cars as a new growth area.


Automotive and technology companies are using this year’s CES event in Las Vegas to show their determination to make the vision of cars a connected income machine a reality. Cloud computing giants Amazon and Microsoft are at the forefront, and they are both chasing opportunities to manage the data flow of connected vehicles.

GM President Mark Reuss said in December that the opportunity to generate revenue by providing streaming services and over-the-air upgrades after the sale of the car is absolutely huge.

This strategic shift comes at a critical time for global automakers to find new sources of revenue, as sales are slowing and rising costs to comply with stricter emissions standards threaten profit margins. Share prices of established automakers such as Ford and GM severely lag behind the broad market index in 2019. In contrast, Tesla’s market value has exceeded their combined market value.

Figure: Amazon smart assistant Alexa is integrated into the entertainment information system of Cadillac XT6 SUV

Tesla pioneered the aerial upgrade model, and now requires customers to pay $ 6,000 to enable the fully autonomous driving option. Other automakers are also eager to try to turn cars into products that can be upgraded and generate sustainable revenue.

Chinese automaker Byton’s new all-electric SUV M-Byte uses a 48-inch display as an instrument panel, a steering wheel display and a digital tablet for passengers. When parked, the car can act as an office, participate in a video conference call, or act as a temporary roadside cinema.

BMW showed off its future interior design concepts at CES, including lounge chairs and windshields with built-in augmented reality (AR) technology to show the road ahead. BMW executive Klaus Froehlich said the company is seeking approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to obtain U.S. approval for the production of these seats, but it did not say when it will start production.

Qualcomm announced the new Snapdragon Ride chip, which can be used in vehicle autonomous driving

Technology companies and suppliers hope to accelerate the transition of cars to machines with pre-bookable services by helping automakers solve the mess of computer chips. These chips make “air upgrades” difficult or impossible for most existing cars.

Glen De Vos, chief technology officer of automotive supplier Aptiv Plc, said current automotive processors are not cost-effective and difficult to develop and market, and are not enough to keep everything going. Aptiv’s solution is to design a new smart car architecture and integrate most of the computerized functions.

Harman, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, is also launching a similar digital platform to control the flow of data into and out of cars. Its chief executive, Dinesh Paliwal, said a centralized system would help protect cars from hackers because hackers have only one way in and out, not dozens.

Harman, which provides wireless upgrades to automakers including Tesla, plans to sell its new car computing brain with built-in cybersecurity, but some car buyers will have to pay to turn it on.

Qualcomm has provided cellular modem chips that allow vehicles to connect to the Internet, and now it has introduced a more comprehensive computing system that can manage in-car entertainment and help cars drive autonomously. For automakers and their partners, one of the positive factors is that it is easier to implement feature upgrades, such as unlocking a better sound system built into the car.

NXP is also developing a chip that will serve as a channel between cars and the cloud, helping automakers respond to the massive amounts of data that sensors and digital cockpits will generate. This data must be stored and managed, and that’s exactly what cloud computing providers like Amazon AWS do. AWS also announced a partnership with BlackBerry at CES to develop a new software platform for connected cars.

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