Digitalization is also changing the automotive industry. German manufacturers and suppliers are at the forefront of this development.
Recently we have been hearing more and more new names when people talk about automobile manufacturers. Apple is said to be working on an electric car that can drive itself. Google’s self-driving car is already on the streets of California for road tests. We are witnessing a breakthrough, an upheaval driven by innovative digital technology.
Should German automakers fear the new competition? Will they be left behind, as some in the media have predicted? It is true that there will be a massive change in, and rearrangement of, the automotive value chain. At the same time, the German automotive industry is in a particularly good position with regard to the technologies of the future.
Networked and automated
Two developments will shape mobility in the future. First, there is the increased networking of vehicles with each other, with other devices, and with the transportation infrastructure. Second, we are witnessing the progressive automation of driving functions and the development toward self-driving cars.
The German automotive industry is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is technically feasible: manufacturers invest billions of euros in research and development each year. Cars can already self-park or automatically maintain the correct distance to the vehicle in front. Soon there also will be additional highly automated features that take the burden off the driver: these reliably detect pedestrians on the street, show the duration of red and green traffic light phases, and warn of accident hazards in intersections.
Evolution instead of revolution
We believe in digitalization because it means safer, more efficient, and more comfortable driving for all of us. British researchers have calculated that one-fifth of the traffic jams in Germany could be avoided simply by implementing systematic networking. This could also save 233 million liters of fuel and 600,000 tons of CO2 per year. When vehicles warn of accident hazards or black ice, fewer accidents occur. And the more burdens automated functions take off our shoulders, the more valuable time we gain.
However, it will take some time before fully automated vehicles are driving on our roads. Rapid advances are being made, but progress can only continue step by step. The reason for this is that driver assistance systems must be one hundred percent reliable, and must not convey any sense of false security to drivers. This is what we are working on. We are also developing technical solutions that guarantee both the safety of drivers and the security of their data.