5 Technology Trends that Disrupted the Auto Industry

Since Henry Ford first introduced the assembly line in 1913 to Toyota’s Just In Time process that built upon it, the auto manufacturing industry has been a frontrunner in technological advancements. The auto industry has been so successful in fact, that many of their innovations and techniques have been adopted by businesses as far reaching as restaurants to life coaches.

What this means for auto manufacturers, however, is that no place is the idea “innovate or die”truer than in the auto industry. Here are 5 key innovations that have disrupted the auto industry so strongly that those who have not implemented them may soon find themselves being left in a trail of dust.

1. Connectivity and Autonomous Tech

With tech giants ranging from Apple to Google racing to perfect self-driving cars, industry dominance of the future may have less to do with automotive innovations and more to do with what tech giant they are able to partner with.

This race is not a new one, however, and dominance of the future may be determined by alliances that have already been formed. Car manufacturers backing Apple have generally come equipped with iCar play for some time, while car manufacturers backing Google will offer Android Auto as a native feature. The car manufacturer who has long backed the eventual winner will most likely also reap the biggest rewards.

2. New Mobility Services will Slow the Growth of Global Sales

With ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft on the rise globally, private ownership of cars is likely to see a significant downturn. Conversely, however, ride-sharing vehicles will need to be replaced more often thanks to additional usage which creates a higher level of wear and tear. While this may result in a slight slowdown in sales growth, automotive sales are still anticipated to increase at a rate of 2% per year rather than the 3.6% increases the industry has experienced in the last 5 years. The car manufacturers most likely to come out on top in this race are companies like VW and Fiat that have focused on offering service-oriented transit solutions.

3. Increased Need for Computer Scientists and Engineers

With the automotive manufacturing process now being nearly 75% automated, the focus has shifted from perfecting the manufacturing process to innovation in connectivity. The cutting-edge automotive advancements of the future are unlikely to be the next seatbelt, airbag, windshield wiper or engine, but rather self-diagnosing components.

When something goes wrong with a car in the future, rather than having to take it to a mechanic and blindly trust they know what they are doing, the car will be able to tell the owner directly what is wrong with it. This will require more computer engineers than mechanical ones.

4. Smart Factories

A recent Gartner report estimates that by 2020, there will be upwards of 20 billion connected devices. Those 20 billion devices won’t just be talking to us, they will also be talking to each other. Dealerships around the world can send real-time inventory information directly to the factory where it can be analyzed and processed by advanced AI that can determine production needs.

AI can also analyze other factors such as component shipments or delays and even real-life factors that may have an impact on production. A civil uprising in a small town in Brazil may not draw the slightest attention of auto manufacturers in the US. If that small town in Brazil also happens to be one of the largest exporters of manganese, however, it can have serious repercussions to the auto industry.

A decrease in manganese production can also lead to a decrease in critical components like batteries, paint, and the manganese oxide coating that helps prevent corrosion and rust. A human might not recognize this until their suppliers can’t meet demand, but AI can recognize the potential ramifications the second the uprising hits the news in Brazil.

5. Sales Process Shifts Online

Online shopping is clearly nothing new, but it also has its limitations. When it comes to certain items like clothing and even electronics, most people still prefer to try before they buy. This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t often still end up purchasing online, it just means they still want to look, see, touch, feel or try on certain things before purchasing. Until now, cars have certainly topped this list.

With the rise of AR and VR, however, consumers may soon have the best of both worlds. Audi has already developed a digital showroom that allows consumers to create a full-scale virtual vehicle using real-time 3-D rendering technology. Most consumers already use a significant number of online resources to influence their car buying decisions, but 75% of car shoppers now say that they would consider making an entire car purchase online.

Rather than being sprawling facilities covering several acres of available inventory, car dealerships of the future may be no larger than today’s convenience store. A place to simply pick up your car rather than purchase it.

Like almost every other industry on the planet, the future belongs to those who adopt the right tech at the right time. Adopt too early and you may find yourself without a market, adapt too late and you may find yourself being left in a trail of dust. The most successful businesses will be those that test the waters carefully and jump early but wisely.


Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. She wrote an intriguing guide on car production lines where she gives a great overview of the history, all the way to the latest developments. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.

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