From digital hype to post-digital hope
Digital technologies of the past decade allowed automakers and suppliers to double down on innovation and kick their transition from vehicle manufacturers to technology companies into high gear. Today, industry leaders are embracing a new set of “post-digital” technologies—namely Distributed Ledger, AI, Extended Reality and Quantum Computing (or DARQ)—as catalysts for change.
Beyond enabling operational and design improvements, these new technologies are allowing automotive manufacturers to understand consumers and markets—and pursue relevant opportunities—as never before. This is critical in the post-digital era, where demand is communicated instantly, and gratification is expected immediately. The dual objective for speed and hyper-personalization underpins the current flurry of Mobility-as-a-Service (MAAS) activities. Traditional OEMs, along with—and often in collaboration with—new automakers, digital natives and technology giants are looking to be first to market.
Despite concerted efforts to commercialize MaaS solutions and self-driving vehicles, profitability remains elusive. The fact that new mobility services are taking longer than expected to “get up to speed” poses an existential crisis for digital startups. For traditional automakers and suppliers, it’s a different story.
Unlike their digital-native competitors, they have their original business models to fall back on—as well expertise in mass production, powerful distribution and sales networks, strong brands and, in many cases, a loyal customer following. The fact that they have built-in advantages does not mean, however, that they should stop plowing ahead with their MaaS and autonomous driving programs. With their foot on the gas, they will define—or redefine—their role in the future of transportation.
In the driver’s seat
In the post-digital era, traditional automotive industry players will benefit from a new technology framework that can guide and accelerate their forward momentum. This framework comprises three core elements:
- New technologies. Leaders need to continually integrate new technologies into the business. AI, Extended Reality solutions, 3D Printing and Distributed Ledgers are just some of the new technologies being used to reinvent business value chains and customer experiences. In many cases, the efficiencies or new revenue streams enabled by these technologies deliver a quick return on investment, which can fund further growth.
- A new technology strategy and operating model geared for innovation. In the post-digital world, a company’s technology strategy and business strategy must be woven together to shape a vision for the future. Driven by the CEO, this combined strategy must permeate the organization. An environment of experimentation, a culture of collaboration, agile methods, lean operations, new enterprise architectures and design thinking all play a role. So does a new focus on ecosystems and new roles and skills of a human+ workforce.
- A future-ready technology foundation. Automotive manufacturers and suppliers will need to continually embrace emerging technologies and decouple core architectures to unlock new value. Winning players will understand the data at their disposal, as well as the potential uses of that data, to open new opportunities. A new approach to cyber-security will also be a critical component of a future-ready technology foundation. In the post-digital world, in which ecosystem partnerships and data-sharing become more common, the risks of hacking rise exponentially. Securing ecosystems must become a priority.
The road ahead
New technologies are ushering in a new era of mobility. It’s an era of massive expectations. An era of momentary markets and global opportunity. An era characterized by companies growing and transforming their core businesses, while also pivoting to new opportunities. As the next wave of MaaS and self-driving programs advance, forward-thinking automotive manufacturers will not sit idly by. They will use this time to set their course.