New approach to collaboration needed for auto innovation, panel says

From left: Helmut Matschi, board member, interior division, at German supplier Continental; Rachel Nguyen, director of global upsteam planning for Nissan, and Greg Ross, director for product strategy and infotainment at General Motors' Global Connected Consumer group, speak with Automotive News' J Ferron. Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS

DETROIT -- Automakers need to revamp their decades-old relationships with suppliers and develop more collaborative relationships in order to quickly add new functionality to connected cars, a panel on vehicle technology and innovation agreed today at the Automotive News World Congress.

The number of connected cars on the road globally is expected to grow from 46 million today to 210 million by the end of 2016, said Helmut Matschi, board member, interior division, at German supplier Continental AG.

The race is on for automakers to identify and incorporate the features customers want in their connected cars, and how to roll them out quickly, such as apps that can locate parking spaces in cities, and help deliver real-time information that can reduce congestion.

The ease at which innovations from suppliers and app developers get into vehicles is going to be a competitive advantage, said Greg Ross, director of product strategy and infotainment, GM Global Connected Consumer group.

Connected cars and self-driving vehicles dominated the panel's discussion.

Young drivers who view vehicles more as an appliance than transportation will drive innovation going forward.

"Studies clearly show they [young drivers] are not clearly as in love with their vehicles as previous generations. They see electric devices as a means to be creative. The issue for us is how do we get them to fall in love with vehicles? How do we connect with young buyers?"

Continental began working on self-driving cars nearly 40 years ago. Matschi showed a film of Continental engineers testing an automated Mercedes sedan on a test track in 1969.

He said Continental believes the technology could be ready by 2025.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@autonews.com