DETROIT -- Detroit is willing to let Silicon Valley into the car, but it’s not ready to hand over the keys.
At a preview event here for the 2017 Technology in Motion conference -- co-hosted by Automotive News parent company Crain Communications -- automakers and suppliers said today that while the technology coming from the West Coast has been key to industry advancement, traditional companies still will control the fate of future vehicles.
When developing autonomous vehicles, Mike Ableson, vice president of strategy and global portfolio planning for General Motors, said automakers need to look at “the innovations coming out of Silicon Valley from Apple and Google and Samsung and put boundaries around that, not just for the OEM but also for the consumer. How far into the car do you let them come?”
Consumer electronics have been playing larger roles within the vehicle, from navigation to entertainment. However, Ableson said, they should complement rather than dictate self-driving vehicle design.
In the process of drawing these boundaries, Frank Weith, director of connected services at Volkswagen Group of America, said automakers need to ensure their identity isn’t lost with the incorporation of a wide variety of new technologies.
“We don’t want to be just a commodity, selling bulk vehicles to Google or Apple or Uber,” Weith said. “We want to be part of the consumer experience and keep our product up there.”
Bill Veenhuis, senior solutions architect at Nvidia Corp., said it’s possible to strike a balance between the two cultures, primarily by speeding up the pace of innovation in the automotive industry but giving new ideas more permanence than the short life cycles of consumer technology.
“It’s about forging Silicon in Detroit and creating technology that lasts,” he said in an interview with Automotive News.
Though automakers and suppliers see the need to limit the involvement of tech firms, there isn’t an immediate fear of being overtaken by them, primarily due to the challenges of mass-producing vehicles.
“At the end of the day, you have to build cars at rate,” said Lear Corp. CEO Matthew Simoncini. “It’s one thing to make a concept and sell 10,000 of them out of a mall; it’s another thing to actually go out there and make 250,000 vehicles.”