A great upheaval is taking place in the global auto industry. Not just because the vehicles, parts, technologies and key players are changing, but also because those players are no longer certain about who will do what in the future.
Unprecedented opportunities are beckoning. But the unanswered question is, whose opportunities are they?
Picture a "smart city" in 2030, with a transportation grid that manages autonomous cars, steers driverless robotaxis and keeps passengers and pedestrians safe.
Who will manage the sensors, connectivity and data centers of that grid? Who will design the artificial intelligence that an automated car needs to choose its proper route? And who will design made-to-order interiors for robotaxi fleets owned by Uber, Lyft or China's Didi Chuxing?
The answers are up for grabs.
Today, smart transportation is a jigsaw puzzle beyond the expertise of any one car maker. And in response, over the coming decade, auto makers likely will form alliances with key technology suppliers to guarantee access to software, computer chips and sensors.
That trend already has begun.
BMW has partnered with Intel and Delphi to develop a self-driving fleet by 2021. Volvo is partnering with safety supplier Autoliv and Nvidia, while Toyota has teamed up with chip maker Renesas and Denso.
That's certainly only the beginning.
Robotaxi services under development by Uber, Lyft and Didi Chuxing may someday buy made-to-order interiors from key seat makers such as Adient and Faurecia. Technological smart cities will hire mega-suppliers such as Bosch to manage their parking garages, data centers and traffic signals.
Here's how three companies—Intel, Adient and Bosch—are preparing for this era.
The car ads of 2030 won't promote horsepower. More likely, they will brag about the computing power of processors with names such as Xeon, Snapdragon and Drive PX.
The tech companies that make those chips—Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia—enjoy economies of scale that are bigger than the auto industry. The chip business spans consumer electronics, transportation and anything else that requires artificial intelligence. In Silicon Valley, autos are just another market segment.