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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Self-Driving Cars by 2025?

- CEIBS 14th China Automotive Industry Forum 2016

October 29, 2016. Shanghai – How Big Data, cloud computing, and IoT (Internet of Things) are impacting the auto industry was the focus of discussions at CEIBS 14th China Automotive Industry Forum 2016 held today at the Shanghai Campus. The Forum was titled “The Future is Arriving: Connectivity and Automated Driving”.

“I think the question today is not whether the global automotive industry needs to transform, we’d better ask ourselves how fast this transformation is happening,” said President and CEO of BMW China, Olaf Kastner. According to Kastner, there are five major trends behind the auto industry’s current transformation, which are:

  • Sustainable production, which utilizes robots and Big Data in automobile design and manufacturing processes;

  • Digitalization, which leverages cloud computing and Big Data to connect automobiles to other things;

  • New consumer perspectives of the constantly “connected” millennial generation who will be the automobile customers in the near future;

  • Self-driving cars, which will redefine the automobile to make driving safer and reduce urban congestion; and

  • New energy, which could bring about a reduction in air pollution and other environmental issues caused by the auto industry.

Kastner said that traditional auto manufacturers should combine their advantages such as brand awareness, technical know-how, and innovations such as Industry 4.0, Big Data, cloud computing and the sharing economy mindset, in order to face the competition from internet players such as Apple, Google and China’s Alibaba, who are making pioneering advances in the arena of self-driving cars.

Executive Board member of Continental AG, and President and CEO of Continental China, Dr. Ralf Cramer spoke about the opportunities for self-driving cars in the China market. Cramer, whose company’s presence in China includes 26 manufacturing centres and around 2,000 production engineers, sees large potential in this market. “Germany, Japan and the US used to introduce technologies that had been developed in their domestic markets to China, but now, we see more and more technologies originate from China rather than Frankfurt,” said Cramer. “Plus, Chinese drivers hold far more open and optimistic attitudes towards automated driving than those in Germany, the US and Japan. According to our statistics, about 65% of drivers surveyed think automated driving will be a part of their daily lives in 10 to 15 years.” He estimated that the auto industry will embrace “total humanless driving” by 2025. “It won’t change drastically, but little by little we are moving forward.”

Attendees also heard insights on related regulatory issues from government officials and industry leaders. Executive Vice Chairman of the China Association of Automobile Manufactures Dong Yang thinks the transformation of the automobile industry presents more opportunities than challenges to policy makers. “The transformation of the automobile industry will accelerate the convergence of traditional manufacturing and the new technologies, which is in line with China’s ‘Internet Plus’ strategy and supply-side reforms,” said Dong. “We should seize the trend and upgrade the traditional [automobile] industry.”

Secretary General of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association Erik Jonnaert noted that while new technologies such as Big Data can be useful in pushing forward innovations that make cars more intelligent and connected, they also provoke concerns about privacy and security. While governments must adapt their existing legal and regulatory frameworks to these new technologies, it is not simply a legislative issue but one that requires international and cross-sector cooperation.

Today’s Forum was co-organized by CEIBS, Association des Constructeurs Européens Automobiles (ACEA), and the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), and it was hosted by CEIBS Alumni Auto Association (CAAA).