If you buy a conventional car these days, you may rest assured that nothing basic will change in your automobile for, let's say, the next seven years, until you, statistically, buy a new one. In the not too distant future, however, you may have to be prepared for your good old vehicle to get an overhaul "every three months," says Claus Gruber, an expert for automotive software at the Strategy& consultancy.
The automobile of the future would be battery-powered, linked to networks, and smart in terms of automated driving, the study found. And coupled with that are on-board digital entertainment and shared-mobility features that will also require powerful computing technology.
Electronic devices and built-in software are, of course, nothing new to at least the most modern generation of cars. But still, they are rather patchwork solutions, as they independently monitor engine performance and air conditioning or make sure the window opens when you press the button. In future cars, those tasks are to be centrally processed via a so-called domain controller — a central computer that is powerful enough to oversee all the different devices and their functioning. "The central computer will become the 'brain' of the car as it's in charge of operating and controlling everything," says Gruber, adding that its software will be updated "over the air" via 5G mobile networks, as is the case with smartphones.
Old vs. New automobile industry
The race to create a software standard for the auto industry is already in full swing, with those companies crossing the finishing line first expected to reap huge profits, likely in the range of the 50% margins usually garnered by Big Tech companies. US electric car pioneer Tesla, for example, has announced it will license its AutoPilot software used for semi-autonomous driving and is mulling selling it to rival carmakers. The move may have contributed to Tesla's unprecedented surge in stock market capitalization recently, which has made it worth around $640 billion (€538 billion) in February — three times the combined market cap of Germany's Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen.