Cars, and especially electric cars, are becoming true computers on wheels. The technology that manufacturers need to be able to offer a product that is up to the task requires a million-dollar investment to become a reality. This situation has opened the eyes of technology companies that have seen in the electric and autonomous car a business opportunity that they do not want to miss. For this reason, the most important are preparing to launch their own electric cars on the market accompanied by all the technology they need.
Building an electric car is much easier than a combustion car. The number of components is much lower as well as being inherently simpler. The most important difference is that they need much more powerful software to manage them, which becomes even more complicated when autonomous driving systems are added.
Technology companies themselves are investing significant sums in R&D programs related to the automotive industry. They are unwilling to develop the software and services that are supposed to power cars built by others. While building the entire vehicle at their own plant can be complex, they will dictate their specifications to a third party who will build it to order, implementing the software they have created.
Their biggest advantage is the resources they have to develop the technologies that traditional manufacturers cannot design on their own. But on the other hand, tech companies have little or no experience with the needs and processes involved in producing an electric car.
Apple is undoubtedly the technology company that generates the most interest due to its capacity for innovation. The iPhone maker is already working on the Apple Car, and according to all the rumours, fueled by people familiar with the matter, it should arrive in 2025 at the earliest.
Codenamed Project Titan, the Apple Car is a technology-focused autonomous electric vehicle. But Apple is now struggling to find a company to assemble it. A complex search that, after unsuccessful talks with a number of traditional automakers, including Hyundai, has changed course. The Cupertino firm is now seeking a deal with a contract manufacturer. The latest rumors indicate that a joint venture between Magna and LG could eventually build the Apple Car, launching a first prototype in 2023.
Apple Car concept .
To date, Apple has never confirmed this project, but on the other hand, it is assured that its CEO, Tim Cook, considers it a top priority product. In other words, while there is a possibility that Apple will give up on the idea overnight, it is highly unlikely that this will ever happen.
The Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi has always wanted to emulate Apple products, especially when it comes to mobile telephony, and also intends to compete strongly in the automobile business. Unlike the American company, Xiaomi has confirmed its intentions and wants to invest no less than 10,000 million dollars in a first electric car that will hit the market in 2024.
It will also bet heavily on the technology embedded inside. In your favor is the many options available in your country for a manufacturer there to assemble your electric car according to your specifications. As Apple looks for a partner in the industry, Xiaomi benefits from its strong ties with Chinese automakers, who are willing to provide not only the know-how to make it happen, but also the resources and production capacity that the market would need.
Xiaomi electric car concept .
The first prototype of Xiaomi’s electric car will probably be presented in 2022 or 2023, and the production model will be launched in 2024. Unlike Apple, its potential market is much larger since it is expected to be considerably cheaper than the Apple Car .
While Apple and Xiaomi are trying to build their own electric cars, Huawei is taking a different approach. First of all, it is the one that the company has already confirmed. You’ll be developing the software and services for next-generation cars from other manufacturers, so at first glance you’re not necessarily interested in building your own vehicle.
The company has already worked with some Chinese automakers on such projects. Proof of this is the recently launched Aito M5 managed by Huawei’s Harmony operating system and technology developed by the company.
Aito M5, with Huawei operating system.
Second, rumors indicate that Huawei is not considering developing a self-made vehicle to compete against Apple Car. The company has a big problem with the sanctions announced in May 2019 by the United States. Its imposition has reduced the international drive for its electric car to be sold beyond its borders.
The Japanese company Sony joins Xiaomi in the group of technology firms that have already confirmed their intention to expand into the automotive industry. Izumi Kawanishi, currently responsible for Sony’s AI Robotics division, has been appointed as the future director of Sony Mobility, which will come into operation in March 2022. The Japanese company thus wants to get ahead of other technology companies such as Apple or Xiaomi, being the first to offer an electric car that transforms this means of transport into a place of entertainment or a mobile office. Its objective is to develop disruptive technologies in the field of mobility, with priority in autonomous driving, which is joined by the acquisition and management of data (big data), connectivity, artificial intelligence, robotics and other disciplines that do not they are directly related to the automobile industry as it is known today.
Sony Vision-S and Vision-S 02 (grey).
On the other hand, it is facing the same obstacle as Apple, as it is trying to find a partner to manufacture its vehicle. A task that will be quite a challenge, especially since it is unlikely that Sony will end up working with a traditional car manufacturer. Sony has already unveiled two concept electric vehicles. The first, the Vision-S 01, was presented at the CES in Las Vegas in 2020. Its successor, the Vision-S 02, made its appearance at the recently held CES 2022, coinciding with the announcement of the creation of the new division of Sony dedicated to mobility. Both concepts were built in their own facilities by a company that already has experience in the manufacture of electric cars (it is not for nothing that it manufactures the Jaguar I-Pace and works for BMW, Mercedes Benz or Toyota): the Austrian Magna Steyr. Among the component suppliers that have also collaborated in the development of Sony’s electric car are Bosch, Valeo and Almotive.
In this scenario, it was to be expected that Google would have something to say and would find itself carrying out a strategy similar to the rest of the technology companies. However, the search giant wants to keep what it does best. So the company is sticking with services and hoping its car operating system, Android Automotive, will end up making its way to most models on the market. Its winning card is the deep integration of Google services that offers so many benefits to the American company.
Android Automotive, Google’s commitment to the automotive industry.