Every time you turn around these days it seems there’s another tech company dipping its toes in automotive waters so to speak. What’s driving this interest in the automotive industry for tech companies? Well, for one thing, our cars have transformed from being simply vehicles to drive us from point A to point B to full mobile entertainment systems that are basically extensions of our homes.
There’s a lot of natural crossover between these two different industries, but that’s not the only thing that’s caught the attention of major tech companies when it comes to the automotive industry. The rise of driverless car technology has also created a natural marriage between these two industries.
Apple may be the latest company looking to gain a foothold in the automotive industry with its rumoured takeover interest in McLaren, but there are all kinds of examples of tech companies getting involved in the automotive industry so let’s take a closer look.
While Apple has been dabbling its feet in automotive technology for a while now their interest in the sector has been largely a result of the growing interest in driverless car technology so it’s hard to see why they would be interested in McLaren – that is unless you take a closer look at some of McLaren’s interests. There’s actually an arm of McLaren called McLaren Applied Technologies which is largely involved in providing seamless hardware and software solutions in difficult situations.
There’s a good chance it’s this technology arm of McLaren that Apple’s actually interested in and that would seem to be a natural fit with Apple’s interest in driverless car technology. It’s certainly not a done deal by any means, but it will be interesting to see how this story develops over the next couple of months.
Google’s interest in a marriage of its technology interests and a new automotive sector has been developing steadily over the last few years. In fact, Google has been one of the driving forces behind the growth in driverless car technology. Their test vehicles are fairly common on the streets of California and are beginning to expand into other states such as Arizona and Washington.
For those that may be thinking Google’s interest in this technology is simply a novelty guess again – they recently partnered with automotive giant Fiat to expand their test fleet and attempt to bring this technology into the mainstream.
Tesla is another example of a tech giant getting involved in the automotive industry. You might be thinking to yourself hang on a second Tesla is a car company, but its founder, Elon Musk, was actually one of the co-founders of PayPal a major Internet technology pioneer which is where Mr. Musk developed his fortune. This company is arguably the leader in the manufacture of electric cars and has a vested interest in the development of driverless cars as well.
While Baidu may not be a household name to many of us they’re a search engine giant in the Asian world. Not to be outdone by their western counterparts the company partnered with the BMW in 2014 to produce a semiautonomous car prototype. They’ve had a great deal of success as well with a test car that drove nearly 20 miles through Beijing autonomously. They have the ambitious goal of developing a mass-produced autonomous vehicle within the next five years.
Microsoft seemed to have lost its edge in the technology field for a while, but with the success of such ventures as Microsoft Surface they’ve mounted a bit of a comeback and are starting to expand their interests again. They recently formed a partnership with Volvo to begin collaboration in the autonomous car sector and it’s believed they’re looking to use their HoloLens technology to expand the possibilities of what can be achieved with driverless car technology.
It’s a Brave New World
It will be interesting to see whether these ventures by technology companies into the automotive sector are simply a passing phase or long-term strategies – only time will tell. It seems very likely though that their involvement will continue for the long-term and we are most likely in for some exciting times ahead.