Automotive Industry | Part 2 of the Digitisation of Everything

Lachlan Hughes

Swell Asset Management

There is perhaps no better example of an industry undergoing digitisation than the automotive industry. The internal combustion engine is being supplanted by the battery powered motor, driverless cars technology is growing in sophistication and automotive workforces are becoming increasingly digital.

As cars become more autonomous, they draw upon each one of our technology accelerators.

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo has been developing fully autonomous vehicle technology for over a decade and is testing its own driverless taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona. While Waymo is not yet generating material amounts of revenue, given the size of the automotive industry and potential seismic shift autonomous vehicles will have, we believe it could be a significant driver of value creation for Alphabet in the years to come.

Microsoft's Connected Vehicle Platform has been developed to provide the global, hyper-scale cloud needed to support end-to-end connected vehicle solutions. It is working with a number of manufacturers to provide autonomous driving, navigation, telematics and prediction services and "over the air" updates.

Aside from driverless cars, regular car manufacturers are also feeling the force of digitisation. The average car now has 100 million lines of code which is equivalent to roughly 2 million pages of printed text. This number is expected to grow to as much as 1 billion lines of code as cars become more autonomous. Volkswagen considers the development of a software skilled workforce as a competitive edge in the industry.

As a result, software engineers now outnumber mechanical engineers in the industry 3 to 1. Volkswagen's team of software engineers will be more than 10,000 people by 2025.

Microsoft is providing the tools and services for the industry's digital workforce. It sells a suite of developer tools including Visual Studio, VS Code and Azure DevOps and also owns the world’s largest software development platform GitHub where a community of over 36 million developers come together to discover, share and build software.

As vehicle manufacturers automate their plants they are connecting machinery to the cloud to monitor performance and optimise production lines. The data collected is monitored and analysed using AI to predict issues such as necessary part replacement or the likelihood of unplanned downtime. Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft are providing the cloud infrastructure, AI and data management tools to assist.

Finally, car manufacturers are infusing AI into their in-car entertainment systems. GM has partnered with Amazon to build Alexa into all its new cars starting next year, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are currently available in over 500 different models.

Swell Asset Management

Lachlan is the founder and CIO of Swell Asset Management, a boutique investment manager specialising in global equities.

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