When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Germany

Google Crashes Frankfurt Auto Show, Fuels German Carmakers' Tech Fears

Google is at the Frankfurt auto fair for the first time. What does this mean for German car industry? Will the Silicon Valley giant position itself as a partner or competitor?

Smartwatch-assisted parking, a taste of IT/auto industry collaboration
Smartwatch-assisted parking, a taste of IT/auto industry collaboration
Thomas Fromm

FRANKFURT — For some time, only a few got to come, the rest stayed home: Automotive executives went to the massive CES electronics trade fair in Las Vegas in order to discuss their cars with experts in high-tech industries. Managers meeting nerds — car fanatics and geeks, two worlds. But considering the fact that cars are now becoming computers on wheels, paying the "New World" a visit seemed to be a smart move, for Old World managers. Visits in the other direction, from Silicon Valley to the heart of European industry, were by contrast rather rare.

This is now changing, and it is making people in the old world anxious.

This week the IAA automobile show kicks off in Frankfurt, and they'll all be there — first and foremost, Google. They'll set up camp in hall 3.1. for a dedicated series of events, under the motto: "New Mobility World."

"It's about the future," says Daimler's CEO Dieter Zetsche. "We are facing the reinvention of the automobile." One big question that looms: Who invents what here?

Google and Apple are working on self-driving cars, the car-hire service and platform Uber is also studying how cars can behave like robots. And traditional car companies? For the moment, they are still in control — but for how long?

Trying to keep the newbies in check, BMW, Daimler and Audi are currently finalizing the purchase of Nokia's navigation service "Here," for 2.5 billion euros. Driverless cars can't make it onto the street without high-precision maps and special electronics assemblies. Within 20 years, this should all be part of our day-to-day life.

IT wants a piece of the market

Many remain skeptical. They don't want machines to take control. They fear hackers manipulating their cars, and the privacy of their journey data being compromised. But at the same time, the industry wants to grow, and the information technology (IT) sector can be the new petrol for that growth.

With the billions at stake in the car market, the IT industry also sees a huge opportunity. But for the moment, traditional car makers are still having a hard time evaluating the true intentions of their new friends (or enemies): Will the IT companies remain suppliers, with the goal that their software becomes one component of the cars' overall operating systems? Or will they turn into cut-throat competitors, building their own automobiles?

Today, the IT folks aren't capable of creating cars with the looks of a Porsche 911. Not yet. But they are getting ready. Apple is recruiting inside the auto industry. Earlier this year they pursued Mercedes‘ lead U.S.-based developer. And more generally, there is movement of automotive suppliers' engineers toward Silicon Valley. Money is no object: For a recruit, Apple has reportedly offered signing bonuses of $250,000 and a pay raise of 60% to experts of the pioneer of electric cars Tesla.

Apple's code name for its car strategy is "Project Titan." It seems possible that the same people who have been building cars for decades will now do so for Google and Apple. Lately, BMW was rumored to be building the iCar — based on the plans of their own electric compact car i3, that the Americans have apparently shown an interest in. Even Daimler's CEO Zetsche leaves the door open to collaboration with IT companies.

But some experts are cautioning automakers. "This adds up to an assault on car manufacturers‘ business model. If I were them, I wouldn't go for a strategy of embracing them," says Klaus Schmitz from consulting firm Arthur D. Little. "There's a significant risk for car manufacturers of being, with time, reduced to simple suppliers."

Will BMW, Daimler and Audi be reduced to commissioned production, much like the Chinese company Foxconn assembling the pieces for Apple's iPhone? That's precisely the scenario that the big car companies are trying to avoid.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Ideas

A Brief History Of Patriarchy — And How To Topple It

Many people assume the patriarchy has always been there, but how did it really originate? History shows us that there can be another way.

Women protest on International Women's Day in London in 2022

Ruth Mace*

The patriarchy, having been somewhat in retreat in parts of the world, is back in our faces. In Afghanistan, the Taliban once again prowl the streets more concerned with keeping women at home and in strict dress code than with the impending collapse of the country into famine.

And on another continent, parts of the U.S. are legislating to ensure that women can no longer have a legal abortion. In both cases, lurking patriarchal beliefs were allowed to reemerge when political leadership failed. We have an eerie feeling of travelling back through time. But how long has patriarchy dominated our societies?

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ