Apple and Google want their software to power the vehicles of the future, but many automakers aren’t keen on allowing Silicon Valley to encroach on their territory. The problem is, the automotive industry doesn’t have the ability to develop high-quality autonomous driving and infotainment systems on its own, whereas the technology industry does, which is why Apple and Google actually have the potential to threaten the dominance of established automakers. To combat this potential threat, BMW is planning some major corporate changes that it hopes will put it in a better position to develop its own smart cars, without having to rely on companies like Apple and Google.
German automaker BMW is planning a major corporate changes going forward, in an effort to build “the most intelligent car” it can, sensing impending competition from Apple, Google and others in Silicon Valley. Klaus Froehlich, a BMW board member who oversees the company’s research and development, spoke with Reuters at the Geneva auto show this week. He said BMW is working internally on the next evolution of the automotive business, hoping to ensure it doesn’t lose out to newcomers. Froehlich even used an analogy from the smartphone industry, where many companies are simply part of the massive supply chain for profitable handset makers like Apple. “Our task is to preserve our business model without surrendering it to an Internet player,” Froehlich said. “Otherwise we will end up as the Foxconn for a company like Apple, delivering only the metal bodies for them.” This isn’t the first time BMW has expressed caution about sharing information with companies like Apple, out of worry that it might effectively become just another supplier. However, technologies like self-driving systems might demand help from outside parties such as Apple and Google, which are more familiar with software.