“Data is the new oil,” famously proclaimed Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. General Motors CEO Mary Barra has said that the automobile industry will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50. There are several factors driving the technological revolution creating the cars of the future, but none more powerful than the collaboration between Israel and Silicon Valley.
If Henry Ford were to return today and open the hood of an F-150, much of it would look quite familiar to him. For all the ways in which technology has transformed our lives in the last century, cars haven’t changed much. Today’s engines are more powerful, but not much more fuel-efficient. Today’s roads are wider, but not less congested. In fact, it takes longer to travel 10k through the streets of London or New York today by car that it did 100 years ago by horse. And today’s vehicles are safer – but more than a million people still die every year on the world’s roads and highways.
Ford famously said that if he had asked consumers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse. Apart from the visionaries, none of us know what we want or need until someone goes ahead and invents it. I never knew I needed an Apple Watch until I saw one, and now I wonder how I lived without it!
Nearly 110 years after the introduction of the Model T, the mode of transport by which people and goods move over land is being revolutionised.
The technology is here, nearly perfected and soon to be market-ready. Yes, regulation is holding it back and politicians are rightly cautious, but the tech is 90% of there. As sensors, software and processing power all continue to improve, the path seems clear to a world where we can leave all the driving to machines.
This next generation of cars, unlike in Henry Ford’s time, are not going to be created in regional hubs with locally produced supply chains, but though an international network of participants. This is where Israel’s excellent relationship with Silicon Valley really comes into its own. Technology is a global collaborative endeavor, where big companies like Intel need to acquire the best and newest technology, and the entrepreneurs behind the innovations need the capital that can enable their ideas to become fully commercialised
And so Israel, without the natural resources of its neighbours, or the industrial capacity of the OECD nations, finds itself at the centre of what many see as the next great disruption.
The end result of this burst of innovation is not just about design and consumer choice. It is about improving lives, sustainability and affordability. For sure, many people are threatened by this next wave of automation and ensuring the regulation keeps pace with the technology will be a challenge. However, the societal benefits of avoiding traffic congestion, ending oil dependency, eradicating environmentally poisonous emissions, reducing costs and even saving lives makes an unarguable case for the merits of progress.
The digitalisation of transportation is upon us – a world in which we won’t buy cars, but we will buy miles. And we will enjoy those miles in the comfort of safe, convenient, versatile and very low-cost fleets of shared, autonomous, connected electric vehicles. Most of the foundational technologies for this future are in Silicon Valley and in Israel. And the race is on – from car makers like GM and Daimler – to tech companies like Intel and Google – to put the pieces of the puzzle together to bring this new world to life.