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Guillaume RIO
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The giants of microprocessors and software to attack the car market.

Several years ago, Elon Musk predicted that the car would be just an iPad on 4 wheels, thus shaping the beginnings of a radical transformation of the automotive world. Ford announced in early September that it had recruited Doug Field, the boss of “Titan”, Apple’s autonomous car project. The recruitment of this important figure in technology, who has chained senior positions at Tesla, Google or Apple proves that software has indeed become the future bastion of the automotive sector.

The Fact

Qualcomm, global microprocessor giant, bet more than 4.6 billion in mid-July on driver assistance technologies in wanting to buy Swedish Veoneer. In 2017, Intel bought Mobileye, an Israeli specialist in sensors and software for smart cars known as Adas (“advanced driver-assistance systems”) for $ 15.3 billion. For its part, the other giant in the sector, Nvidia has internally developed a technology dedicated to autonomous cars called “Xavier”.


All these actors want to become the electronic matrix, software and service-based car. In increasingly autonomous, electric and connected vehicles, the value of electronics is set to explode in the years to come. During the Websummit, the German giant Bosch revealed that in 2010 a vehicle required 10 million lines of code, 100 million today and 500 million for an autonomous vehicle. The other factor to consider is that giants such as Apple, Huawei and Google want to become autonomous in markets IOT creating their own chips. However, these software giants are also showing their ambitions in the automotive market.


If the announcement of the Apple Car is still not relevant, it is the Chinese giant Huawei which revealed in mid-April its first electric car, the Arcfox Alpha S, a model which will be produced in collaboration with the Chinese group Beijing Automobile Industry Co (BAIC).


This vehicle will include a Kirin 990A chip, which is found in the latest Huawei smartphones (Mate 30 and P40) as well as a touchscreen that works on the HarmonyOS platform launched by Huawei. The group will invest more than $ 1 billion in self-driving cars. Huawei has already established partnerships with three Chinese manufacturers: BAIC, Chongqing Chang’an and Guangzhou Automobile. Co-designed vehicles will be sold under a separate brand and will have a small Huawei logo next to the manufacturer’s logo.

A year earlier, it was Sony that launched the Vision S, an autonomous electric berline, including all the latest Sony technologies and without any partnership with any car manufacturer.

At the same time, Alibaba announced the creation of a car brand with SAIC Motors, the largest automaker in China. Together, the two partners founded IM Motors (called Zhiji Motors in China), a brand of high-end electric smart cars. IM Motors benefits from Alibaba’s AliOS and Alibaba Cloud Operating System to optimize its cars in a connected ecosystem.

Also in China, Xiaomi, the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, which with 17% of the market exceeds Apple in volume (14%) and closely follows the Korean Samsung (19%) has just announced its entry into the world of automobile. The global IOT giant has just formalized the existence of the Xiaomi Automobile brand. The company has pledged to invest at least $ 10 billion over the next ten years in the new entity.

On the US side, Amazon has integrated its Alexa voice control system and its Amazon Pay payment system by increasing partnerships with traditional car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and Toyota.

In the world of autonomous vehicles, Amazon has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 2 years in Aurora, a young start-up specializing in autonomous driving software. In a second step, the American giant bought Zoox for $ 1.2 billion, an American start-up specializing in autonomous vehicles. Zoox has just presented and launched its new robotaxis prototype in San Francisco.


Since its creation 6 years ago, Alphabet subsidiary Waymo has had the largest fleet of autonomous taxis (nearly 600 cars), while manufacturing its own cameras, lidars and radars, which ensures optimal integration between sensors and software. As a result, for many experts, Waymo is one step ahead of its competitors.

If before, the automotive world was simple, very pyramidal or the manufacturer was the principal who worked with suppliers. Today, with the revolution in connectivity (C-V2X or “Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything), autonomous cars and mobility services, partitions are breaking down and it is impossible for a manufacturer to control everything. The unbridled “softwarization” brings its cohort of new players and adds even more uncertainty in this sector.

Guillaume RIO
Specialist of BATX & GAFA ecosystems and passionate about China, Guillaume analyzes the impact of new technologies on our lives.
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