Car as a commodity: from Hummers to Ho-Hum

January 04, 2016 // By Junko Yoshida
Is Google threatening to homogenize cars into oblivion as Microsoft/Intel did with PCs and Google itself did with its Android smartphones?

Don't tell me you haven’t seen this movie before.

The Wintel PC platform, since the late 1990s, has given birth to a slew of standard PCs that feature almost identical functions and low, low price tags.

Lately, smartphones have followed the path already well-traveled by PCs.

With Google's Android now widely available, smartphones are fast becoming a commodity. We’re seeing a big change from 8 years ago, when Apple wowed the world with its first iPhone.

The big question is, will automotive be next?

My prediction is yes. It's inevitable.

The important point in this question, however, isn't either "if" or "when" this will happen. Rather, how will the advent of "more standardized and commoditized cars" unfold. A lot of technology companies’ fortunes are riding on the answer.

We're already seeing signs of the transition.

Consider Tesla. Although its cars are nowhere near commodity status, Tesla has shown others how to build a "PC car."

Google is talking to Ford Motors about contract manufacturing of Google Cars.

A growing number of automotive startups are betting the future on the development of a data-driven autonomous car based on a powerful integrated CPU.

So, what's the driving force behind all these changes in the automotive industry?

Is it the techno-futuristic dream of the self-driving car? Is it a new business for cars as a service industry? Is it the fact that algorithms that are becoming increasingly credible in the area of deep learning and artificial intelligence — critical for safety and driving autonomous cars forward? Or it is the environmentally driven shift from internal combustion to electrification?