News & Views

WCX17 – SAE World Congress Calls for Connectivity

At the WCX17 event, all eyes were on technology and the disruption it’s causing within the mobility industry. The future of mobility is more than just manufacturing – it’s all about connectivity and customer experience.

Mobility. Autonomous vehicles. Ridesharing. Car sharing. Full autonomy.

These are just some of the buzzwords that echoed through the halls of Cobo Center during the SAE World Congress event in Detroit last week. This year’s event, also known as WCX17, brought together global suppliers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and industry thought leaders to discuss the future of engineering and mobility.

“Automotive companies must view the future as more than just a commodity-based manufacturing if they’re going to survive.”

The event proved that all eyes are on technology and the disruption it’s causing within the industry. With sessions such as, 5G – The Next Frontier and Data is the New Oil: Big Data in Automotive Mobility, it’s clear that traditional automotive companies must view the future as more than just commodity-based manufacturing if they’re going to survive. That may mean stepping out of their comfort zone into expanded product offerings and new business models that focus on the end customer.

I sat in an exclusive interview with former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and listened to his point of view on the future of the industry. He had an interesting take coming from a top position in our Federal government. He stressed the importance of the private sector helping lead the innovation charge and how government must work closely behind to help define regulations and laws.

The Evolution of Vehicle Demand

Foxx also discussed how vehicle demand will evolve moving forward and whether that will be led by businesses or consumers. He thinks we’ll see a shift in this pattern, which is being driven by the economic factors of owning a vehicle. As ridesharing and car sharing continue to gain popularity for a multitude of reasons, we’ll see more businesses drive demand in the segment, changing the industry dynamic.

The biggest uncertainty today is the timeline associated with new technologies finding their way to market. The opinion varies depending on who you ask. For example, ask a long time auto executive, and they’ll tell you it’s going to be 20+ years before a full autonomous vehicle is on the road. Counter that with the optimistic point of view, and they’ll tell you we’re 3-5 years out. Who is right? Only time will tell, but the arms race will continue to build momentum.

WCX17 delivered excitement and optimism for an industry going through accelerated change. The number of overseas attendees showed that the world’s eyes are on Detroit.

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