As the car Industry rushes headlong towards a transport revolution, the inaugural Shift Automotive looked at how to address the blurring of lines between two industries

The automotive Industry is rapidly changing, as vehicles will soon become almost unrecognisable from what we see today. We’re getting used to cars being able to assist the driver more and more, and in the near future, cars will be able drive themselves without any human input. But what has that got to do with IFA, and the electronics industry? Simple, as the motor industry is evolving away from the traditional image we have of a car, we’re seeing a blurring of the boundaries between the two industries.

That’s why this year, IFA held the inaugural Shift automotive convention in Berlin, run in conjunction with the Geneva Motor Show. Speeches and workshops over two days sparked debate and presented ideas for the future of how both industries can increasingly work together and examine the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

John Schoenbeck, the Director of Strategic Partnering of Designworks at the BMW Group, who made the first keynote speech at Shift Automotive, believes this is a step in the right direction. “I think it’s an important signal that the automotive industry is represented at IFA for the first time, we are talking together, we have presentations together, then I think we can play an important role to build the collaboration between the automotive industries and the industries here, in regards to smart home appliances and consumer electronics.”

The automotive industry comes from a very different starting point of heavy industry, where advances can sometimes take years to feed through to the final production line. However, in the near future, things looks set to take a major leap forward. The combination of increased technology within vehicles means that we are now on the brink of what could become a transport revolution. “In the past years we were really all about hardware and driving platforms, but as more and more services are placed on to our platforms we need to rethink that, because I think that BMW and other car manufacturers, are not car manufacturers anymore but mobility providers,” said Schoenbeck.


In the next few years we will have to re-evaluate the way we live with cars within society, and even what we consider to be a car, as they evolve very quickly away from where we are today. Schoenbeck added: “I think it will change how people will look at cars and how people will use cars, because in the past a car was something very emotional that you bought and owned. In the future the car will be more like a digital device that you might change more frequently and where the emotional attachment of the customer is not as strong as it used to be, so yes, I think the use of the car will change. We foresee in the future when automated driving and connected driving is basically provided to the masses, to everyone, we will not talk about cars anymore but about people movers that really do function as almost a moving lifestyle space.”

As the industry moves towards autonomous vehicles, Schoenbeck’s role as Director of Strategic Partnering is all about creating new links and dialogue with electrical companies where there could be a potential crossover as the industry moves towards driverless vehicles “autonomous driving will basically change everything with regards to the automotive industry, because the car will no longer be a vehicle that takes youfromAtoB, but it will be a lifestyle space where you could be productive, or you could entertain yourself, and therefore the car will become a part of the target of the destination you want to reach.”

He added: “A car will always be its own platform, but we do not see the car in the centre of our universe any more, but literally as a module of the inter mobility system, and therefore we need to rethink, we need to sneak into other use cases, we need to know what customers do on a complete journey during their day, to understand what their needs are, not only within the automobile itself, but within their everyday lives.”

The blurring of the lines between the automotive companies and the tech companies was very apparent at Panasonic’s press conference earlier in the week at IFA. Panasonic announced they had started testing an autonomous electric commuter vehicle on the road in Japan.

Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic Europe explained: “We see autonomous driving development coming in three steps. The first step is partial autonomous driving, (assisted driving that we have today) this will be followed by conditional autonomous driving, before we see fully automated driving becoming a reality from around 2030. To make this happen we can’t just focus on the technology in the car, it is critical to establish an organised road infrastructure alongside the development of new technologies inside the cabin itself.

“Panasonic is contributing to the development of advanced driver assistance systems by combining Panasonics extensive consumer technology, such as displays, image processing, Image recognition, and communication and networking capabilities with in car technologies. The key element is connectivity. Connectivity in data and transportation. Panasonic see it as building block towards a greener and safer future.”

There are also new companies entering the ring, trying to get into the grey area between the automotive and technology Industries. Google have also been developing their own autonomous car, as well as Tesla. They have already established themselves as a front runner within the electric car sector, and again are investing in driverless technology. Even Uber want to run a driverless taxi service in future.

However, there are still many challenges to overcome before any of this can become a functioning reality on the streets of our towns and cities. Some of these are technical, which over time will get resolved. Others are social, which may take longer to work through. Arguably the biggest is changing people’s perceptions of autonomous vehicles, and learning to trust the technology. This potentially might happen at a slower pace, despite the technology continually advancing.

The convergence of the industries only looks set to increase in the coming years and IFA Director, Jens Heithecker, believes “amazing things happen when researchers and experts from two different industries face the same challenge, With Shift Automotive we want to work out how new technologies are changing all our lives, thinking and driving habits.”

There have been many discussions here including that difficult question of how to persuade the public to trust autonomous vehicles They’ve explored changing the design focus from the driver to an improved experience for the passengers. There was also a look at how next generation vehicles could be connected through 5G networks. This event has certainly provoked debate, posing possibly as many questions as it answered.

Shift Automotive looks set to become an important part of IFA in the future as we are only at the beginning of an exciting journey, and it will be very interesting to see how the technology companies continue the dialogue when they have the opportunity to visit the Geneva Motor Show next year and present their future vision.

Photo: John Schoenbeck, Director of Strategic Partnering of Designworks, BMW Group