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A platform for the future: what’s in store for the automotive sector?

26 Apr 2021
Gion Baker

Gion Baker

Automotive Director, Vodafone Business

The automotive sector has always been at the forefront of technological innovation.

From the way cars are made to the way they are maintained and driven, manufacturers, technology companies, governments and drivers have defined the driving and mobility experience we have today.

Until a year ago, the roadmap was clear with a predictable evolution in vehicle safety, fuel efficiency, assisted driving technologies through to full autonomy.

But the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works: in the first half of 2020, manufacturing and assembly plants had to halt operations. People stopped travelling due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, the logistics and delivery industries had to cope with unprecedented demand as home delivery boomed.

Governments also started looking at green technologies to help rebuild more sustainable and future-ready economies.

Thanks to digitalisation, which enables organisations to detect and respond rapidly to market challenges and opportunities, the automotive sector was quick to adapt; plans for electrification were pulled forward and fleet managers invested to optimise and transform their operations. And with daily commuting unlikely to be part of people lives even beyond the COVID-19 emergency, many drivers started considering new options created by shared mobility in their towns and cities.


The automotive industry has been an early digital adopter and already more than 70% of all cars built in 2020 had digital telematics capabilities.

This means they are connected, and as such, they are part of a wide data-centric ecosystem that enables them to report on their condition but also access additional services, like theft attack detection or streaming of high-quality media.

These operations, made possible by access to data from the vehicles, let them become “platforms” for services as well as a means of transport. Platforms that put the safety, security and comfort of the car’s occupants, the pedestrians and the other vehicles’ users’ up front and centre.

However, whilst many consider the advantages of a connected car to be mainly around in-vehicle experience, the real benefits come when the car integrates within the wider connected transport ecosystem.


The high-level of digitalisation of the automotive sector means there’s a big opportunity for technology communications companies to continue playing a key role in the mobility space, where relevant information is transformed into insights, and then outcomes, for users.

And with opportunity must come responsibility. The shift in the safety and security model from a reactive to a preventive one, for instance, is only possible thanks to the constant access to data connected cars allow, and this data needs to be handled effectively to achieve a reduction in risk for users.

However, the ability to analyse and process data needs to go beyond the individual driver; connecting one car allows a car to connect to another, but it also enables it to connect to intelligent road controls, other road users and pedestrians, resulting in an interconnected system where the vehicle connects to everything (V2X), creating a wealth of new possibilities.

Security and comfort

The evolution in the automotive market has been astounding. Only a few decades ago users had to deal with vehicles that struggled to start on a cold day, radios were offered “as an optional extra” and electric vehicles were a distant dream.

Today they have access to leather-clad, hi-tech, super-efficient low-emission vehicles that start every time with the press of a button.

At the core of this evolution lies the dramatic increase in security and reliability that connected vehicles have made possible.

Services like stolen vehicle detection and tracking, automatic emergency calling in the event of an accident and seamless reporting of performance and maintenance requirements.

Connecting vehicles also simplified life for users, with things like the ability to remotely lock and unlock a vehicle or purchase fuel without having to leave the car.

But it’s important to also consider the future-proofing role digitalisation is having in accelerating the evolutionary process of the automotive sector.

The seat belt revolutionised vehicle safety. And so will 5G connectivity. When combined with in-vehicle telematics and technologies like V2X, it will dramatically enhance safety and security for the whole ecosystem, thanks to advanced warning of hidden obstacles, or the capability for vehicles to detect and avoid other road users.

The future is green

Global EV sales rose 65% from 2017 to 2018, to a total of 2.1 million vehicles – a trend that continued into 2019.

In the first quarter of 2020, as the world tried to adjust to the “new normal” of the COVID-19 crisis, EV purchases declined by 25% before rising back rapidly to 43% by the end of the year, signalling, according to many, the tipping point of mass adoption.

This increase was also due to governments in Europe, and many other nations, putting incentives in place for people and businesses to switch to electric mobility, and this is having a big impact on mobility but also supply-chains all over the world.

The switch to electric represents a big opportunity to decarbonise personal and fleet mobility and the tools and digital solutions from Vodafone Automotive are already contributing to this global change. Be this through advanced telematics to measure and monitor electric vehicles’ platforms, digital insurance, and advanced fleet analytics.

Digital customers

It’s not just the industry that is changing. Users are too.

Environmentally conscious, technically-savvy consumers are playing a key role in driving the transformation of the mobility and automotive industry.

Online sales of vehicles are redefining the way cars are sold, fully digitalising the car-buying experience and many drivers are reconsidering whether car sharing provides a more efficient way to access mobility in increasingly congested towns and cities.

And again the connected car is set to play a key role in enabling new shared mobility models by bringing smart-phone applications, networks and vehicle telematics together, so vehicles can be booked, paid for, insured, located and made accessible to the next driver in a fully digital way.

Within the user-centric mobility of the future, the customer experience will therefore need to marry the delivery of a seamless experience to the consumers with the ability to manage the complexity of the ecosystem.

This will once again be possible thanks to vehicles becoming software, not only hardware, defined; if a vehicle is connected, necessary improvements and upgrades to keep up with the evolution of the ecosystem can be made beyond the moment the vehicle is sold to the user.

The ecosystem matters

Today, vehicles are no longer standalone machines moving on roads. They are part of a connected ecosystem that is only going to expand thanks to a range of digital services that will in time make every journey greener, cleaner and safer.

In the era of convergence, technologies like 5G, Mobile Edge Computing and IoT combined with cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technologies will create the backbone of new mobility models, driving improved safety, reliability and freedom as part of a greener and more sustainable transport network.

For this to happen, it is essential for the public and private sectors to come together and join forces to build the framework for the mobility of the future.

Find out more about how Vodafone Automotive can drive efficiency across your fleet.

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