Digital Transformation In The Automotive Industry - Paul Lombardo, Global CEO, Ness Digital Engineering

Paul Lombardo, chief executive officer at Ness Digital Engineering, spoke with us about the transformation the industry is experiencing thanks to digital technology and his perspective of what the industry will look like in the future.

Paul Lombardo, Global CEO, Ness Digital Engineering

From smart dashboards to automated driving, the automotive industry is in the midst of a technological revolution that’s not going to slow down any time soon. Paul Lombardo, chief executive officer at Ness Digital Engineering, spoke with us about the transformation the industry is experiencing thanks to digital technology and his perspective of what the industry will look like in the future.  

There’s a lot of buzz around driverless cars these days. How close are we to completely autonomous driving on the commercial front?

Autonomous driving is something we’re inching towards, but it’s going to take time, patience, and the required due-diligence before it becomes a true reality. We’re already seeing assisted driving cars on the roads today, where vehicles can take control of the speed and lane position in certain situations, such as on limited-access freeways. In another five years, we can expect to see vehicles take full control of the entire trip, but under specific conditions. Eventually, vehicles will be able to operate without any human driver or occupants thanks to IoT connected applications which will predict driver actions.  Sensor data from radar, cameras and night vision are already playing a hand in predicting driver actions.

That level of connectedness and autonomy must give rise to some complex challenges. What are some of the major considerations?

For connected cars, with the use of data comes the responsibility of ensuring cybersecurity and data privacy. Players in the field will also have to pay close attention to laws and licensing specifications introduced to regulate this industry as it continues to evolve. On the technological front, fail-safe mechanisms to mitigate risk for riders, as well as pedestrians, are crucial. The software must be equipped with decision-making capabilities for every possible environment, along with efficient and accurate object detection and scene understanding.

Are there any ongoing projects to make this possible?

A lot of work is focused on collaborative software solutions, which enable cars to sense their surroundings and avoid obstacles. The software also enables communication between vehicles as part of a network to optimize traffic on the road. The software will take some time to mature, but as driverless cars become a reality, we will see it grow significantly. Ness is currently working on a project focused on the navigation components for automotive companies, as well as vendors that support them. We see the navigation system reaching a level of precision and sophistication that will really boost the collaborative vehicle movement and the proliferation of driverless cars in general. This technology innovation will pave the way for a completely new sales approach in the automotive industry, where vehicles are essentially becoming a new platform to run software applications.  

What new business models do you see in the future?

Every industry is exploring ways to maximize the utilization of resources. That is why Ness promotes the concept of “Domain” over the industry.   In our view, an industry perspective precludes the innovation that comes from looking at the ways companies are solving common business problems across industries.  We see domains dissolving previous industry barriers and creating new opportunities.  

To provide an example in automotive, consider the fact that many cars spend most of the day sitting idle in a parking lot; essentially an underutilized asset. I think we’ll soon see the emergence of transportation-as-a-service, made possible by autonomous vehicles. This will lead to a decline in vehicle ownership in favour of shared mobility. Passengers will be able to request a ride and access an available vehicle from a network of driverless cars. If they want to participate, companies that manufacture cars today will need to learn capabilities that go beyond their traditional industry boundaries; for example, learning about subscription models from e-commerce companies and online payments models from fintech companies.

Are there other aspects of the automotive industry that you’re working with? What other developments can we expect?

Ness is focused on a lot of innovative work in the automotive industry as IoT continues to evolve and enable connected experiences – consider smart parking solutions and personalized insurance offerings as two applications having an impact. We’re also developing tools to visualize and analyze the data collected from technologies such as night vision to train and validate the automatic detection algorithms for autonomous driving. Our clients are implementing solutions for telematics so they can better track their fleets and cars, and solutions for better safety systems. Another growing area of focus is in-vehicle infotainment. Entertainment, location-based services and personalization of the vehicle dashboard and media systems are becoming crucial elements of the car experience. These features and other elements, like seats that can be made to face each other, are elevating vehicles from a mode of transportation to a moving home. 

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