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How digital experience is changing the automotive industry

Garratt Wooton
Garratt Wootton
Business Development Manager
Write to Garratt

This year’s CES — the annual tech-giant show in Las Vegas, showcased a number of impressive automobile releases were presented to eager crowds. From the BMW i Vision Dee’s humanlike qualities to virtual reality showrooms allowing you to select your car design from a digital lineup of colours and features — cars, are probably the next big thing in digital experience.

5G, connectivity, and electrification ushering in a new era of “cars as companions” 

There’s no question, we’re running into a new technological world at breakneck speed, and automakers at the forefront are combining the powers of 5G and electrification to create a “smartphone-like experience,” providing digital services to customers via their car. These features include things like real-time navigation systems, voice and AI assistants, and responsive infotainment. 

Due to the increasing demand for embedded connectivity as a key feature of a car (i.e., having your phone synced, access to internet, etc.), it is now expected that it will account for 30% of a car’s makeup by 2030. It’s also estimated that disruptive technology will make up a further 50% of industry revenues by the same year. Based on these numbers, cars as the next digital experience will be one of the biggest disruptions since the smartphone. 

The BMW i Vision Dee 

BMW is no stranger to top-tier design and premium customer experience. So it was no surprise when they announced the BMW i Vision Dee – their emotionally intelligent, part analogue, part digital car design. 

For the luxury brand, the i Vision Dee, set for release in 2025, represents the future of what all cars will become in the next 5 to 10 years. Much like what we’ve seen on TV with characters like Jarvis in the Iron Man series, your car will be a digital experience on wheels with the humanlike ability to “recognise the needs and feelings of our counterpart.” To enhance the “personal” touch, the car will adapt to the driver’s habits by providing information, news, calendar entries and social posts on demand, suggesting entertainment and travel destinations and probably anything else you can imagine. According to BMW, these attributes are what makes their car a sort of companion for people, much like relying on the trusty advice of a good friend.

As for the design, the new BMW has been selectively “pared down” to enhance the driver’s focus on the digital experience. For instance, its signature elements such as the “kidney grille, twin circular headlights and Hofmeister kink” have been kept but as phygital icons, giving the i Vision Dee its physical humanistic characteristics. The inside of the car has evolved the head-up display to become a windscreen spanning the width of the front portion of the car that is entirely digital, further dissolving the line between the real and the digital worlds. 

New showrooms

According to a Google search, around 60 percent of car buyers under 45 years old are more likely to make a car purchase online, and prefer contactless sales and services.

Thomas Furcher of McKinsey & Co’s Vienna office says that “In the future, dealerships will have very few cars. I still think there will be a few—but then, through virtual reality, you can modify them, you can experience them in different ways.” As mentioned in the introduction, you will soon be able to choose the colour and features of the car you want exclusively through virtual reality. The showroom of the future will have some in-person models, but mostly for the feeling of driving itself with the remainder of the process being held in a digital capacity. 

New subscription models and customer services 

Along with advanced showroom displays, McKinsey estimates that we will also start to see a big change in what kind of cars people buy, reflecting a change in payment structures. "When we talk about price, it will be less and less the price for the entire vehicle. But it will be the price for maybe a month of usage of this car or for a certain mileage. So, there will be different packages—also in line with the shift to shared mobility, subscription services, and so on. So, there will be different ways of quoting a price, but it will be a fixed price," Furcher.

It has even been suggested that people will have different cars for different reasons. Going forward, you may have a road trip car, a city car, or a family car and a work car, all on different types of payment models. There’s even a chance you can add a flying car to your list…think that sounds too sci-fi? See for yourself.

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