Future Of Auto Industry Linked To Silicon Valley

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

As companies like Google, Tesla and Uber seek to reshape the auto industry in their own ways, more automakers and suppliers are beating a path toward Silicon Valley and the Center for Automotive Research Stanford to help adapt to the new reality.

Ward’s Auto recently sat down with CARS director Sven Beiker, who once worked for BMW as one of the first industry observers sent to report on developments in Silicon Valley’s growing tech culture. From there, he relocated to Detroit for a couple of years to participate in a hybrid project with General Motors and DaimlerChrysler before joining Stanford in 2008.

Regarding his work since then, Beiker states that unlike other automotive industry think tanks that receive funding from federal grants, CARS relies on private funding from more than two dozen sustaining supporters, including Ford, Toyota, Delphi and Panasonic. Further, the supporters develop potential technologies with the center, with access to the university’s Dynamic Design, Interactive Media and Stanford AI Lab to help develop their ideas.

Stanford itself also has been pushing development of automotive technology, such as autonomous vehicles — a long-term project dating back to the first U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored DARPA Challenge in 2005 — electric-vehicle charging and advance batteries, and future business models for the industry as a whole.

When asked if Silicon Valley’s cadre of venture capitalists wanted to invest in a new car company, Beiker stated they were more interested in the next Uber than the next Tesla, going so far as to claim the VCs likely don’t want their home to become a new automotive industry mecca. That may be easier said than hoped, as both automakers and suppliers establish a presence alongside the game-changers in the valley.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • Chan Chan on Sep 24, 2014

    No, VCs exist to make money. They will invest in anything that can convince them of a quick 5-year ROI. Many of those in the Silicon Valley do focus on certain industries, but that's not to say they aren't open to other things that can feed their wallets. As an engineer on the borderline of "tech" (whatever the h@11 that means) and "traditional" industries, I welcome innovations that truly add value to society. The latest chat, game or automatic picture posting mobile app is just entertainment feeding entertainment, which I don't see as contributing to the advancement of mankind. That fluffy bubble will come and go, as it has always done in various forms. Transportation will always be vital to mankind, as will most other "traditional" industries. The US would do well to innovate and grow its home manufacturing and transportation industries. Many Silicon Valley babies don't realise how small the "tech" industry is with respect to our world, but the rest of the world can also better appreciate some of the amazing innovations that have come out of this place. Tesla can bring manufacturing back to the San Francisco area, but it's just a small step for what still is a boutique car company at this point.

  • Petezeiss Petezeiss on Sep 24, 2014

    Is that a photo of SV or an Argentinian slum surrounding an oil spill?

    • See 2 previous
    • 3Deuce27 3Deuce27 on Sep 26, 2014

      Reg. "Is that a photo of SV or an Argentinian slum surrounding an oil spill?? Pretty obviously it shows the South Bay area and north all the way to Marin, with the 'valley' to the south and east/right, and to the west, the Pacific ocean. If your geographically challenged, the south would be the bottom of the pic, the north the top, and east & west, right & left respectively. Meteorological we also see clouds in the valley and along the coast. Geologically we see a seismic geologic fault indicated by the open expanse of water in the middle of the pic running from south to north. Surrounding the 'spill' are all the Bay communities, including San Francisco and Oakland. Sociologically we have the typical stew of humanity with a western American urban bent with little to no sense of community and completely devoid of any definable culture except the temporaneous pseudo micro communities arbitrarily contrived for and by the rich, tech, and intellectual elite classes which are often one and the same. The exception being the ethnic communities which have a lasting perennial cultural vitality.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.