Frenemies: BMW and Daimler Team Up on Mobility, Remain Foes in the Showroom
As the marketplace evolves and the rise of “mobility” threatens to lock laggard automakers out of new revenue streams, old rivals are coming together to get out ahead of the competition. Take BMW and Daimler, for example. The German companies, normally embroiled in high-end sales combat, have cosied up to each other in recent years.
While they’re not sharing platforms and engines, the two do feel there’s benefits in joining forces on mobility. By mobility, we mean carsharing and all that sexy stuff you can’t get enough of. A pact between the two rivals came last March.
On Friday, the two automakers released the details of their mobility partnership, announcing five joint ventures funded by a combined $1.13 billion investment.
Safety Advocates Getting Testy Over Automotive Apps, Consumer Data
Automakers began hunting for new revenue streams about two milliseconds after realizing they could put the internet into vehicles. While the earliest endeavors involved ride-sharing applications and new infotainment features, companies are now beginning to see new opportunities via automotive e-commerce, data acquisition, and in-car marketing.
However, the delivery system used for these new sources of revenue pose a legitimate safety concern. Distracted driving is on the rise and shopping while behind the wheel isn’t likely to remedy the situation.
No Parking Required: Waymo Launches Shuttle Service to Walmart
Remember how everyone talked about autonomous vehicles like they would deliver humanity into a cleaner, safer future where all the disgusting trappings of our past would be a distant memory? It’s not playing out quite like that. In fact, as the reality of self-driving cars inches ever closer, we’re seeing weird corporate partnerships and companies looking to make a buck anywhere they can as the consumer serves double duty as master and commodity.
If you need a present-day example, look no further. Waymo, the autonomous arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is launching a pilot program this summer that intends to shuttle passengers to Walmart and other partner locales. Members of the firm’s “early rider program” will be able to catch a ride to the retail outlet after using its online component to place an order (which qualifies them for discounts in the future).
While the goods are being prepared at the store, Waymo will dispatch a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica to the customer in order to bring them to it — sort of like a reverse delivery service. However, Walmart is far from the only corporate partner Waymo has right now.
Japan's SoftBank Dumps Cash Into America's Autonomous Vehicles, Sets GM Deadline for 2019
Several months after procuring a large ownership stake in Uber, SoftBank has placed $2.5 billion into General Motors’ self-driving program. The automaker intends to begin deploying autonomous vehicles next year and CEO Mary Barra says her company will invest $1.1 billion of its own funds into the effort to ensure the timeline is adhered to.
Thanks to the hefty investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the Japanese holding company now owns roughly 20 percent of General Motors’ tech subsidiary, known as Cruise Automation. While tech firms and automakers have been driving hard to surpass each other in terms of autonomous development for years, GM currently appears to have the most riding on the hardware.
GM Revamps OnStar: Take a Long Look In the Mirror
When General Motors first deployed OnStar, it was a little more than an emergency services hotline. Drivers in need could tap a blue button on their rearview mirror and immediately get in contact with an operator. The system could also do this automatically in the event of a crash. OnStar later introduced anti-theft measures, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote access as part of a subscription plan.
However, with General Motors seeing dollar signs wherever connectivity is involved, the automaker wants to retool the system. OnStar will continue offering existing services, but GM is changing the subscription model and placing a new emphasis on data acquisition. The good news is that the tiered payment model will offer more features starting in May. Unfortunately, some those amenities used to be free and those fed up with companies selling your data or paranoid about Orwellian Big Brother scenarios might be less enthusiastic about the long-term corporate vision.
Waymo Partners With Lyft to Give Uber the Middle Finger
Waymo, the autonomous automotive firm owned by Google parent Alphabet, and Uber’s chief ride-hailing rival Lyft have entered into a self-driving partnership — seemingly to do little more than stick it to Big U.
Lyft is already in a partnership with General Motors to produce computer-controlled Chevrolet test vehicles in 2018, while Waymo has a deal with Fiat Chrysler to use the Pacifica as its primary R&D platform. It’s difficult to parse out what the two can offer each other beyond a mutual hatred for Uber. Business partnerships can rarely be distilled down to a disdain of a third party but, in this instance, that certainly makes the most sense.
Despite being involved in litigations with Waymo that could result in a total shutdown of its autonomous development efforts, Uber has the largest ride-sharing fleet of any company and is positioned near the front of the self-driving race. Meanwhile, Lyft has only just entered the self-driving arena.