The relationship between consumers and automakers will drastically change.
General Motors and Microsoft agree on one thing regarding the auto industry's future: the digital transformation we're currently experiencing will change not only how new vehicles are sold but also the relationship between owners and automakers.
Speaking at the Automotive News Congress, GM vice president for software, Scott Miller, told the audience, "The cloud is as important a component as the wheels on the vehicle." Miller is leading America's largest automaker's efforts for fully connected vehicles. GM's end-to-end software platform, Ultifi, will begin implementing the first foundational systems sometime next year.
We don't know which vehicle(s) will receive it first, but chances are it will be one of its latest EVs, such as the Cadillac Lyriq or, perhaps, the Celestiq flagship.
GM hopes the Ultifi ecosystem, which also implements autonomous tech, will last for decades as it will constantly change and adapt through new owners and connecting consumers to a digital world - all from their vehicles.
Microsoft's general manager of automotive, mobility, and transportation, Sanjay Ravi, described this transformation as a "once-a-century" moment and that it will change "every aspect of the traditional automotive enterprise" and "completely reimagine automotive mobility." As a result, automakers must increase partnerships and cooperation with tech companies like Microsoft.
According to Ravi, only 60% of vehicles presently on the road can be connected to a cloud. However, "it's going to be 100% pretty soon. That's going to be the new table stakes" for all automakers regardless of whether they're legacy or new players like Rivian.
"The vehicle and consumers are all going to be part of the ecosystem," he added. "No one company can do it all. We're a strong believer in partnerships."
One of the many challenges in the future is privacy. For example, automakers and tech companies must seek each other out to ensure trusted partnerships. Initially, testing will be done privately before moving to the public sphere. Protecting personal data is obviously vital, and for that very reason, GM is proceeding carefully.
"GM has decades of experience writing vehicle software, creating a solid foundation to build on," said GM President in remarks made last year. "Now with Ultifi, we will be able to improve our software continuously, and deliver new features and apps to customers in a fraction of the time."