As I wrote in the previous article, owning the full stack in the digital world has it's own benefits. But doing that within the automotive industry is going to be hard.
First, let's understand what full-stack means in the automotive world. There are at least 4 dimensions to it
- Vehicle Electrical System/ECU level: This would include all the major components and software within the electrical system of a vehicle. And true full stack would mean, your SW platform is integrated down to the level of the micro-controller or SoC. The automotive industry has come quite far in this area. Given all these collaborations that are being announced with chip vendors and automotive OEMs directly without any T1 or T2 suppliers (NVIDIA-Mercedes, Qualcomm-CARIAD etc).
- Vehicle-Cloud Infrastructure: This includes the network and cloud infrastructure in place to have a connected platform between all the vehicles in the rolling fleet and the backend. A connectivity ECU together with the backend servers, jobs and services would uniquely require multiple full stacks. The Telecom and networking industry is far more matured in that sense, and the industry is much closer to owning the core parts while most lower layers like servers and platforms are a commodity at this point.
- Personal devices, Driver/Passenger ecosystem: Drivers and passengers are in their own digital ecosystem filled with multiple devices that they bring along everywhere. This includes their smartphones, smartwatches, health monitors, laptops/tablets, audio devices like headphones, earphones etc. The full stack here could look different for each individual, but since the smartphone and consumer electronics industry have been maturing at a rapid pace, the big players have consolidated their position in the market. This makes it easier for OEMs to predict the top tech stacks that can cover for the largest part of the customer demographic. Assuming, the goal is to be part of their user's ecosystem, rather then forcing them to join yet another ecosystem. That said, for companies like Tesla, with a large and loyal fan-base, it wouldn't be far fetched to get users to join their own eco-system instead.
- Public Infrastructure, Other vehicles, Traffic: After all, vehicles have one key point of interaction and that is other vehicles and the traffic and road system. Being able to connect to other vehicles from the same manufacturer is one thing, but being able to connect to vehicles apart from that is a whole another paradigm. Every OEM would want to control what data flows in and out of their vehicles.
In each of these categories, the stacks are different, the ownership and business models are different. There are more nuances to it that I will cover in a future post.