The adoption of new-age technologies and systems that are more resilient to uncertainties can make a difference to automotive companies and industry as a whole.
By Rupak Rathore
The automobile sector has been adversely impacted by the sudden disruption caused by the pandemic and associated lockdown last year. It recorded a drop in sales across segments and manufacturing as well as supply chains broke down. However, the industry started showing early signs of recovery with an increase in month over month sales in the latter half of 2020.
While the second wave once again affected the automotive sector adversely, it has reaffirmed the need for the sector to focus on aggressive adoption of new-age technologies and create systems more resilient to uncertainties. The following are ways by which some of the 21st century’s emerging digital technologies can make a difference to automotive companies.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA):
Process automation using digital workers brings increased accuracy. Be it the regulatory compliance, interpretability of paper into the digitized medium, machine dismantling and assembling, or inventory management, RPA has come a long way to ensure near quasi perfect accuracy. These software robots are programmed with suitable algorithms to perform a particular task. Once the robots are well trained, these tasks are automated. These digital workers are getting increasingly sophisticated with a combination of Machine Learning and Image Processing algorithms.
Big Data in the automobile industry can help with customer retention through improved after-sales services. While the profit margins for the dealer vary with vehicle models, it is the after-sales services and periodic maintenance from which they earn a sizeable profit. The need of the hour is personalized services to forge great relationships with customers. Big Data helps to analyse the buyer’s likings and preferences for recommending a customized offering for a particular customer. Big Data can also predict probable wear and tear, after which a damaged part (of the vehicle) can cause an interruption in daily use or complete breakdown. It also alerts the driver by segmenting and analysing his driving patterns and habits that can cause an accident. Big Data can also be used for improving vehicle design, as it can give insights into how the vehicle/component performs in market conditions.
Cloud computing can assist automotive companies by reducing the onsite IT hardware costs of an organisation, especially in terms of power consumption and hardware repair, depreciation and labour. Cloud computing can improve the efficiency of GPS and entertainment systems installed in the car. Cars can become smart and perceptive vehicles equipped to tackle varied road and traffic situations. However, such controls and continuous information feed requires perpetual and on-demand predisposition of systems that can only happen with the help of the cloud. Furthermore, data forms the core of numerous functions in the automobile industry, and it is directly proportional to the manufacturing of a vehicle model. The data from various departments need to be collaborated to produce the perfect model.
Predictive and Advanced Data Analytics:
Predictive and advanced data analytics can help in product quality management, product recall and improved customer satisfaction. Predictive analytics can help the quality management teams to process a large set of information (historical) that can reveal the underlying cause. It allows for the early detection of issues and minimises the probability of their occurrence in the future. Data can also facilitate in improving the safety of the vehicle – both during design and while being driven. Furthermore, it assures a better and more efficient recall process.
AI is impacting the automobile industry in a big way. It can alert the drivers of a hazardous situation or component failure well before the scenario turns fatal. AI can also assist in the quality inspection that is a time-consuming process.
Integration of Telematics and Health:
As vehicles become more integrated with smartphones and wearables, avenues for improving emergency response – using a combination of telematics, vehicle sensors and wearables – emerge, which can save precious lives. Overall road safety can be improved by using Car2X frameworks for inter-vehicle communication.
Virtual Reality is of great help to companies, dealers and customers alike. It helps automobile engineers to work together remotely (especially in the designing process). The design process on the physical mock-up requires massive resources and is time-consuming too. Furthermore, it reduces the need to create a prototype after every examination stage. The technology also helps the customers to get a feel of their new automobile without its physical body. Through virtual reality, they can get an immersive digital buying experience. A leading data and vehicle visualisation platform reported that as many as 76 lakh Indians chose to experience the features of their next car in 3D on the internet in 2020. VR has proven to be a boon for dealers during the prevalence of COVID-19, they have been able to continue with their business despite the logistic challenges and scarcity of resources. It is difficult for dealers to have a physical model of every specification as most of the manufacturers regularly launch restyled and remodelled versions. Customers always want to buy the most recent model. The use of VR can prove to be a better, immersive, and persuasive way to speed up their decision making. This is an ideal, win-win situation for both the customers and dealers.
Augmented Reality provides a realistic feel for testing the critical functions and capabilities of a vehicle. The conventional method of testing requires extensive physical trials, which is expensive and cumbersome. With AR, engineers can build a prototype, have an easier time with critical logistics and technical checkpoints and can implement modifications in lesser time. Speedier production, more innovation and reduced cost would be possible with the integration of this technology.
While it is projected that the global automotive industry will grow to just under nine trillion U.S. dollars by 2030, an Invest India report suggests that the automobile industry may reach the 300 million dollar mark by 2026. However for the sector to script the kind of growth post-pandemic recovery, digital integration is a must.