Your Car Is Now A Consumer Electronic

Will We See Cars In Consumer Electronics Stores Next?

So my car is nearing the end of its lease and therefore I’m in the market for a new vehicle. I’ve had my current car for a little over 3 years and I’m stunned by the differences in the technology available today in comparison to what was available back then – and back then was only 3 years ago! The new car has so much technology that I’ll bet all they’d need to do was download some firmware over the net and my car would simply drive itself. (I wouldn’t mind that – could get some work done like more blog posts!)

Everything is so much more sophisticated – the screens are large and have more functionality, its like I’m living in a completely different era. When I go back to my current car, I almost feel like I’ve gone back in time ten years. The state-of-the-art 3 years ago seems eons behind what we have today.

But I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to me – there was a heck of a lot of cars at the Consumer Electronics Show – but I figured that there were just touting new tech features. But I think the fact of the matter is that cars are now iterating as quickly as your typical laptop or another consumer electronic. So cars have now become, or are rapidly becoming like any other consumer electronic device, like your laptop or smartphone.

Most people that I know typically buy a new laptop every 2 or 3 years or so, as the processor and graphic speeds increase in accordance to a semblance of Moore’s Law (sometimes its faster other times slower). Now, this level of technical acceleration has finally hit automakers. My prediction is that fairly soon, the majority of people will start to treat their cars like a consumer electronic, or a laptop, and roll through to a new one every 2-3 years as the technology accelerates. This will be a boon for leasing companies and car-sharing services, but will be an interesting issue for automakers – what will the world be like if the majority of people no longer want cars over 3 years old? What will happen to cars – will see shorter and shorter lifespans? Maybe cars will start becoming upgradable – parts can be swapped out for newer parts like we do with solid state hard drives and memory and such, although I doubt that. Personally, I think cars will get ever more iPhone-like and will need to be completely replaced every 2-3 years. I wonder what that will need to happen in the recyclability/replaceability space for this to happen.

This holds an interesting conundrum for automakers, as their typical product cycle is longer than the typical product cycle of a consumer electronic. Whichever way you slice it, if consumers start seeing their cars as consumer electronics, then they will expect the same kind of iteration and rapid product cycles that laptops – and eventually smartphones – have seen.

Who knows – maybe at some point we’ll be trading our cars in every year for the latest and greatest model like we do our iPhone’s. I think this is probably inevitable – the question is not IF but WHEN it will happen. Automakers need to accelerate their development cycles – embrace agile and rapid application development and start cranking out new cars as fast as Apple cranks out new iPhones (or Apple Watches).

Probably one of the reasons Tesla is doing so well – to them a car is a consumer electronic on wheels. Now everyone else needs to catch up.

photo credit – Insomnia Cured Here – Flickr