From Commerce to Media and Now the Future of Motoring
Amazon is a well-known brand that operates as the largest drop shipping company in the world, providing access to the latest gadgets and more. However, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has shifted its focus towards assisting the automated world with a new generation of data storage, customer engagement, and even autonomous driving.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the man in charge of it all. Richard Felton, the Senior Practice Manager at AWS. Upon starting our interview, I immediately sensed that the well-spoken man heading up this industry game-changer was kind and passionate. His love for his work and passion for AWS is inspiring, speaking about his work as though it is a prodigy child. And rightly so. He has a passion for the automotive world and racing and has spent time as a Formula 1 engineer. So it was fascinating seeing somebody with a drive for the motoring world in a brand which most, including myself, consider an internet shopping brand.
Amazon's project, AWS, aims to revolutionise the automotive industry by creating an advanced and efficient network that connects brands and customers in new ways. Over the past year, AWS has collaborated with leading brands like Toyota, BMW, Audi, and VW to develop multiple platforms that enhance their operational and data collection systems, customer engagement, and driving experience. These efforts are pushing the world toward a new vehicle production and ownership era.
AWS collaborated with Toyota as one of its first partners to enhance data collection in their factories and technology design. They aimed to capture and store data on new vehicles and manufacturing plants using a virtual storage system in the cloud. This system is called a data lake, which enables the storage of an infinite amount of information without any physical hardware.
Another brand which has seen massive changes due to its engagement with AWS is Audi. Their Virtual Reality configurators are a new way of foreseeing your full-spec vehicle in a virtual program. The premise is relatively simple: Every dealership will have a virtual configurator, allowing customers to spec their cars to their exact liking and experience it through virtual reality to see just what they like and dislike. Richard claimed that this VR configurator has seen a 6% increase in selected features for new vehicles and states that 66% of Audi dealerships in the UK have already adopted this configurator.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto may no longer be the go-to options for in-car features, as Alexa is now integrated into vehicles. While this technology hasn't been fully embraced in South Africa, Richard mentioned that Stellantis plans to include Alexa in their upcoming models. Other brands like Mahindra already offer this feature.
Again this isn't an option for South African models yet. Alexa will allow for more advanced driver customisation. To get this kind of vehicle personalisation, you'll need to invest in a more premium car with features like 'Hey Mercedes', a voice control system that allows you to select and adjust almost every element in your car via voice command. The Alexa system will offer a similar user interface in more affordable models.
Although AWS doesn't directly manufacture vehicles and, at this time, has no interest in making cars, OEMs are partnering up with AWS to develop new technologies to further project the industry into the future. The most significant effort now is with BMW, with an impressive autonomous driving program.
BMW and AWS have collected around 1,000,000 km of self-driving data to produce safe and accessible self-driving features for their vehicles. These vehicles will also be connected to the cloud, allowing AWS-powered cars to communicate with one another whilst on the road. Their AI technology will learn on the fly and share the new data with other vehicles via the cloud, allowing for a continuously more refined auto-piloted feature. Understanding what this means will have to come with time, but this could make BMW one of the leading brands in autonomous driving.
As a customer, you know how vital brand service is. Booking services, keeping track of due dates, finding information on your vehicle, and discovering a vehicle's history can all be a hassle. With AWS, however, the process is streamlined, connecting you to your vehicle's brand in an efficient and user-friendly way. Richard is excited by this approach: "Your car can automatically book itself in for a service. It can also track your vehicle interaction via AI and uses this information to greatly improve your servicing experience".
Something that concerns me when listening to this massive automotive undertaking is the possible use of automated driving paired with an app to control your vehicle. This could be seen as a security risk due to hacking and theft; however, we are still some years away from this becoming a mainstream feature, so hopefully, companies will put appropriate security fail-safes in place.
The fact is AWS has almost gone under the radar of the world's automotive infrastructure as they are currently working with a large number of partners. Yet, little information has been publicly shared concerning their automotive engagements. Over 100,000 partners of AWS are already using the cloud to improve product management, supply chain and product engineering. They are already ranked number one in the world for ABI Research's Connected Car Cloud Platform, which has won over these brands and is further bettering the automotive world.
A data powerhouse is emerging, which is expected to revolutionise the industry. The company is a leader in AI development for vehicles, automated driving, and data storage, with much more potential yet to be explored. Surprisingly, there is little discussion about this topic.
I contacted some OEMs in our country, but unfortunately, they provided little to no information on this matter. AWS has not had a significant impact in South Africa, but it is only a matter of time before these programs become a part of our daily lives, including our cars.
We have already seen this in a selection of Audi showrooms around our nation and will most likely see these data lakes used in our local factories if they aren't there already. The future of motoring is changing, and it's due in large part to AWS. Now is this a bad thing? I don't think so. Seeing such an innovative change in how we deal with our cars is exciting. So keep an eye out for Amazon. It may not be a package but a system that takes care of your commute.