Insight

Why tech's self-drive u-turn is great for developers

By David Lawrence |

A couple of years ago, all the talk was about the imminent invasion of the automotive industry by the cool tech scene of silicon valley. As Apple and Google pressed on with their own self-driving car projects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the traditionally gritty, down to earth image of the car industry would be getting a sleek, white upgrade. Both companies set up offices, then divisions, to handle the projects. They hired a raft of new specialists from software developers to mechanical engineers. But then it all went quiet. Google's parent company Alphabet hived off Waymo, the new automated-vehicle division, as a subsidiary, while Apple's open-secret car scheme 'Project Titan' has scaled back its ambitions.

While we may not be seeing an 'iCar' on the roads anytime soon, what the millions of dollars of development have produced is a commitment to work on driverless technologies as software and hardware developers, rather than full-blown car manufacturers. Waymo have already announced a partnership to develop the 'brain' behind Fiat Chrysler's foray into driverless car technology, while Apple are working with manufacturers on an automated shuttle service for their new Palo Alto headquarters.

For developers, this is the best news possible. While a full-on Google vs Apple war may have led to a VHS vs Beta-Max situation that divided loyalties and killed competition, the companies' decision to stay out of manufacturing for now creates a more open playing field for the car giants. They can choose to work and innovate with one or the other, or neither, while billions of dollars are still pumped into the industry to drive it forward.

This massively opens up the job market for developers who can work with any one of the tens of international car giants soon to be developing driverless technology, rather than being forced to pick one of two silicon valley hubs. It also greatly expands the prospects for innovation within the industry, as each company has a slightly different take on what a driverless car should mean. For an industry in its early infancy, it's a key liberating step which can only be positive for developers and car manufacturers alike.

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David Lawrence

Written by David Lawrence

David is the founder of Vine Resources.