Apple helps blur the line between Silicon Valley and Detroit

Coverage Type: op-ed
New York, NY, United States

[Commentary] For years, we’ve been hearing of all the cool technology that’s going into cars, mostly in the form of infotainment and better navigation. In its search for growth markets, Silicon Valley continues to push further and further into the automobile sector, and that’s changing the way we think about our cars. In the future, we could be talking about “Apple cars” and “Google cars” and “Microsoft cars” the same way we once talked about Ford, GM and the other icons of Detroit.

We’re turning into a nation of ridesharers, rather than ride-buyers, so we care even less about the brand of the automobile we’re driving, and more about the technology provider making it all possible. Most significantly, we’re increasingly comfortable with the notion of a self-driving car, in which all the aspects of the real-car experience that Detroit’s automakers used to tout -- the feel of the steering wheel, the response of the brakes, the revving of the engine (and, oh, for good measure, the feel of your hair blowing in the wind) -- are fading into the background as product differentiators. This is actually a sea-change in thinking. If we’re no longer the ones driving the car (and it’s computers doing the driving), do we really care if the car is manufactured in Germany or in China, as long as the technology is from a tech company that we trust? If we’re investing more and more in the infotainment and navigation of the vehicle, do we care more about the factory in Detroit or the R&D lab in Silicon Valley? This could be the final blurring of Silicon Valley and Detroit, where we view automobiles as just really expensive smartphones tricked out with cool apps and four wheels.

[Basulto is a futurist and blogger based in New York City]


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