Insights / Industry Perspectives / “Cars will never stop being a highly personal experience” — An interview with Igor Ličanin, Engineering Lead at HTEC Group


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“Cars will never stop being a highly personal experience” — An interview with Igor Ličanin, Engineering Lead at HTEC Group

Electric vehicles, and autonomous driving, which is still a dream for all OEMs, will change everything and have a massive impact on all industries no matter whether they are directly connected to automotive or not.”  

Igor Ličanin, Engineering Lead leading a team of automotive industry experts, here refers to how the power of the automotive industry will introduce us to a whole new era of consumers who expect more experience, more safety, more flexibility, and more integration into their daily lives. And, yet he believes that the lure of private-car ownership won’t be going away any time soon.  

With an extensive background in the field of automotive and burning enthusiasm to build solutions that will holistically reimagine automotive experience, Igor took some time to offer his perspective on automotive trends, the impact of EVs, the opportunities OEMs need to seize to get ahead of the curve, and so much more.   

H: Recently, Jim Farley, the CEO of Ford Motor Company, pointed out in an interview that the market is evolving rapidly towards electric, stating that their competitors are unbelievable. In other words, OEMs who can’t transition rapidly towards EVs will be in the crosshairs of industry disruption. What are your thoughts on this? Should their warnings be taken seriously?  

I: Major automotive companies have always been striving for advancements in this industry, and some of the biggest technological breakthroughs came straight from them. And ever since the beginning of the automotive, the whole industry has been striving for luxury and convenience as the primary consumer. And through history, our focus moved from luxury and convenience to more accessible and available cars for everyone. Also, everything connecting us to the automotive industry has to move forward. The big concern today is keeping greenhouse gases to the minimum, making our planet greener, and improving overall living conditions globally. And I think that the major automotive producers have now realized that emissions and the whole system have to abide by those rules. According to recent research, European Union wants to reduce these emissions to zero by 2050.  

However, it’s not easy to move to electric vehicles because of the current technological and governmental issues. One of the significant issues at the moment is the availability of charging stations. According to the research, 49% of the people interviewed said that they don’t want to have an electric vehicle before they can charge it normally and frequently as they would fill up their tanks on gas stations. Electric cars and the Internet of Things are moving the connectivity of the vehicle forward. And, while Jim Farley is pretty much right about major OEMs and their strive towards the electric vehicle as to the business model that will help them succeed, I believe that this trend will come to this stage in all its blaze and glory in 10 to 15 years. Until then, we will probably see many more changes in the IoT within the standard cars and, of course, and try to solve issues related to electric vehicles, including batteries, transmission systems, power inverters, and things like that. So yeah, I think that that would be the case.   

H: Consumer focus has moved from convenience and simplicity to prioritizing sustainability and redefining notions of “ownership.” This is the time for OEMs to take innovation seriously and holistically reimagine the automotive experience in line with technological progress and human change. From your point of view, what opportunities do OEMs need to seize to reimagine their automotive experience (domain) holistically?  

I: In the last decade and especially in the last 5 years, an evolving approach to engineering processes is becoming more noticeable. Conventional thinking and earlier priorities are rapidly changing and are constantly pushing boundaries to deliver better, innovative, and often pioneering solutions. 

What was before accepted as a primary focus in developing vehicles is now becoming a small part of the overall automotive experience. Considering a vehicle as a global product, catering to numerous needs of the market, demands a shift towards a more holistic view combining technology with human needs. 

While moving towards a more holistic experience, OEMs should focus their efforts on: 

  • Leveraging the power of online digital channels to create new sales experiences; 
  • Taking the lead in driving the sustainability agenda forward; 
  • Levelling up in-car experience to make the vehicles safer and sounder; 
  • Building more software-defined vehicles to provide consumers with a more interactive and personalized experience 

In my view, any strategy OEMs should be adequate to address not just the current (business, technological, environmental, etc.) needs but also be robust enough to answer the ever-growing challenges in a rapidly evolving future. 

H: Moving on to the trends shaping the industry. Take a concept like mobility, also known as a “freedom machine.” How is the future of mobility shaping up the world as we know it? Are we moving toward more shared mobility, mobility as a service? Or will the automobile continue to be a highly personal expression?  

I: To me, these are two branches that are going to be continuously developed in the future. Cars, at least in my opinion, will never stop being a highly personal experience. And that feeling of freedom to drive anywhere will never disappear. I think that’s part of human nature. But again, moving from this personal experience towards a more distributed, shared driving is a must. The number of people on this planet is growing, the number of fossil resources is rapidly going down. The solutions have to be created, and they have to be created fast, very fast. Take a look at the studies which say that by 2050, almost 60% of the entire human population will be situated in urban cities. In that case, this means that the issues related to public transportation and general commuting have to be resolved in another way. So, I would say yes, mobility as a service will rapidly grow. And we will definitely see a revolution within ten years from now. And it also depends on what kind of scale we are talking about. If we are talking about the overall human population on Earth, it’s going to be impossible. People will always need transportation. But I believe that whatever is done in European Union as a standard will come here within 10 to 15 years, meaning that a big part of the mentality in the huge urban centres will change. Still, I truly believe that we will always have these two polarities, depending on where you are.   

H: Let’s look ahead ten years. Paint a picture of the automotive industry and the impact it has on other industries as well.   

I: I have experience working in different industries that are closely connected to the automotive industry now. And if we look at the period 10 years from now — I believe that the Internet of Things will be highly developed, compared to what it is now. We will see vehicles connected to everything, from the environment to people and smartphones. Next, mobility as a service will thrive, providing people with a chance to use shared transportation. This will impact every industry globally. For example, if we talk about logistics, major distributing companies and online sellers will leverage the power of automated transportation, where the vehicle does not necessarily need to be a car. It can be a drone or a taxi robot. And it doesn’t stop here! It will also massively influence the health industry, and reduce the pollution and noise within the city, and improve the quality of life at the same time. It may not directly impact some of the industries, but they will undoubtedly reap the benefits. Electric vehicles and autonomous driving, which is still a dream for all OEMs, will change everything and have a massive impact on all industries, no matter whether they are directly connected to automotive or not.  

H: Electric mobility is taking the world by storm, and cities are increasingly encouraging electrification. But the goal for the many participants in this automotive ecosystem is a global standard. How challenging is this for the automotive industry, and how do you think it will keep up with the trends?  

I: Well, remember when every cell phone had its charger? It’s the same thing now with the automotive industry — it has comprehensive standards which abide by strict regulations. These standards, of course, vary from region to region. But let’s talk about the European Union as they are one of the major ones. We have the ASPI standard. We have the ISO 26262 standards, which have to be fulfilled. And this is where functional safety I mentioned earlier plays a considerable role — every line of code has to be covered and verified with extensive testing and documentation. This is the major goal OEMs are trying to achieve. But there are still many questions swarming in their heads related to electric mobility. How do we handle the battery? How do we pull it off? How do we get to the transmission status? How do we have the power from the batteries inverted towards all the systems in the car? What is the lifecycle of our battery? How fast does it need to be recharged? How long can we go? How fast can we go? If we talk just about electric mobility, this is still a huge area that is growing. It’s still a child. So, as electric mobility grows, the global standard will be more and more regulated. Nobody wants to have a dozen different standards, but the thing is that, right now, we are in the era of the explorers who are all trying to do something new or create something better. And the competition in the market is fierce. Who will create a better usage of the battery or the best battery, which components will use less power — these are all things biggest players on the market need to consider when thinking about how to differentiate themselves on the market. Automotive companies used to focus more on the systems within the car, how the engine works, how the exhaust system works, things like that. Now they focus on more accessible items, which is why many new players are rising on the market. The integrated approach is now in focus, and I believe it will be standardized in the next 10 to 15 years.   

H: How high-tech is the automotive industry today? What kind of impact will it have on the consumer of the future? What will people expect from their cars in the future?  

I: Every region, every country has its own mentality and a different set of customers. And I would say that people, for example, in Sweden, are, in some parts, very similar to the people in Germany. But for sure, we know that Volvo and the whole industry of electronic vehicles are much more appreciated in, for example, Sweden, where we have all the stars, the forerunners of this niche. On the other hand, Audi electric cars are enormous and nice — ideal for people whose primary goal is to have a comfortable drive. Tesla, for example, is high tech, aimed at those who want to be at the edge of the seat experiencing the power of the latest technology. But it is not so safe. So, I guess everything depends on the mentality of people buying the car. And the question arises: Where are we within the automotive industry right now? And I would say that, based on the readings and research, people tend to have a stable car with a low maintenance cost that doesn’t use much gas and that they can use at any time. This is today. And where do we see this going? Well, people will want to have everything in the palm of their hands. And IoT is going to play a major part here. There are so many things to explore and so many opportunities to grab. And this is where we are going. The future is now! It’s already happening.   

H: Which trend will be the most disruptive across industries?  

I: Moving towards electric mobility is definitely the most disruptive trend right now in the automotive industry. And as we discussed before, the major OEMs, the new players coming in this game, the existing Tier one and Tier two suppliers, everyone are refocusing towards this trend. Of course, as this system is huge, many parts and many players can tackle this. It’s not just one item in the car; it’s the whole system. It’s the battery. It’s the transmission system of the power within the car, the power inverters, the infotainment system, the entire set of issues, and their optimization. And if you look at the projects we are now working on; they can be used on par with electric vehicles. So, I would say that overall, everyone, all the players, small or big ones included in the automotive game right now, are going to be mostly, as you said, disrupted by the trend of electric mobility.   

But then again, electric mobility includes a whole set of sub-trends, including mobility as a service, ease of access, ease of usage, the safety. 

And the next in the row is definitely a connected vehicle where you can communicate with your car and tell it what to do, or your car can communicate with other cars to get real-time information about the road condition or something similar. Some of the world-class universities are working on these technologies.  

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