WCX 2024: Two Approaches to Mobility Engineering

Research report addresses how newcomers and traditional players pursue mobility engineering.

By the end of this decade, start-up and traditional automotive companies will have significant overlap in their approaches. (Tesla)

A few years ago, traditional automotive companies basically shrugged their shoulders at EV newcomers. But traditionalist viewpoints are changing. “They’re learning from each other now,” said Sven Beiker, managing director of Silicon Valley Mobility, an automotive consulting firm. Beiker, an automotive engineer, spoke with SAE Media about mobility engineering prior to his Knowledge Bar session at the 2024 WCX event. Beiker’s session will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 16.

Sven Beiker, managing director of Silicon Valley Mobility, presents at the Knowledge Bar at WCX 2024 on Tuesday, April 16.

Established automakers are exceedingly practiced at R&D, design, engineering, manufacturing and distribution. “And that process is sometimes overlooked, dismissed, ignored,” Beiker said. “But making automobiles is a huge deal. It’s not easy to bring a new vehicle to the market and make money.”

As start-up automotive companies began their journey in the early 2000s, they immediately hit supply chain roadblocks, including concerns about their long-term business viability and cash flow for purchases. “In a way, the traditional automotive industry forced automotive newcomers to think differently because they didn’t have access to the same technologies,” Beiker said. For many mobility newcomers, the logical approach was doing tasks in-house. “Newcomers are typically more vertically integrated than established vehicle manufacturers,” he said.

While traditional automakers have been using software for decades, newcomers dove headfirst into the digital world. “With software, you can iterate much more quickly and much more often. You can also be more innovative with designs because coding something new goes much faster than building new hardware,” Beiker said.

With an emphasis on designing in virtual environments, newcomers recruited software and technology specialists from the computer, consumer electronics, artificial intelligence, cloud services and other digital domains. “Newcomers don’t have historic baggage,” Beiker said. “They are in a much better position to think outside-the-box.” With a slight push from newcomers, traditional automotive companies are becoming more nimble thinkers. “But if you’ve been doing something for years and years — if not decades — then it’s hard to do it differently,” he said.

By the end of this decade, start-up and traditional automotive companies will have significant overlap in how they approach mobility engineering. “The lines are going to become more blurred,” Beiker predicts, adding, “The automotive industry needs both the traditional players and the newcomers.”