A wave of disruption has reached the automotive industry as not only consumer’s excitement at the prospect of shared mobility, electric vehicles, and autonomous cars has risen but also the fact that many technology innovators are seizing mobility as a complementary business model to their core competencies. Autonomous, shared, or electric vehicles are nevertheless not the sole breakthroughs in mobility, merely the best known. The industry has seen important advances in driver assistants, hydrogen fuel cells for electric cars and connected cars with an estimated 152 million of them roaming the streets by 2020.

As cutting-edge startups and their technology are the driver of innovation, we put them in the front seat. At StartUs Insights, our unit dedicated to Innovation Scouting and Open Innovation, we recently run a detailed analysis on 8.000+ startups, discovering several innovation areas which will impact the automotive industry in the near future. To shed light on the application and potential of the most disruptive of these emerging technologies, we decided to outline the most dominant innovation areas that influence the entire industry. As our focus lies on introducing leading edge startups, we provide one example for each innovation area to highlight existing cooperation potential.

Connected Car

With the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) connected cars emerged, capable of providing valuable services to drivers and relevant information to companies. Because cars connected to IoT transform into viable sources of data, they grant the possibility to enable predictive and preventive maintenance tools. Going further, cars can be equipped with sensors and electronic control modules, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, making them sufficiently aware to avoid accidents or call emergency services in the event of an accident. However, as connectivity rises so does the importance of cyber security for this industry.

German startup PACE Telematics has, despite its young age, already gained a lot of attention by winning the CyberChampions Awards. The solution developed by the startup allows for a car to transform into a hustle-free smart car by connecting a Bluetooth adapter to a smartphone. This system enables nine functions, among which are calling for help in the case of an emergency or providing information on the cheapest gas station nearby.

Connected Car

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Big Data

Big data is a key ingredient in providing the necessary information to the development of emerging technologies. This is confirmed by the value it produces from features like diagnostics, user experience tracking and driver assistance systems – currently estimated to be situated at an impressive 13 billion Euro. Furthermore, big and real-time data proves to be effective in unison with predictive analytics and machine learning to plan maintenance and manage transport networks.

Otonomo is working on a marketplace and exchange for car data. The Tel-Aviv-based startup allows automotive manufacturers to monetize car data and share it, enabling them to provide their customers with new services. To date, the cloud technology developed by Otonomo is already connecting millions of cars.

Big Data

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Autonomous Vehicles

Bringing an important contribution to traffic optimization and passenger safety, autonomous vehicles also open a window of opportunity for on-demand services. As costs are shrinking rapidly (in 2012, the laser sensors used in Google’s autonomous cars had a staggering price of 62.000€ while three years later they reached a cost of only 6.200€), the manufacturing cost of an autonomous car in mass production is anticipated to become much more competitive. Despite driverless cars being expected to be available on a large scale in the near future, the automotive industry will take a step in between by introducing advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), easing consumers into a world where a machine is behind the steering wheel.

British startup FiveAI accelerates the development of autonomous vehicles by creating a software relying on machine learning to achieve full autonomy. High-resolution cameras, LIDAR (Light detection and ranging), IMS (Internal Mode Switches), radar, ultrasound, audio, and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) are used to understand the car’s environment.

Autonomous Vehicles

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) transforms the future of mobility as head-up display systems are currently being perfected and much progress has been made in recent years. As of now they have the ability to present warnings, alerts and safety aids on invisible screens which are embedded in the car’s windshield. On top of that, AR will also revolutionize aircrafts. As they stride to achieve greater speeds, airplanes can consider the complete exclusion of windows as a means of attaining sturdier planes, more capable of handling such speeds.

Based in Switzerland, WayRay is working on the implementation of augmented technologies in vehicles. By developing holographic navigation systems, they support advances in connected cars. In 2017, the startup was the first to introduce a holographic AR infotainment system aimed at self-driving cars.

Augmented Reality

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

In-Vehicle Services

Media integration in cars has been an opportunity not yet seized to its full potential. It is estimated that a value of 5 billion Euro per minute can be created, conditional that all passengers access mobile media content during the average 50 minutes per day spent travelling. Additionally, autonomous vehicles, once the norm, will be skilled to pick up deliveries while on the way to their passengers, further increasing the comfort provided by manufacturers.

Despite the fact that around 20% of UK consumers online shopping occurs during commute, in-vehicle services to the degree of managing one’s groceries are still a thing of the future. Some startups, like WayRay, also develop infotainment systems for cars, with the potential for more. In the coming years, consumers will be able to make the in-transit experience whatever we want it to be: relaxing, productive, or entertaining.

In-Vehicle Services

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Shared Mobility

This innovation area encompasses a wide variety of services where vehicles are shared by actors, opening the door for car-sharing, bike sharing, taxis, ride-sharing, scooter-sharing and the like. Car-sharing alone will be responsible for 4.7 billion Euro in annual revenues by 2021, with Europe leading the field. As a consequence, manufacturers are likely to have to change their mission statements in the coming years. This translates in the emergence of new business models and the provision of mobility services by automotive manufacturers themselves.

Targeting people using public transport during the day but need a taxi at night, French startup Heetch is a ride-sharing alternative to taxis, brought to life specifically to address mobility needs late at night.

Shared Mobility

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Mobility as a Service

At its core, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) offers consumers the possibility of accessing a variety of vehicles by using the same digital platform, rather than just car-sharing, or another form of vehicle sharing. With solely a smartphone and an app, individuals can handle every aspect of their journey, from planning to payment, as the service combines a range of different transport options from different providers. MaaS was first introduced in Finland, where it’s already key to the national transport policy.

Helsinki-based MaaS Global is a startup in the center of Finland’s ambitious transport scheme. Their app Whim, that was launched in autumn of 2016, quickly shows the best route from A to B within one click by combining information of the public transportation system and private partner firms.

Mobility as a Service

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

Lightweight Materials

The biggest contributor to a vehicle’s weight lies in its body, which is made almost entirely from steel. Trading steel for a lighter alternative such as carbon fiber reduces consumption significantly. Moreover, advanced materials are able to meet weight requirements while not sacrificing safety. The implementation of lightweight materials is due to happen in the short-term. Over the medium time span, 3D printing / additive manufacturing is expected to play a key role in allowing the automotive industry to improve the process of designing and assembling, leading to an overall greater performance.

Looking to find an alternative to steel chassis, Danish startup ECOmove makes an effort to reduce vehicle weight to make electric cars more feasible. The startup’s solution entails a carbon-fiber lightweight chassis that is not only lighter, but provides the car with greater strength and stability.

Lightweight Materials

Will this innovation area disrupt the industry?

While flying cars remain a fantasy for the time being, disruptive innovation in mobility is already heavily at work, reshaping our way of travel. The eight outlined innovation areas are just a few of the key digital drivers we identified in the automotive industry. Others include Sensoric, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Gamification, and Cyber Security. As these emerging technologies grow further, challenge existing structures, and transform the entire industry, companies that act proactively will emerge as industry leaders. When executed well, innovation in mobility will benefit the consumer, environment as well as the automotive industry. As demonstrated in this breakdown, startups are in the front seat of emerging innovation areas and disruptive technologies. Collaborating with them provides organizations with a strong competitive advantage. StartUs Insights supports this process by providing actionable innovation intelligence on startup driven innovation.


StartUs Insights provides actionable intelligence on startup driven innovation.
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Author Andra Cataniciu|Design Luca Nagy|Executive Editor Susi Wallner|Copy Editor David Prasser, Iryna Bursuk, Glenn Leaper|Web Development Reza Rastgoo