DETROIT, MI: Self-driving cars may grab the headlines, but reports from the Detroit Motor Show suggest the real shift taking place in the auto industry is the development of unexpected partnerships.

Car companies have traditionally been secretive when developing new, and specifically autonomous, technologies. Now, however, some are finding that they have to open their doors to others as they realise the implications of a digital future .

According to the Financial Times, auto partnerships, straight-up tech firms, mobility, and pizza companies are exploring new revenue avenues. Ford’s global markets president, Jim Farley, explained to the paper that “tech partnerships have never been more important, and they’re only going to grow in importance”.

Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, noted the shifting nature of future competition. “Our competitors no longer just make cars,” he told CES at the unveiling of the Japanese carmaker’s e-Palette.

“Companies like Google, Apple, and even Facebook are what I think about at night. Because, after all, we didn’t start out by making cars either.” As a result of these bad dreams, the self-driving vehicle’s partners include Amazon, Uber, and Pizza Hut.

While the company’s manufacturing and engineering expertise continues at its core, technology is helping it to extract further value for the consumer. Bob Carter, Toyota’s US president, told the FT that it is in the addition of partners that this happens. Applying car technology “to the logistics of a delivery service is something that we need to partner up on to benefit the consumer”, he said.

Entering partnerships also grows financial and intellectual muscle: Fiat Chrysler and BMW have joined a consortium for the development of self-driving vehicles that includes Alphabet’s Waymo, chip-maker Intel, and auto-parts maker Delphi.  

For BMW, the spirit of collaboration has helped the company, and rivals Diamler and Audi, to acquire a mapping services technology Here, in order to bring this and other significant technologies in house.

“We want to penetrate and understand and control the development of these areas. This defines the kind of partnerships that we’re going to make,” said Dieter Zetsche, BMW’s CEO.

Sourced from the Financial Times, WARC