Intelligent Energy

Siemens building car of future. Huh, Siemens?

Posting in Architecture

Siemens is an energy, IT company. Why they building a car? Bold example of 'transmunication' trend. Place your order now for Apple's iCar, Google's SearchMobile. Free car in a service contract?

Germany's Siemens AG announced recently that it is designing what it calls the "car of the future." At first glance this is just another in an impressive litany of industry steps towards modernizing automobiles with computer intelligence.

But what stands out here is the nature of the company behind the announcement. Siemens is an energy, railway and IT/automation company - not a car company, right?

Exactly. This announcement says a lot about the transporcation (that sounds obscene) or transmunication (that's better) trend that is shaping the next big step in transportation.

Cars are morphing into computers. They're turning into smartphones on wheels. They sing, they dance, they navigate, they drive themselves, they perform their own engine diagnostics. They tweet and send emails. They intelligently conserve energy, processing information that tells them when to use gasoline versus electric. They even practice cloud computing to find out whether a local utility is currently generating solar electricity, and charge up accordingly.

So it's time to build a car from the ground up with all the IT as an integrated forethought, not a bolt-on. That's what Siemens is doing, developing "new information and communications technology (ICT) for future electric cars," it says in a press release

"In vehicles built with this new technology, the driver assistance, safety, and infotainment features will mostly be installed as software instead of being managed in control units," Siemens states. "This will reduce the current complexity of the ICT architecture and at the same time increase its power."

Siemens is working with partners including TRW Automotive, AVL Software and Functions, Institut ILS at the University of Stuttgart, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Research Institution for Applied and Integrated Security, RWTH Aachen, and three divisions of the Technical University of Munich, including one called fortiss GmbH. The 3-year project is funded by the German government.

It's notable to see an IT initiative lead the way in an automobile project. I've predicted before, and I'll say it again: Put in your advance order now for Apple's iCar. Or if you prefer, for Google's SearchMobile. And get ready to buy them as a service: Free car for a 2-year onboard Internet and electricity package, anyone?

Image: Siemens

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure