Putting the industry on autopilot

Parham Antonio Vasaiely, Senior Manager Autonomous Vehicles and Self-Driving Car engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, discusses the future of automation within the UK’s automotive industry and what has to be done to harness the potential on the horizon. 

Parham Antonio Vasaiely was attracted to the automotive industry from the aerospace and defence industry due to the emerging challenges and exciting prospects within the rapidly-changing market. As many industries start to intertwine with each other, such as the automotive and technology worlds, there are also a lot of transferable skills that are used to developing large-scale, complex products, with companies having to deal with innovations such as autonomous vehicle and other connected features. Now at Jaguar Land Rover for over five years, and boasting over a decade of experience in complex systems and software product development, Vasaiely was drawn to the British automaker through its drive into future mobility, setting the bar for most automakers looking to adapt business models today. Jaguar Land Rover has had a front-row seat for the great shift we see in front of us today.

In order to capitalise in this area, the automaker has managed to balance its focus between the traditional business model that built its reputation in the global market with the new processes and innovations needed to profit in future transport solutions. Through this approach, Jaguar Land Rover has birthed a new plan called ACES, which highlights the main pillars of future transportation: autonomous, connected, electrified and shared mobility. "This is really our focus now," Vasaiely confirms. "We are looking and thinking about what products and services we need to develop to work towards the vision of the future." Through this direct approach that highlights the exact areas of business that need to be developed, both Vasaiely and his team can identify, address and solve the different areas of future transport solutions.

Innovation Vs realisation

Although we are involved in an incredibly exciting time for transportation, it is important that the industry does not get too carried away with over-the-top ideas that are just not possible in today's world. Jaguar Land Rover has recognised this, especially in the field of regulations, where there is a distinct lack of rules surrounding innovations such as autonomous vehicles.

"When you look at electrification, there are a lot of requirements coming from the authorities in different cities around the world which adds a lot of pressure to the traditional automakers to bring these products into their portfolio," says Vasaiely. "Equally, customers are now demanding these new products as they recognise that the future is electric. In the autonomous space, the legislative framework is still evolving as we understand the full landscape and the many stakeholders who will need to play a part. There are still a lot of opportunities for these kinds of products going forward, but this will not be an overnight process.”

Going forward, expect to see new proposals that will highlight certain solutions with autonomous vehicles, such as geofencing, locating safer areas for testing and general protection of the software. However, we are still yet to see a significant push from the authorities or customers, due to being in the early stages of development. “Customers are still confused about the emergence of autonomous vehicles, so it is understandable why there is little demand from their perspectives; especially when there are very few in the public eye,” adds Vasaiely. “On the other hand, you have things like mobility, in which the shared space is growing rapidly thanks to an increased interest from customers, especially from younger generations who do not want to purchase and operate a car in a traditional way." We will start to see this evolution in smaller and less dense areas, where automakers and developers will trial products before expanding into bigger and more complex areas. For this, they will not just need partnerships to harness the advanced technology and understand how and where autonomous vehicles can be introduced, but also create new experiences for consumers that totally change the way they view transportation in the future.

The true value

Future mobility solutions will change the way that we look at transportation, most importantly in the area of privatised car ownership. Ultimately, these shared platforms are the future if the industry wants to increase efficiency and improve the travelling experience for passengers whilst decreasing emissions and overall safety issues. Vasaiely explains that Jaguar Land Rover is focused on changing its long-standing business model in order to accommodate a new customer value chain. "I think that it is key to understand that this won't happen overnight with one team or function. This process will take time and will involve multiple teams and operations that will come together to deliver this vision. For us, it is a highly collaborative approach,” he says. Jaguar Land Rover is focused on this from a holistic view, including product engineering, marketing sales and corporate strategy to understand how it can develop this new approach across the board. This is extremely different to that of a startup, which is able to be more agile and flexible given its size, so Jaguar Land Rover must find solutions that enable it to organically transition into a new business structure without disrupting existing processes.

Vasaiely also believes that there needs to be some form of focus on simplicity that will reflect the passenger's values, rather than overcomplicating the technology to a point where it will ruin the experience. "The user experience and the human factor is very fundamental to us," he says. "We have dedicated teams looking at the user experience, the human factors and HMI, and are investing in a lot of these areas compared to traditional hardware and software." Automakers must be able to cater to the new nature of autonomous vehicles for customers, where the driver is removed and a new layout and experience are introduced into the design. This completely changes the idea of what a car should be, so it is important that an automaker like Jaguar Land Rover ensures that it continues to research and develop new methods of incorporating these innovations into each vehicle. "There will be one case where you are looking at the private ownership of the car, where customers will still want to have the freedom to operate their own vehicle, and there will be the scenario of mobility, where customers may not necessarily even touch a steering wheel,” predicts Vasaiely.

Maintaining brand identity through change

Everyone is in the same boat when it comes to self-driving cars, which could be a problem with brand identity - something that Jaguar Land Rover is extremely proud of. With the same kind of autonomous and connected software entering each vehicle, it is important for automakers to create a new, exclusive experience for consumers, in order to eliminate the risk of boring 'stock' vehicles. At the end of the day, vehicles still need to maintain a positive experience for passengers, even if they are not driving. Vasaiely believes that this is the one million dollar question: "It is important to understand how you can maintain your driving dynamics and the customer experience around that in comparison to the ability of the vehicle driving itself. For us, we still want to give customers the freedom to drive their vehicles, but provide the added value of being able to access the autonomous capabilities. Striking this balance is very important." There are a lot of technology-related challenges involved in this transition, so it is important that automakers can introduce new technology pioneers into their business to succeed in the new market. Jaguar Land Rover has been doing this for some time now, hiring and partnering up with specialists who can help manage this area as the company evolves into a mobility leader. "It's not just about hiring, but developing talent from around the world," says Vasaiely.

The UK is becoming a leader in future mobility, with many hubs around the country which are renowned for transport solutions, designs and technology. This new talent pool has allowed the industry in the region to birth startups and put innovation at the forefront of the UK's development. This is mostly credited to investment, but there still needs to be a lot more done across multiple industries to aid the country in this field. "The UK is starting this journey, focusing on where it will test and what companies it wants to attract,” claims Vasaiely. “There are a lot of talented people and good organisations here, which will be fundamental to the UK's plan. But we need to create a cohesive plan and a strategy that will drive this all forward consistently across different cities and hubs." This approach shows how dedicated Jaguar Land Rover are to the future of transportation, taking this opportunity with both hands. In terms of outlook, it all looks extremely positive for Vasailey, who’s optimism seems to grow each day. “For us it is pretty clear; we want to be at the forefront of providing premium luxury products for our customers and continue to recruit a lot of talented people. There is a very bright future in front of us and the UK automotive industry." 

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