Many years ago, when I started writing about the automotive industry, the buzzword was innovation, and then collaboration. Now the hot topics are EVs and hybrids, connectivity, 5G, connected and autonomous vehicles and new mobility
models, including car sharing and multimodal personal transport solutions.
This is a fascinating about-face; for as long as I can remember, the supply chain was driven by its own advances - or lack of advances - in its own realm of research and technology. Looking back 25 years, I could not have imagined
that the connectivity built into the vehicle itself could mesh with the stream-lining of the supply chain, both inbound and outbound.
Indeed, logistics and the greater supply chain was for many years seen as lagging behind in its use of the latest IT systems. Not so any more.
At the recent UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) connected conference in London, I saw presentations that really confirmed the linkage between the vehicle and all aspects of the supply chain.
With talk of disruption - not a favourite expression of mine - and the extraordinary changes to the handling of and attitude to data and connectivity between vehicles and plants, distribution centres, logistics planning and execution,
it seems that the new ‘intelligence’ - both that input by humans and artificial intelligence - really will permeate the whole industry, from design and development to finished vehicle delivery.
Big data and privacy must also go hand in hand and this has long been a concern of mine - how the personal data that we all input to a vehicle when we own, hire it, borrow it or even ride in it as a passenger, possibly as a ridesharer,
can so easily remain in the vehicle's system memory and thus be available to the next vehicle user or unscrupulous hacker. The notion of a personal ‘suitcase’ of data that resides with the individual as opposed to in the vehicle,
is an important step and one that will reassure the customer and enable the logistics provider and other parts of the supply chain to marshal data more safely and effectively.
So, while I welcome the interaction of the incredibly sophisticated data connectivity of today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles, and I am delighted to see logistics professionals and providers harness it to speed the supply chain, I would
urge the industry to be cautious and help us all manage our data effectively and safely.
Simon Duval Smith