What is a car?


Uschi Schreiber

Former EY Global Vice Chair – Markets, Chair of Global Accounts Committee

Working with people around the world on solving complex problems and implementing lasting change. Named one of LinkedIn’s global top voices of 2016 in management and culture.

4 minute read 18 Jun 2018

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The automobile is at the crossroads of convergence. Are we ready for it?

Is it an engine on wheels that you drive to get from A to B? Or is it an autonomous machine that frees up your time to work or relax while you are transported in comfort? Can you use it as a mobile remote control to connect to your home and manage your household appliances while you’re out?  Does it act as your virtual assistant, highlighting all the places where you can stop for coffee en route? Is it even an asset that rents itself out and provides you with income? Or is it a data collection device that knows your habits and preferences and shares your information with consumer product companies, with or without your knowledge?

Industry convergence

I raise these questions as cars are right at the forefront of today’s industry convergence. Automotive, manufacturing, energy, technology, media and consumer goods companies are coming together to reimagine the car as a product, and how we will move goods and people in future and how our data is used. In doing so, they are breaking down longstanding industry barriers and hierarchies, carving out new ecosystems where each company is a partner that brings its own distinctive competencies, interests and perspectives to the overall endeavor.

Industry convergence is one of the most powerful forces transforming business today.  It’s all about blending one industry with another, or several other industries. It is about blending human activities with machine activities. And it is about blending the future with the present, the new with the old.

That’s why industry convergence is the theme of our new 2018 Global Megatrends report and the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2018 Forum, taking place in Monaco this week. Entrepreneurs play a major role in convergence, and industry disruption generally, by coming up with ideas and innovations that challenge the status quo. They bring fresh thinking that inspires people to create new services and/or re-invigorate traditional services. 

Entrepreneurs are leading the way

EY’s Growth Barometer, launched this week, highlights that already more than one in five (22%) of the high-growth entrepreneurs we surveyed have adopted AI, compared with 5% of other companies. They are also more likely than their peers to boost their business agility by building alliances with external partners. What’s more, entrepreneurs make it a priority to look ahead. Nearly half of high-growth entrepreneurs (48%) believe they should be spending at least half of their time on the future, compared with just 16% of the C-Suite in other companies.

The impact of convergence

The automotive sector is not the only example of convergence - consider urban planning and the fact that many of us live in increasingly smart cities where municipal authorities use technology to manage everything from traffic through to air pollution, crime prevention and waste removal.

Then there is health care. Disruptive technologies will allow the fusion of the biological, digital and physical worlds. Artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, promises to transform a host of health-related activities, from drug development through to clinical support. DNA sequencing and gene editing will provide therapies for many serious diseases while clinical robots could deliver inexpensive, personalized home care at scale – a huge benefit for governments and other funders who have to meet the demands of aging populations. We will only see the full potential of what is possible in healthcare, however, when technologies can share personalized health data safely, and in real time, and also harness data that is located outside the traditional health ecosystem – for example environmental information.

Another particularly powerful megatrend is the shift toward an AI-enabled workplace. We already see increasing convergence between the digital and the human worlds, convergence that will result in people finding it perfectly natural to collaborate with robotic co-workers (‘cobots’) on a day-to-day basis. Navigating this shift will be a challenge.  We need to prepare for a new world of work, which will inevitably involve revamping human resources and talent, employee motivation, recruitment, skills development and training.

There is also growing potential for expanded “human augmentation” and “transhumanism” which will likely result in people and machines merging. Already more and more commentators are predicting that companies with high RQ (Robotic Quotient) are likely to create more revenue and profits than those with lower RQ.

Yet, despite all the predictions being made, the future rarely plays out in the way we expect.  There are endless possibilities for what the future might look like based on complex interdependencies and with many external influences such as geo-political developments, policy decisions and technology inventions.

So that brings me back to my initial question: What is a car? Perhaps there will be another use for it that we haven’t even thought of yet…

Between 13-17 June, the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018™ Forum will convene the world's leading entrepreneurs and businesses under the theme of "Does industry collision shatter or shape our future thinking?" Join the conversation by following #WEOY#BetterQuestions#GrowthBarometer


As industries are re-imagined, entrepreneurs are leading the way.

About this article


Uschi Schreiber

Former EY Global Vice Chair – Markets, Chair of Global Accounts Committee

Working with people around the world on solving complex problems and implementing lasting change. Named one of LinkedIn’s global top voices of 2016 in management and culture.