Software-defined cars at the center of the IAA 2021

Last week, the leading trade fair of the automotive industry, the International Automobile Exhibition (also known as International Mobility Show, IAA), opened its doors to welcome more than 400,000 visitors in Munich, Germany. From September 7th to September 12th, visitors were able to have a look at the newest car models from major OEMs (VW, BMW, Daimler, Renault, etc.) as well as the latest innovations from automotive suppliers such as Continental, Bosch, ZF Group, and many more. Under the motto ‘What will move us next’, the IAA put a strong emphasis on the trending topics of the past few years - electrification, digitalization, urban mobility, and sustainability were the recurrent themes of the fair.

Beside a variety of fully electric cars (e.g., BMW i4, Mercedes EQG, etc.) presented by the different OEMs, the shift towards software-defined cars was noticeable as well. Many suppliers and car manufacturers have increased their investments in IT and presented the results at the IAA. For instance, ZF Group showcased ZF ProAI, a central computer whose AI capability enables autonomous driving up to level 5. Volkswagen Group booked a stand for CARIAD, a VW subsidiary established in 2020. CARIAD bundles the software development activities for all VW passenger car brands and will focus on driver assistance systems, digital voice assistants, and additional services for parking and fleet management for the group. Next to that, some software and IT specialists such as IBM had a stand, too.

An important aspect for many of the companies present at the IAA was the value of data. Most of them agree that data is a key element of the further development and improvement of mobility in the future. As such, the trade fair also promoted partnerships between data experts and automotive specialists. For example, SIXT, a German car sharing and rental company, and Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel specializing in computer vision and driver assistance systems, on the first day of the IAA announced that they would be launching Germany’s first robotaxi fleet in Munich starting 2022. The taxis rely on Mobileye’s system to navigate autonomously through the traffic, while SIXT oversees the maintenance and operation of the cars. The autonomous robotaxi service will be integrated into SIXT's ONE mobility platform, which combines services for ride-hailing, car rental, car sharing, and car subscriptions in one app. Users will be able to book the service via the SIXT app.

Overall, the IAA has shown that the future of mobility will be strongly linked to the evolution of new technologies. Already today, cloud computing, IoT, and artificial intelligence are an integral and essential part of any modern car. With Munich as its new location, the next IAA, planned for September 2023, will surely display other functions that can be unlocked through technology.