Next Digital Transformation Frontier — Smarter Cars

Sam Lin
4 min readJan 18, 2021


This year, Consumer Electronic Show is almost a “new Detroit Motor Show”. Which’s great to see the industry focuses more on 10x innovations once again. Partially, thanks to the capital market rewarding Tesla’s lead as the most valuable can company. What else can beat watching a flying car, & other cool stuffs on stage? BTW kudos to CES, you made it good under the new virtual norm. But as a Consumer, you may ask “What’s It In For Me ?”.

FLYING CAR! GM reimagines transportation

Personally, I’m looking forward for my next car can bring new joys to my life each day. It requires a device to be “Smart”, which can add new functionalities & UX even after “Out-of-the-box” continuously. Today it’s a basic need (aka Must-be in Kano model) for any smartphone. Soon car history will rhyme because as a consumer, I may not buy a car only because it’s “smart”. But I’ll not even consider a car because it’s not “smart”. The question is how quick you can adapt new needs & challenges for the Digital Transformation.

Speed Matters A Lot

A startup has better chance to win by embracing new Digital Transformation entirely early. If you are not one, you can act like one at least. But what’s fundamentally different a “startup” from “Business as Usual”? Common wisdom often overrates on Tech. Whereas in Silicon Valley, “Fast is better than slow” is a well known secret. For example, Amazon has “Bias for Action: Speed matters in business”. And Facebook used to have “Move Fast And Break Things”. Only in the real world, accelerating anything is hard & needs some effort. As Newton’s 2nd law, it’s not only so when you’re small, but even exponentially harder as you grow. Technology can be useful to make scaling easier, and it’s a necessity for big impacts. Which’s why most successful startup are in tech. But in times of change, tech. along may not be not enough.

The Lean Startup | Eric Ries | Talks at Google

David vs Goliath

Even many big tech. companies are actually more comfortable with “Business-as-Usual”. Which can be opportunities for startups as David to challenge Goliath. Many will check the growth rate for startups. But it’s a lagging indicator. If to look forward, the execution speed can be more useful. Because quick iterations will either translate figuring out the Product/Market Fit early or growing faster. For a startup to success, both are needed & in that order.

David and Goliath | Malcolm Gladwell | Talks at Google

Speed To Validate Value

In 1992 Jobs shared: “Hardware churns every 18 months. It’s pretty impossible to get a sustainable competitive advantage from hardware… it only lasts for 6 months”. At the time, Personal Computer era was just getting started & very exciting. Today the 12-months-cycle is already too long for mobile. That’ll be the bar any automobile player have to complete with. Otherwise, most consumers may still rely on decent mobile alternatives, such as CarPlay.

So the 1st leap of fait for automobile to play the smart game right is figuring out what are the right things to build faster. To be fair, automobile is much more complicated & take longer time to design. Nevertheless if it want to be competitive on increasing dynamic digital UX market, it better speeds this up. The traditional waterfall market research & produce design just can not keep up the changes anymore.

Thanks to digital transformation, it’s magical when real-time market research done right, e.g. Target could serve a pregnant girl better even before her father knew. It was a 2012 story. Since many more industries have upgraded to make consumers’ life easier, e.g. Uber for taxi & Airbnb for hotel. Now, there are even academic researches “proving” it works, e.g. experimentation & startup performance: evidence from A/B testing. So how long do you think you can keep using a good old hammer when others are using power tools? Psst! Even “the power tools” are increasing smarter too, thanks AI 😉.

Speed To Deliver New Values

Faster updates will give any automobile player significant competitive advantage. Not only they can delight its users continuously by new features & UX, but also it’s very hard to catch up. Tesla has a heads start by designing for updates from the beginning. Whereas most car OEMs are not yet doing so or building the right capabilities.

Furthermore, if anyone seriously about ride or even lead the digital transformation, one better rethinks application lifecycle management with continuous deployment in mind. So one may redefines what business to be in. Currently time is actually more favorable to car OEMs, because the market is still too small for big 3rd party app developers for now. Only the opportunity window will not keep open forever.

Full Disclosure

The opinions stated here are my own, not those of my company. They are most extrapolations from the news. I don’t have insider knowledge of those companies, nor an EV expert.



Sam Lin

A Taiwanese lives in Silicon Valley since 2014 & has random opinions on some stuff. The opinions shared here are my own, not those of companies I work for.