An Amazon auto exec explains why Silicon Valley isn't going to destroy traditional automakers
- Ned Curic, Amazon's vice president of Alexa automotive, previously worked at Toyota, and said Amazon and Toyota have similar cultures of innovation.
- Curic said he believes many automakers will thrive as electrification and autonomy become more common.
- Automakers are quickening the rate at which they develop software for their vehicles, Curic said, and he cited investments they have made in electric vehicles, autonomous driving technology, and mobility services as evidence that they can respond to Silicon Valley rivals like Uber and the Google spin-off Waymo.
Ned Curic, Amazon's vice president of Alexa automotive, moved from Toyota to Amazon in 2017 to head its effort to integrate Alexa into cars. His move could have been seen as evidence that, as some transportation industry experts and observers have suggested, Silicon Valley could eventually develop an edge over traditional automakers. But Curic said in an interview with Business Insider that he found Toyota and Amazon to have comparable cultures of innovation.
"The two companies are quite similar," he said.
During his time at the automaker, Curic contributed to the founding of Toyota Connected in 2016, a spin-off that was designed to focus on mobility services and data analytics. Toyota Connected has since helped to develop a car-sharing service based in Hawaii and a self-driving concept vehicle.
Toyota's history of innovation has inspired Silicon Valley, Curic said. The automaker is known for its renowned production system based on constant, incremental improvements and a "just-in-time" assembly process that delivers parts as they're needed, reducing inventory.
But Toyota is not the only automaker with an eye toward the future. Automakers are quickening the rate at which they develop software for their vehicles, Curic said, and he cited investments they have made or plan to make in electric vehicles, autonomous driving technology, and mobility services as evidence that they can respond to Silicon Valley rivals like Uber and the Google spin-off Waymo.
General Motors in 2016 bought the autonomous driving startup Cruise, which is seen by industry experts as one of the leaders in the race to introduce autonomous ride-hailing services like the one Waymo debuted on a limited scale in December. And Volkswagen has said it will spend $50 billion on electric vehicles and autonomous driving technology in the next five years.
While the auto industry is in the middle of what may become its largest transformation in over a century, Curic said he believes many automakers will thrive as electrification and autonomy become more common.
"Many [automakers] are going to come out very, very successful through this transition," he said.
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