Why did smartphone manufacturers start making cars?

Smartphone manufacturers: The latest news came from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Xiaomi brings its SU7, an electric vehicle. Not a white fly but the direct consequence of what the market has been hiding for some time: innovation inextricably links mobile technology to mobilityAfter all, the cars we drive today and will increasingly drive in the future are smartphones on four wheels. Perennially connected vehicles, hyper-technological control units, and communication systems that take in information online and send it out to create traffic maps and criticality warnings. In short, that Xiaomi has set out to make a vehicle is not strange; more so is the speed with which it has begun to produce them in a scenario where the first company that seemed to want to enter the sector, Apple, left the scene after only a few years.

As reported by the South China Morning Post, Xiaomi’s founder said in a post on Weibo that he was shocked to learn that Apple had cancelled all the work done on ‘Project Titan’, but at the same time, he understands “deeply how difficult it is to make cars.” Despite the challenges, Xiaomi went ahead with immense determination to launch its first electric vehicle, the SU7, in December 2023. However, even after the unveiling, the Chinese company’s first electric vehicle needs further testing, which will last for months before it is put on the road. The company managed to develop a prototype with the help of 3,400 engineers.

A difficult market

In comparison, Apple reportedly had 2,000 employees stationed to work on its self-driving car, and with this division reportedly being closed permanently, some members will now work on generative artificial intelligence. In contrast, others will have no choice but to leave the company. Others believe that Apple’s decision to exit this space was the right move, with Li Xiang, CEO of Beijing-based electric vehicle manufacturer Li Auto, saying that artificial intelligence will eventually be found in a wide range of applications, from devices to software and that Apple should do its best to excel in this category.

Large technology companies are looking at the electric car sector with great interest. The tech market is becoming increasingly saturated, and these large companies are aiming to diversify their activities to find new spaces in which to grow. Electric cars are growing, and the latest models adopt advanced technologies, and this is leading big tech companies to want to invest in this sector. There are those who do it through partnerships and those who intend to become a full-fledged manufacturer, a very complex and costly operation because ‘developing new technologies’ is much simpler than becoming a full-fledged car manufacturer with all that entails.

Why did smartphone manufacturers start making cars?
Why did smartphone manufacturers start making cars?

TeamworkSmartphone manufacturers

Besides Xiaomi and Apple, which abandoned the Titan project, many other names are about to unveil a vehicle: Foxconn, Google, Huawei, Oppo, and Sony. Foxconn has also created Foxtron, a company that operates exclusively in this field and has already unveiled some models. Among Foxtron’s partners is also Pininfarina. In any case, Foxconn is doing a lot as a technology supplier through various partnerships. Google’s project is mainly related to autonomous driving. The goal of Waymo is to offer Robotaxi services in many American cities. Currently, for testing, the company is using existing electric vehicles, such as the Jaguar I-Pace, that are modified with autonomous driving technology. However, thanks to a partnership with Zeekr (Geely Group), a specific model of self-driving electric robotaxi is being developed.

Huawei has also decided to turn its attention to the automotive sector through partnerships. Therefore, The company has entered into co-development agreements with several Chinese brands, creating joint ventures. The tech giant supplies chips, software, and sensors and even goes as far as developing electric motors. For example, Series made the AITO brand, which has already resulted in three models: M5, M7 and M9. In any case, Huawei is also working with other companies that have created the Luxeed, Shenlan and Avatr joint ventures. Sony has chosen Honda to develop and produce electric cars together. For this, the two companies formed the joint venture Sony Honda Mobility, and at CES 2023 in Las Vegas, they unveiled the new Afeela brand. Now, we know that the goal is to open pre-orders for the first model in the first half of 2025. Deliveries in the US should then start in 2026.

Antonino Caffo has been involved in journalism, particularly technology, for fifteen years. He is interested in topics related to the world of IT security but also consumer electronics. Antonino writes for the most important Italian generalist and trade publications. You can see him, sometimes, on television explaining how technology works, which is not as trivial for everyone as it seems.