This week, Mitsubishi Electric, the auto supplier also known for its household offerings, unveiled the Emirai 4, a futuristic concept car that will be shown next week at the Tokyo Motor Show.
That's right, this is the second vacuum cleaner manufacturer interested in self-driving cars. Add them to the growing list of startups and other industry misfits trying to innovate the passenger vehicle.
It's tempting to see an age-old story here. New entrant joins automotive, gets schooled on the incredible complexity and expense of automotive-grade manufacturing and then returns to the safe comfort of its competency. If Apple and Waymo are more comfortable coding self-driving software than manufacturing cars, how can anyone else hope to compete?
But there's a fallacy to such thinking. Yes, building and selling cars can be a tough gig. And the annals of automotive history are riddled with the auto-startups-that-could (but didn't). Yet while manufacturing a new car may be out of reach for companies eyeing mobility as a new revenue source, playing in the same pool could still open opportunities for them.
Take the case of David Hall, a Bay Area engineer and inventor. At the turn of the century, Hall ran a high-end audio equipment business. When he got bored, he decided robots, and eventually autonomous cars, could placate his curious mind. In the next decade, Hall, and his company, Velodyne (yes, that Velodyne) would begin creating lidar sensors for self-driving cars. The company is now one of the hottest autonomous startups in the field. Check out The Verge for an excellent profile of Hall and his company's rapid growth.
The auto industry may be grueling, but the mobility industry — yes, it is its own industry — is still nascent. Companies interested in making a mark may use braggadocio and outrageous concepts to make an entrance, but there's no reason their journey has to lead them to ending up a carmaker. In this new world, at least for now, there's plenty of money to go around.
— Shiraz Ahmed