WirelessCar was established in 1999 as a joint venture between AB Volvo, Ericsson and, with the Volvo On Call service and the goal of creating a platform for multiple connected services for the entire vehicle industry. Today, WirelessCar is a world-leading, trademark-independent company with cloud-based services which have enabled over three million connected vehicles in 65 countries. For example, its services enable car owners to receive information about their cars via an app and order goods and services for them via their mobile, enable dealers and workshops to receive real-time information about vehicles’ service requirements, and enable logistics companies to monitor their businesses digitally. Above all, this is the basis for the digital journey of change for the vehicle industry. About eighteen months ago, the decision was taken to stand on its own two feet, and since the start of the year WirelessCar has been a separate company, 100% owned by AB Volvo. CEO Martin Rosell makes a clear comparison when describing the relationship between the two companies.
WITH ITS OPEN PLATFORM, WIRELESSCAR HAS ESTABLISHED A UNIQUE POSITION AND EXPERTISE WHICH VEHICLE MANUFACTURERS GENUINELY WANT TO USE, SAYS CEO MARTIN ROSELL.
“I like to say that we’re an 18-year-old that has moved out in order to see if we can stand on our own two feet. We’ve always been seen as the rebels within the organisation, and this year we’ve used that energy and achieved an incredible amount, something that was difficult when we were just a small part of the enormous Volvo family. We’re now responsible for our own business and financing models, and this is part of an important process of maturing. It’s the best of both worlds: a major, stable owner in AB Volvo and also the ability to act by ourselves in an agile way with some of the largest vehicle companies in the world.
At the same time, as ever more vehicles are becoming connected, the need for information, services and solutions also increases. With its open platform, WirelessCar has established a unique position and expertise which vehicle manufacturers genuinely want to use, says CEO Martin Rosell.
“On the one hand, we’re neutral – in other words we work with all the brands who want to work with us, which has given us incredible experience, breadth and relevance. On the other hand, we have a great advantage in that we come from Europe and have worked in this complex market from the start: vehicle brands with different call centres, numerous languages and different requirements in terms of forms of communication. In addition, we’ve worked with global customers, so it’s been relatively easy to enter into and succeed in difficult markets such as Russia, China, Brazil and India.”
Currently, the company has around 350 employees, having expanded by 100 people this year alone. Recently, Wireless Car secured yet another huge contract with one of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers, the identity of which is confidential at this stage. It means that the company will need to double its workforce over a period of time. However, the problem is finding developers with good experience of the vehicle industry and the appropriate IT skills. Here, WirelessCar has tried to think outside the box – for example, all Chinese final-year students at Swedish universities were recently invited to a meeting where they learned about the company, something which Martin Rosell hopes will lead to a number of them being employed.
“Another solution was when we picked 40 junior employees last year and absorbed the financial and time impacts of training them internally and letting them make mistakes as they went along. However, this has shown results – 38 of them will get jobs with us, and several already hold key positions within the company.
Support house building
Martin Rosell stresses the strategic importance of the city and region understanding the challenges of growing companies in Gothenburg. Furthermore, the importance of actively investigating how to contribute, for example in supporting house building.
“As vehicles become more and more IT-powered, we in the vehicle and IT industries are competing for the same people. Wages are driven up when there is competition for expertise. At the same time, there’s a big problem in attracting talent from outside if there’s insufficient housing in Gothenburg.
“We’d also like to see significant initiatives from the state, such as to make it easier for qualified new arrivals to find a job quickly. This would be a win-win for everyone – a good supply of expertise, more people in employment and faster integration.
The challenges involved in finding expertise – and for new employees to find accommodation in the Gothenburg area – mean that WirelessCar is having to look at other geographical alternatives, even if Gothenburg is the first choice. Units whose natural home would be near their biggest customer, Volvo Cars, may instead end up elsewhere.
“This is a great challenge, both for us as a company and for the city and the region. We want to expand here in Gothenburg, but if that’s not possible we’ll have to expand somewhere else, such as the USA, China and Germany. Because we can’t slow down our expansion,” says Martin Rosell.
At the end of September, WirelessCar was able to move into newly-renovated and specifically-adapted premises in Gårda – a strategic step to create the best possible conditions for growth, according to Martin Rosell.
”After a long search, we now have open and bright premises, which encourage cooperation and are really suitable for us, in a central location in the city. However, it wasn’t easy and we’ve learned the lesson that our planning should be more long-term. It’s wonderful to see all the options opening up for 2021/22, which shows that Gothenburg is actually being invested in. Finally!
FOUR CONNECTED FOCUS AREAS: SELF-DRIVING, THE SHARING ECONOMY, ELECTRIFICATION AND SMART SERVICES.
WirelessCar is focusing on four areas within which to continue developing its vehicle services: self-driving cars, the sharing economy, electrification and smart services.
With self-driving cars, this is about everything from technological and security-critical upgrades to maps and other information directly available in the cloud. The sharing economy involves a development towards no longer owning our own cars and instead sharing many cars with many people.
“In this case, it revolves around the individual, rather than the car. When I’m sharing a car with other people, I want my own settings in terms of the steering wheel, seat or music to be available no matter what car I’m using. This is possible when the car is connected,” says Martin Rosell.
Electrification means vehicles with thousands of smaller components replaced with a complicated IT architecture whose software can be updated via the cloud, just as with a mobile phone.
“The fact that the region is investing in electrification is of decisive importance for the ecosystem of the vehicle industry. This will be a change enabler for connected technology and services. There’s enormous potential here in the Gothenburg region,” says Martin Rosell.
However, according to Martin Rosell, maybe the most exciting area is smart services that simplify things for users, based on AI, analytics and machine learning. Apps are on their way out and everything will be calculated automatically in the background and in real time, he predicts. This may involve the express delivery of new car tyres being initiated before the driver has had time to stop at the side of the road due to a puncture. Automatically booked service appointments based on actual needs, rather than mileage, and with all spare parts in stock at the workshop based on information the car has sent in advance. Everything revolves around what the customer needs and the options there are to use information that already exists.
“Why do I have to press buttons and decide for myself on whether to start the heater in my car, for example? The system will know what I usually do, will be aware of when I have to drive somewhere and can sort it out for me.”