Apple and Google cause confusion at Frankfurt Motor Show, as traditional carmakers race to turn their vehicles smart

Carmakers like Mercedez-Benz don’t want to become 'suppliers' to the tech giants — but they might have to, if suggestions of a Google or Apple car come to fruition

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The Independent Tech

The Frankfurt Motor Show has been obsessed with the future of cars: which will be electric, automated and connected. But what's less clear is who exactly is going to make them.

Apple and Google have both been in the news with self-driving cars and their connected car products. But the traditional carmakers have demonstrated their quickly advancing technology over the two days in Frankfurt.

It had long been presumed that the future of cars might be brought by the two industries — tech and cars — pairing up. But now it seems that they each might be fighting to build products entirely on their own.

“What is important for us is that the brain of the car, the operating system, is not iOS or Android or someone else but it’s our brain,” said Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Daimler, according to the New York Times. Apple and Google might be the most successful and innovative tech companies expressing an interest in autonomous cars, but Mercedes-Benz are plainly unwilling to become little more than suppliers.

Google made it clear that they don’t want to become carmakers themselves. “That is not something we could do alone,” said Philipp Justus, Google’s managing director in central and Eastern Europe, Reuters reported. “Google also does not intend to become a car manufacturer.”

Other carmakers seem less perturbed by Apple and Google’s secret projects. After announcing the Porsche Mission-E on Tuesday, The Volkswagen Group appear confident that they can compete.

“Our group already has the largest connected vehicle fleet on the road. By 2020 we will have transformed all of our new cars into smartphones on wheels,” said Chairman Martin Winterkorn.

“Technological leadership is no longer solely defined in terms of horsepower and torque. We are taking the precision, enduring value and quality of our cars into the new, digital world.”

That digital world is reliant on the power to run a fully electric and integrated design. Bosch arrived at Frankfurt without much fanfare, but announced a new battery that brings the dream of fully electric cars with serious range closer to reality. Already comfortable in the role of supplier, Bosch's new solid-state lithium-ion battery which costs half and doubles the range of their current units.

As supplier to most competitors in the electric vehicle market, the development ensures that whoever falters in the race for dominance won’t do so because of a lack of power options.

Regardless of the confusion surrounding Apple and Google, other carmakers haven’t been deterred from releasing some astounding electric concepts. Audi unveiled their E-tron Quattro at the show, a fully electric luxury SUV that could be on sale by 2018. It’s also the testing ground for Audi’s electric future, with plans for Audi’s entire range to be released with a plug in E-tron option. Their smaller models could see this feature as early as next year.

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