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ASCM Insights

Maximizing Your Partnerships: Automakers, Suppliers, and Self-Driving Cars


At the North American International Auto Show this month in Detroit, automakers are showing the world updates to their new models while also unveiling concept cars that “stir the imagination,” writes Jim Gorzelany for Forbes. At the show, lots of people, including reporters, are investigating the future of self-driving cars. 

In his NPR piece, Sonari Glinton talks to Greg Stevens, Ford Motor Company’s global manager for automated driving, about this technology. Stevens explains how Ford is developing cars that drive themselves, which Ford will be using as ride-sharing vehicles. However, those cars have some limitations in terms of speed and on which roads they can travel.

Toyota also is showing its driverless concept car at the auto show, which its spokesperson says won’t be ready until 2030. In the meantime, the company wants to work on perfecting the technology for a truly comfortable user experience. “Autonomous driving is coming, right?” says William Chergosky, chief interior designer with Toyota's CALTY team. “And the way that you do it responsibly—I think it's very important that we all understand what the possibilities are, what the reality is, and what it can possibly do for us.”

According to a Reuters article from last week, Ford and Toyota have different approaches to their driverless cars research and development. While Ford is working to develop a proprietary driverless system, the Toyota Research Institute touts its partnerships with Stanford and MIT on its website.

Suppliers offer another resource for manufacturers hoping to get their self-driving cars on the roads sooner. Paul Lienert and Alexandria Sage write for Reuters that suppliers “are among the more popular technology partners in the self-driving race, with multiple alliances around the globe.”

One example is Mobileye, a manufacturer of advanced collision avoidance systems. It supplies cameras, chips, and software for driver-assist systems to more than 24 car manufacturers internationally. Plus, as Reuters reports, Mobileye has partnered with BMW and Intel on one project and Delphi on another.

Business leaders are counting on the partnership between Mobileye and Delphi to produce a completely packaged system available to smaller car makers for about $5,000 wholesale. Meanwhile, Elmar Frickenstein, BMW’s senior vice president for automated driving, tells Reuters that he expects the Intel-BMW-Mobileye collaboration to attract more car manufacturers and suppliers.

“We would like to create a standard system for everybody to use by 2021,” Frickenstein says in the article. “That would share the costs and speed up the process of development and adoption.” 

Another supplier pursuing meaningful partnerships is Nvidia, an artificial intelligence computing company, that has paired with Audi, Here, ZF, and Bosch. 

A spokesperson for Bosch confirms that it does not want to build a proprietary autonomous driving system. Instead, the partnership is seeking input from a variety of companies to create a standard platform and open standards for self-driving systems. 

Putting your suppliers to work

Thinking beyond driverless cars, how might you and your organization involve suppliers earlier in your research and development process? Consider the definition of outpartnering from the APICS Dictionary, 15th Edition: “The process of involving the supplier in a close partnership with the firm and its operations management system. Outpartnering is characterized by close working relationships between buyers and suppliers, high levels of trust, mutual respect, and emphasis on joint problem solving and cooperation. With outpartnering, the supplier is viewed not as an alternative source of goods and services (as observed under outsourcing) but rather as a source of knowledge, expertise, and complementary core competencies …”

APICS has a variety of resources that help you, your team, and your suppliers face the future with confidence. Check out the new to see how we might help you better utilize your suppliers and more. 

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through