With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), cars are becoming increasingly connected within the wider digital sphere.
Tech firms like Apple and Google are entering the automotive space. And in the future, smartphone-controlled driverless cars, linked to smart homes and smart roads, could change the face of the industry forever.
Michaël Fernandez-Ferri is an MBA graduate from France’s EMLYON Business School. He’s co-founded Drust, a high-tech, Paris-based start-up, driving innovation in the automotive industry.
The firm’s first product – AKOLYT – is a smart sensor which plugs into a vehicles on-board diagnostics (OBD) port, and gathers and transfers data instantly, via Bluetooth, to a smart-phone app.
Marketed as a personal driving assistant, the device relays real-time information about brake patterns, gear changes, speed and maintenance issues, in an effort to improve fuel economy and driver experience. It can save a driver up to 30% on fuel costs.
Prior to his MBA, Michaël spent five years working as a powertrain engineer at French car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroën. After graduation, he joined forces with his former colleagues and co-founded Drust, determined to be part of the automotive industry’s future.
How did the idea to start Drust come about?
We were struck by the energy and money that is invested by carmakers to make minor incremental improvements in vehicle efficiency.
While technology can very slightly improve a car’s fuel efficiency from one product generation to another, a much bigger improvement can be achieved by the driver himself.
We decided to get in touch with drivers to educate them and share our powertrain engineering knowledge through a user-friendly product. Our aim is to make driving greener, safer, cheaper, and more enjoyable.
How will you adapt to the onset of communally owned, autonomous vehicles?
An autonomous car is still a car! And to be a sustainable means of transportation, it will still need to optimize its efficiency.
Today, our software is orientated towards human drivers, but the same algorithms can be used in the future to help a bot make decisions on how to change gears and when to replace tires.
We’re not making a connected object for cars but rather an object to connect cars. IoT Solutions like AKOLYT can upgrade any car of today to the connected services of tomorrow.
What challenges do you face?
Bringing value to drivers in a competitive time-to-market is our daily digest.
In the long run, we need to find ways to keep on delivering this value to the end user when cars will have built-in connectivity and the whole value chain re-shaped.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
Keep the faith! It’s a long and epic journey, but definitely worth it.
You’re going to face fierce competition, management challenges and the need to convince customers, partners, and investors. Be aware of the ecosystem you’re evolving in and get ready to execute and pitch a thousand times with conviction. This is what will make the difference.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at EMLYON?
To get the big picture of a company and to challenge myself beyond the technical.
EMLYON is a prestigious school where I knew I could trust the quality of the program. Plus, the focus on entrepreneurship definitely made it stand out.
How have you profited from your MBA experience?
The MBA helped me leverage my own experience.
Every time I learnt a new concept or theory, I looked back at my own professional experience to better understand it. It’s crazy to realize that the things you don’t notice when they occur in a corporate context, are actually key in understanding the bigger picture of an organization.