Technology is moving rapidly from the app economy of the smartphone to automobiles — a transition for which both tech companies and automakers are rapidly preparing.
On the road, tech companies like Google and Apple are leading the charge for self-driving cars. Meanwhile, car manufacturers like Volvo are preparing their fleet for the day autonomous vehicles take the road, with sometimes unintentional results. Earlier this year, the Swedish company announced that it would be the first automaker to replace physical car keys with a smartphone app.
It's all part of what Hyundai Motors America CEO David Zuchowski said is a "big transformative event" that could eventually result in cars replacing mobile phones as smart devices.
"We need to embrace technology like everybody else is," Zuchowski told CNBC in a recent interview from the sidelines of this year's New York International Auto Show, where the automaker was marking a decade of raising funds for pediatric cancer.
Hyundai's nonprofit arm has raised more than $115 million for pediatric cancer research since it began 18 years ago, and it says it receives a donation from every new car sold from participating Hyundai dealers. To date, that includes all 830 dealers across the U.S.
As a result of the boom in self-driving cars and other technology, Zuchowski expects the bridge between Silicon Valley and auto companies to narrow.
Surrounded by other auto companies like his former employer, Ford, Zuchowski mused openly about the possibility of an Apple-branded automobile — bearing that unmistakable new car smell — at an auto show display sometime in the future. Unlike what some of his peers in the auto industry have suggested, Zuchowski doesn't actually believe that will happen.
"Google, Apple and Uber to some extent want to own the interior part of vehicles," he told CNBC, which is different from manufacturing a physical car itself.