If you’re anything like me and love technology, then it’s a very exciting time to be alive. The technology in the auto industry is expansive and only going to get bigger and better. From autonomous, driverless cars, to powerful, integrated computer chips, to artificial intelligence inside vehicles, our world is looking more and more like a science fiction film every day.
Consider how Uber and Lyft disrupted the taxi industry and fundamentally changed the transportation sector. That trend was quick and ubiquitous, taking over an entire market and industry. Some of these technological developments will do similar things but to other deeply-rooted concepts we have, such as how insurance works, or car repairs, and even car design. Technology will change all of it. Imagine a car that can change from a convertible to a sedan, and from a sedan to a van. We aren’t talking about Transformers here, but actual technology that is being released—things we’ll get to in this article.
In 2017, the auto industry closed in the United States with sales of 17.1 million units. This was the first sales decline in seven years. Because of greater reliability and security, automakers are effectively digging their own graves. People are buying less cars. And that means the companies will have to find new ways to profit in the future, which means the car companies might have to collaborate with each other, or even collaborate with companies outside of their space.
In this way, the sales decline might actually pave the way for the future. With ride-sharing and expensive insurance and registration, sales might continuously go down for the next few years, which means car companies must rise above, become inventive and inclusive, or else fade away like Pontiac, Mercury, Oldsmobile, and all those other companies that went the way of the dodo.
20 Artificial Intelligence
TechCrunch.com has called existing vehicle security features a “cat-and-mouse game.” The site believes security features need an overhaul, and that the recent resurgence in artificial intelligence technologies will be the thing to deliver those changes. Today, modern cars are on networks that use anti-virus and other common software security technologies to identify known threats and quarantine some unknown ones.
But machine learning in AI lets computers learn without being explicitly programmed, thus getting more adept when exposed to new data. These cybersecurity systems will be self-adapting, self-defending, and will create ways to guard against new threats without humans ever having to reprogram the technology to identify specific incoming trouble.
19 Augmented Reality
Virtual creates a simulated world, and augmented reality adds specific, created elements to the real world via technology. The most popular example of AR is the addictive Pokemon GO game for smartphones.
In the auto industry, AR solutions are beginning to appear, starting with smart head-up display and infotainment displayed, and apps for repair shops.
AR can help mechanics visualize what needs to be fixed before ever touching a wrench. Also, AR has a space in car design and selecting a car: from the overall shape to the seats and interior features. All of these can be pre-seen, thus saving time and money. Prototyping isn’t anything new, but AR takes things to a whole other level.
18 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars
In an effort to meet strict regulations and appeal to consumers, we might see a push for hydrogen fuel cell cars in the future. These are electric cars that don’t require hours of charging.
These cars’ electric motors are powered by hydrogen gas, which releases heat and water from the tailpipe when the hydrogen is converted into electricity.
Car models like the Honda Clarity are already out, and this car gets a range of 366 miles, which is great. The only problem is that California is the only state that sells hydrogen fuel cell cars at the moment, but expect this to change in the future.
17 Autonomous Vehicles
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it should come as no surprise that autonomous cars are the most speculated-about, exciting thing in the car world today. Tesla was at the forefront of autonomous driving technology, and now other carmakers are trying to catch up.
It might take several years for fully-functioning self-driving cars to be street legal, but already new vehicles with second-level autonomous technology (such as rear park assist) are being released. So expect more and more cars to come out with this second-level autonomy, each with something new to try and one-up the competition. This is a wave that is only going to get bigger.
16 Blockchain Technology Takes Over
One of the most popular and hottest technologies in the world right now is blockchain. The concept first entered the tech space years ago, but it has been used in cryptocurrency to really drive the way we understand technological security, and people are aching to learn more about it. Apparently, auto suppliers started to use blockchain technology in 2017.
In the automotive business, where the supply chain is so important, blockchain technology can create a trusted, accurate protocol to help mitigate the potential for counterfeit parts and other related issues.
The technology creates a system of checks and balances for the whole supply chain community, with cloud servers validating and recording everything, thus making things safer and safer the longer the technology operates.
15 3D Printing
Here’s another astounding technological achievement that is just beginning to show its face: 3D printing. New players like Local Motors, a low-volume manufacturer of open-source vehicles, are coming in on 3D printing their cars, building cost-effective cars that can compete with car construction done by mainstream automakers. Cars are currently designed to withstand three, four, or five crashes, and will last perhaps seven to seven-and-a-half years. 3D printing enables the industry to build cars on a solid chassis, with an outer body designed for a single crash, then cost-effectively replace that while leaving the basic vehicle skeleton in place.
This could change the way we view accident repair—building bodies with amazing safety that last for a single crash, and then are transformed with a new body. Now imagine that same car rebuilt and recycled to serve different lifestyles: morphing a convertible you bought when you were younger into a station wagon when you have kids, dogs, etc…
14 More Refined Auto Start/Stop Functions
As it is right now, the auto start/stop systems in cars have been used as a means to conserve fuel. But consumers constantly complain about the start/stop systems. If you’ve driven a car equipped with the system in a busy city, for instance, your car might seem like it’s stalling at every stop light.
Car companies such as Buick have gone to great lengths to make their systems seamless and unobtrusive, and a few premium automakers still sell cars that still rumble to life whenever you take your foot off the brakes. This technology has been around for a while and will hopefully be getting better and more refined in the future.
13 Electric Car Prices Will Drop, Charging Will Increase
Besides the constant battle of trying to sell new cars versus used cars, automakers have another arms race between each other: electric cars. Dave Sargent (J.D. Power) says that “No one wants to miss out. Carmakers are rushing the idea of an electric vehicle.”
The problem is that only a small subset of consumers enjoy electric cars, and a $7,500 federal tax credit isn’t enough to convince newcomers.
Zero-emission vehicles have their drawbacks: no long road trips; limited public charging stations; high sticker prices. So as they become more popular, prices will drop, and charging will become faster and less frequent and more available.
12 Regulations Will Drive Electric Car Sales, Not Consumer Demands
Electric cars accounted for just 0.4% of the U.S. auto market in November of 2017. Only 5,686 vehicles sold in November were electric, out of 1.4 million sold overall. Still, the category has seen a 17% increase year over year. In Europe, EVs have a promising market, as drivers and automakers are shifting away from diesel-powered cars. But consumer demand is not driving these cars—regulation is—and automakers have to meet very stringent fuel economy standards to compete.
This is expected to continue as more and more electric cars are released: the regulations will get tougher and tougher. But eventually, the quality of electric cars should level out and consumer demand will (hopefully) start spearheading their sales.
11 Expect Short-Term Semi-Autonomous Features In The Future
Rebecca Lindland has said that a large percentage of drivers are totally unaware of the new technology available. “The average car on the road is over 10 years old. A lot of drivers haven’t experienced lane departure warnings or other such technology.”
So in the short-term, drivers can expect improved semi-autonomous safety features.
Automakers have embarked on a PR race between themselves to spend money on this technology, though Lindland believes fully autonomous vehicles are “overhyped” and doubts that people are ready to give control to a machine. “The challenges are beyond technology. There are big legal, regulatory, and psychological hurdles. Acceptance is harder than anyone realizes.”
10 In-Car Cameras
The auto industry is clearly looking ahead to driverless cars and automation, but drivers are still looking to enhance their cars, and in-car cameras are becoming quite popular. According to Google Search, and after speaking with over 1,000 consumers across three markets to better understand how trends manifest in people’s lives, a consistent trend is to bring onboard cameras into their vehicles.
Many cars already feature backup cameras, but car shoppers need different types of cameras to prioritize safety and security. This creates an opportunity for aftermarket accessory makers, but the auto industry will surely be integrating new styles of onboard cameras directly into vehicle design in the near future.
9 Toyota’s “Box On Wheels”
This year at CES, companies went above and beyond to impress the masses. For instance, Toyota introduced their “e-Palette concept.” The concept is a modular autonomous platform (basically a box on wheels) that can be configured for whatever job you can imagine for it—deliveries, ridesharing, even mobile retail shipping.
Amazon, Uber, and Pizza Hut are already onboard with the idea. This takes what we know as “autonomous driving” even further from the realm of what we understand as a “traditional car.”
Even though the e-Palette’s reality might be years away, it definitely has potential, and with backers like Amazon and Uber, we can’t imagine it’ll be too far along from other autonomous technology we might get in the future.
8 Tech Companies Partnering With Ride-Sharing Companies
Also at CES were demonstrations of autonomous vehicles to a wide audience—the first time a technological demonstration was shown to a bigger audience than just a few select media outlets. Aptiv, a self-driving technology creator, partnered with Lyft to equip a small fleet of BMW 5 Series sedans with Aptiv’s self-driving technology, and then shuttle CSE-goers across public roads to more than 20 spots across Las Vegas.
According to DigitalTrends.com, the ride was “as boring as it should’ve been. No drama, not even amazement, just a normal ride, and we liked that.” It was a very specific, practical application of autonomous tech that blew CES attendees away and showed them how normal this future could be.
7 High-Tech Computer Companies Are Getting Involved
Just like how Aptiv is partnering with car companies to show how autonomous vehicles might be applicable in the future, so too are high-tech computer companies. Tech giant Nvidia came to this year’s CES and introduced the Nvidia Drive Xavier, a processor that’s essentially a powerful chip designed to specifically handle the demands of self-driving cars. Nvidia will facilitate autonomy and be a big part in bringing augmented reality (AR) into cars.
Nvidia’s AR can overlay what we see with the same functionality that allows an autonomous system to recognize the world around it. Imagine a digital display (or windshield) that displays real-time directions, point of interest, and alters you of dangers around your vehicle.
6 Byton: Autonomous Cars Of The Future
Byton was an unknown startup that claimed they would “change what it means to drive.” At CES, they introduced an all-electric concept that is billed as more of a mobile device than a car. Byton says its production car will have level-3 and level-4 autonomous qualities: they’ll use facial recognition instead of keys, they’ll be operated by hand gestures, and they’ll use Amazon Alexa-powered voice commands.
Byton cars will have between 248 to 328 miles of all-electric range, and will have 523 pound-feet of torque. Their endeavor is to make the car as appealing and easy to use as a smartphone, and to have production models starting at just $45,000 within the next couple of years.
5 Collaborative Monetization
I’m aware that each entry in this article seems to be getting more and more complicated and technologically confusing, but that’s the way the future is looking. Today, the auto industry has a typical “go-it-alone” approach to vertical integration, but the future will have companies collaborating in areas outside their space to seek new ways to profit from disrupting trends. As we’ve touched on, activities like car- and ride-sharing will create new residual value in cars will engage with a new consumer demographic.
Auto equipment manufacturers will move to create leasing organizations and dealer networks that will deal with partial ownership and vehicle servicing.
The car-sharing business model will act as a pay-by-the-minute or –mile, where equipment manufacturers will still own the physical asset (the car). This will allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to write off car costs across multiple transactions, not just a single sale, thus creating better profitability options.
4 Predictive Analysis
In the near future, we will see a huge jump in the reliance on advanced software and big data to transcend the car industry. This advanced software will be seen mainly in predictive analysis, which uses techniques like data mining, statistics, modeling, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to analyze current data and make predictions about the future.
This intelligent technology will be critical in dealing with cost, competition, globalization, market shifts, and volatility.
Here’s one way predictive analysis might work: Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will give real-time insights to customers and will be able to adjust production schedules and tweak marketing campaigns on the fly, thus minimizing inventory loss and streamlining supply chains. For consumers, they’ll be able to find cheaper insurance, and predictive analysis might be able to idenfity a car problem and fix it before the car breaks down, meaning CPU updates will be proactive. How crazy is that!?
3 Ride-Sharing Presents A Serious Problem For Automakers
We’ve already seen how ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have changed the world. They’ve basically single-handedly destroyed the taxi industry, they’ve changed how people get around, and they’ve even created drastic cuts to DUIs around the world. These are all good things (depending on who you ask), but not for automakers.
Rebecca Lindland, an executive at Kelley Blue Book, says that younger people prefer ride-sharing services to car ownership, because they “don’t want to tie up their money with an expensive car payment. They want experiences rather than stuff.” In many cities, owning a vehicle has become impossible because of the high costs and difficulty parking. Expect this trend to hurt the car industry even more in the future, as more and more people realize they don’t have to own vehicles to get around.
2 Sales Incentives Across The Board
According to Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, auto sales in 2018 have been “okay, but not great.” And because of that, he thinks automakers all over the world will offer generous incentives to boost sales in the future. Because car reliability is the best it’s ever been, people are holding onto cars longer and therefore not buying as much. People buying used cars has also diluted new car sales, and a third of all new vehicles sold in the US are now leased, according to PricewaterhouseCooper. So consumers might be offered better utility, better subprime loan financing, other incentives.
1 Subscription Models
Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime… subscription models have taken over basically every facet of life. So why not cars? Automakers like Porsche, Volvo, Cadillac, and Lincoln are jumping on the subscription service model bandwagon and have announced programs that allow drivers to swap vehicles every week for a set fee.
Eddie Alterman, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine, says that “Carmakers are doing this because they want to keep people in the brand.”
This also appeals to customers who want to test-drive new vehicles. The subscriptions bundle roadside assistance, insurance, vehicle tax, registration, and maintenance costs, into one (simplified) monthly payment. Membership is often month-to-month with no long-term requirement. Monthly fees are significantly more expensive than an average lease or finance payment, but this is a trend that definitely has legs.
Sources: techcrunch.com, cheatsheet.com, digitaltrends.com, thinkwithgoogle.com, abcnews.go.com