The automotive industry is quickly transitioning from infotainment to transformative technologies that will enable Mobility as a Service to spring to life. Third-party platforms like CarPlay
and Android Auto are beginning to emerge as OEMs explore the benefits of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications), 5G connectivity, AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented
Reality), driverless vehicles, electrification, and IoT (Internet of Things).
OEMs are focusing on car-to-cloud vehicle sensor data crowdsourcing for traffic, parking, weather and map services and cloud-to-car over-the-air updates for life cycle and cyber security management. Commercial vehicle technology is also evolving from aftermarket fleet telematics to embedded connectivity, active safety and ADAS, platooning and ultimately, autonomous trucks.
We are now beginning to see bits and pieces of what the so-called connected car will look like: a fully digitized vehicle with Wi-Fi; advanced infotainment systems and apps; vehicle-to-vehicle communications that let cars on the road “talk” to each other, exchanging basic safety data such as speed and position; real-time location services and routing based on traffic conditions; and networked Web links that facilitate vehicle diagnostics and repairs.
The intelligent car has moved from the drawing
board to the streets in short order. As an obvious precursor to the autonomous vehicle, the intelligent car will give drivers a taste of the experience of relinquishing control of a vehicle, with such functions as self-braking, self-parking, automatic cruise control based on road conditions, automatic accident-avoidance features, computer-operated power steering, and electric parking brakes, as well as electronic throttles and engine control.
While the idea of fully autonomous vehicles may still be a bit too futuristic for much of the driving public to embrace, automakers are well on their way to producing driverless cars.
This is an exciting period of transformation and these new developments represent enormous opportunities for all aspects of the auto industry. OEMs must navigate the challenges of designing, manufacturing, and upgrading traditional powertrain models while staking a claim in emerging technologies and improved customer experiences. The aftermarket must also adapt to these changing technologies and embrace new methods of customer service and parts management.
A New Era of Personal Transportation
Connected and intelligent cars are just beginning to make inroads in the auto industry, and already they are having a powerful impact on the way automakers are adjusting organizationally. Companies are envisioning a far different future than could have been imagined a decade or so ago. Two very separate worlds are now melding in order to design and develop these cars: the traditional automotive company and the software industry. These two industries bring conflicting cultures, product development models, and business operations. For example, car companies design their products once, in a painstaking five-year-long development cycle. Software companies like to fail and fix in a rapid product development process.
Although many people are drawn to shiny new technology and assume that electric vehicles and flying cars represent the most likely future transportation, the reality is much different: Not only will autonomous cars be a tough sell, but traditional powertrains and internal combustion engines are more than likely to be the predominant type of vehicle on the road for decades to come, says Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting group, in their 2016 Auto Industry Trends Report.
Newer vehicles will be distinguished primarily by their innovative technology involving both assisted driving and global connectivity. In a recent study, 56% of new car buyers said they would switch to a different brand if the one they were considering didn’t offer the technology and features they wanted. Similarly, 48% of car buyers said they would walk away from a vehicle they liked if the technology was difficult to use.
The technology necessary to make connected and intelligent cars – Web networking, sensors, and software – is not in the traditional wheelhouse for most automobile makers. That shortcoming is an open invitation to high-tech companies such as Apple and Google, which are making moves to develop the technology to “own” critical components of the networking, autonomous, and communications capabilities of automobiles. The increasing presence in the auto industry of technology firms cannot be ignored by OEMs. These companies will likely prove to be a very strong influence on the OEMs in the coming years because of their skills. They are adept at seamlessly connecting components to create networks valued by consumers for the information, entertainment, efficiencies, and experiences they deliver.
Even as automakers focus on upgrading the transportation and mobility features of their vehicles, stricter fuel economy regulations are closing in. By 2025, for example, automaker fleets in Europe and the U.S. will have to average upward of 60 miles per gallon (25.5 kilometres per litre), a goal that becomes more difficult if oil prices remain low, stoking consumer interest in popular larger, less-efficient vehicles like pickups and SUVs. Meeting these standards will require step-change improvements, not incremental ones. And considering the short time frame, many of these advances will have to be applied to the traditional internal combustion engine and powertrain. Indeed, experts believe that petroleum-based vehicle fuel economy can be improved by as much as 75% with combustion breakthroughs focused on maximizing engine efficiency and minimizing the formation of emissions within engine cylinders; exhaust after-treatment technologies that further reduce emissions; and the recovery of energy from waste heat.
In addition to improving overall powertrain performance, automakers will have to take risks in product development, a trend that we are already witnessing. For example, in 2014, Ford replaced the steel in its popular and highly profitable F-series truck with aluminum in order to reduce weight and enhance fuel efficiency, a move that could have scared off customers who believed that the lighter material was less rugged. So far, this approach has paid off. The 2015 F-150 had the best mileage of any gasoline pickup and held its position (by a large margin) as the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the U.S.
Honda is taking a similar chance with its recent adoption of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) across the bulk of its car lineup. Instead of cycling through fixed gears, these transmissions operate on pulleys that constantly adjust gear ratios to provide optimal performance in transferring power to the automobile’s wheels. CVT technology delivers much better fuel economy because it eliminates inherent inefficiencies in fixed-gear transmissions that result in wasted energy. However, customers are not sold on CVTs yet; some complain that these cars are listless, especially during acceleration, because they lack the rhythmic higher revs and forward movement felt during traditional transmission up-shifting.
Other automakers, including BMW, Mazda, and Fiat Chrysler, are attempting to meet stricter fuel economy standards through a combination of improved aerodynamics, better performance using turbo engines, and lighter manufacturing materials, among other tactics. nJN