The top trends in the auto industry for 2017 – Part 2

  Jepic   Feb 24, 2017   Uncategorized   0 Comment

There are many factors weighing in on the future of auto makers and vehicle trends for this year. Like any industry there is a series of challenges expected with growth and change.


4. Autonomous vehicles continue to drive the industry

2017 will see a flurry of new autonomous functionality appearing in almost every new car. Autonomous capabilities like self-parking and adaptive cruise control will be available from virtually every auto OEM in new vehicles. This movement is unstoppable and, while driverless cars themselves won’t populate the road in 2017, the direction seems clear. Tesla and Google are also making inroads into producing road-legal driverless cars. Just one example of a big step forward next year will be some high-profile trials of techniques like platooning, in which convoys of driverless vehicles follow each other to reduce congestion.

And don’t forget that Ford already announced its plan to mass-produce autonomous vehicles by 2021. The fact that one of the world’s oldest, largest, and most successful automakers is rewriting decades of standard practice to satisfy companies one millionth its size, evinces the scope and speed of the change rocking its industry. Ford, GM, Audi, BMW, Tesla, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and others have promised to deliver self-driving cars in the next five years or so. These newly forged partnerships are a vital part of making that happen.

The goal is always the same: Reduce cost and complexity—and increase profit—by joining forces with the folks whose strengths match your weaknesses. Every other serious player in the autonomous car space is doing the same. Last year, General Motors bought self-driving startup Cruise, and Nissan shacked up with NASA.

Mobileye, the largest supplier of cameras for self-driving cars, is now working with major industry supplier Delphi, plus Intel and BMW. Uber is working with Volvo to strap self-driving add-ons to real vehicles. Volvo is also partnering with Autoliv. Those two companies are lending employees to a joint project called Zenuity, to share patents and ideas. “You have the old established industry, trying to automate their vehicles, but you also have the tech companies coming in from the left with new, more disruptive ideas.”  says Thomas Jönsson of Autoliv, a leading supplier of car safety systems.

China plans to build the world’s largest autonomous driving test zone from this year in the south-eastern city of Zhangzhou in Fujian province. The project was signed off in December and involves building autonomous driving infrastructure, including traffic signs, in a 56 sq km area in Zhangzhou’s economic and technological development zone. The zone will become a real-life lab for autonomous vehicles. The city also plans to build a 60,000 sq m in-door experimental laboratory and a 2m sq m open-air testing ground.

It means that driverless cars are approaching reality. The industry is moving past the oh-so-easy to build a concept car (ahem, Faraday Future), and flashy demonstration videos filmed in one, experimental vehicle (ahem, Tesla). It’s a lot harder to create a stable and long-lasting business that makes money building millions self-driving cars, but that’s exactly what companies, large and small, are working to do.

5. Machine learning-based vehicle cybersecurity

The cat-and-mouse game that defines existing vehicle security features could use an overhaul and the recent resurgence in artificial intelligence technologies is just the thing to deliver it. Today, the networks on wheels that are modern cars use anti-virus and other common software security technologies that identify known threats and try to quarantine some of the unknown ones. But this isn’t ideal in a dynamic area where new threats continually pop up.

Machine learning in the AI space lets computers learn without being explicitly programmed, getting more adept when exposed to new data. These cybersecurity systems are self-adapting and self-defending, creating ways to guard against new threats without any humans needing to program the system to identify specific incoming trouble. Among early adopters, these solutions should start appearing next year.

Toyota recently announced the Concept-i at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The concept vehicle promotes a welcoming, fun, and user-friendly automotive experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) creates a system that promotes a truly unique relationship between human and machine.

The concept car employs multiple tools to measure emotional states, which are analyzed against the driver’s travel plans, mixing mobility with life improvements. Not only that, but the AI-system uses advanced automated driving software to increase safety while on the road. This is achieved by combining visual and haptic stimuli to gauge communication decisions based on the driver’s responsiveness.

When the driver switches between manual and autonomous mode, the Concept-i continually monitors the driver’s attention and current road conditions. Avoiding the center console to display information, subtle rear-deck projectors show blind spot warnings, ensuring the driver is always attentive and alert.

“At Toyota, we recognize that the important question isn’t whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies,” says Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations at Toyota. “It is the experience of the people who engage with those vehicles. Thanks to Concept-i and the power of Artificial Intelligence, we think the future is a vehicle that can engage with people in return.”

6. Car-sharing:  Collaborative monetization to see exponential growth

While it goes in a different direction than the auto industry’s traditional go-it-alone approach of vertical integration years ago, today’s world demands that auto companies collaborate in areas outside their space and seek ways to make new profits from disrupting trends.

This year will see more of such activities, like using car- and ride- sharing as a means to create new residual value in their cars and engage with a new consumer demographic.

More auto OEMs will make moves like creating leasing organizations and dealer networks that are able to deal with partial ownership and vehicle servicing. And importantly, with the right offering, they can reach new drivers and create brand-specific loyalty.

Many of the car-sharing business models will act as a pay by the minute or mile, or a combination of the two, where OEMs will still own the physical asset. This will allow the OEM to amortize car cost across many transactions, not just a single sale — creating better profitability options.

Swedish automaker Volvo is establishing a car-sharing business that will operate not just in Sweden, but in other countries across the globe. It will be based on Sunfleet, the car-sharing service that it’s been running in its homeland for decades. According to TechCrunch, you can avail of Sunfleet’s services by booking a car through its website, which you can then unlock with an app. While you can book a car for a day or two, you can also set up a monthly subscription. The new business will likely offer something similar, though the company says it will also introduce “an entirely new range of mobility services.” Who knows — someday that might even include the ability to rent one of its self-driving vehicles.

The company joins the list of automakers with their own car-sharing service, such as GM’s Maven that already operates in several cities across the US. BMW has ReachNow, Mercedes-Benz has Croove in Germany, while Toyota has begun testing its keyless car-sharing service last year.


Cities Examples: San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Seattle

San Francisco’s on-street car-sharing program is at a crossroads. After a two-year pilot, which 200 parking spaces were designated for car sharing — a majority in the northeast neighborhoods — the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will decide whether to expand the program. The discussion comes as San Francisco’s parking is becoming increasingly congested with new uses like Uber and Lyft, Scoot (an electric motor scooter rental) and bike sharing.

Tel Aviv on Sunday unveiled its municipal car-sharing plan that will let users rent one of 260 vehicles to be dispersed around the city on a short-term basis, measured in minutes, when the program is launched this fall. Officials said they hope the Tel-Auto program would help alleviate the city’s chronic traffic and parking problems, even though the plan calls for reserving 520 parking spaces around the city for the cars. “We are going ahead on the assumption, based on similar systems around the world, that every shared car reduces by four the number of private cars on the roads,” said Mayor Ron Huldai at an event for Tel-Auto. “In Israel, a project like this is important because 20% of the time – Sabbaths and holidays – there’s no public transportation.”

As the headquarters for BMW’s ReachNow car-sharing service, Seattle will be one of the first places people get to try out BMW autonomous vehicles. Steve Banfield, CEO of ReachNow, said Thursday at the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County annual Economic Forecast Conference that BMW will test out its eventual self-driving fleet through ReachNow. The company reportedly plans to test driverless cars in Germany this year. “The benefit to having ReachNow in your region, is that you are going to be the first people to try autonomous cars from BMW,” Banfield said. “We are going to bring them here and we are going to be able to use them and test them.” ReachNow only launched nine months ago, but it has grown fast. In that time period, it has expanded service in Seattle and come to Portland and Brooklyn. The number of users now sits above 40,000, Banfield said Thursday.

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