Although it may seem like cars have experienced their fair share of technology innovation, such as built-in GPS and Intelligent Parking Assist Systems, historically investment in technology has been slow. But now, the automotive industry is undergoing a technology-driven transformation, with more change in the last three years than in the last 50. So where have the most significant changes in connected cars taken place?
Building vehicles with 3D printing
3D printing has transformed the automotive industry. The technology has evolved dramatically, from being used to build prototypes, to entire vehicles being printed from scratch in 44 hours. In fact, the technology is now so advanced that companies are claiming we should expect to see the world’s first 3D printed car on our roads in April 2019.
But car manufacturers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of this technology. BigRep, an industrial and large-scale 3D printer manufacturer, recently announced it had built a fully functional, 3D-printed electric motorbike. Billed as a world first, the bike, called Nera, took three days to print and cost about £2,000 to make. For automotive manufacturers, 3D printing accelerates their product development process and reduces costs, while for customers, the lighter 3D motorbike should consume less fuel and so should be more environmentally efficient when it eventually arrives on the market.
Ownership and Cars as a Service
The traditional idea of owning a vehicle will also undergo a radical transformation in the next few years. In April 2019, car maker Tesla announced its plan to launch ‘robotaxis’ as part of a ride-sharing network, predicted to be available in 2020. Using the ride-sharing app, Tesla will enable owners to add their properly equipped vehicles to the shared fleet in order to earn money or, alternatively, summon a vehicle to pick them up and drive them to a destination.
Cars are not the only vehicles undergoing this change. In city centers such as Paris and Milan, 50cc electric mopeds are available to hire with schemes such as Cityscoot. The scheme allows anyone over 20 years old, with a relevant license, to locate their nearest vehicle via an app, unlock it using a code, and ride anywhere in the city for a small charge per minute.
These services offer flexibility for you to determine exactly how much you will use the vehicle and decide whether it is worth buying one or using a pay-as-you-go service.
The most significant development of the automotive industry has been the drive towards electric vehicles. While many associate electric cars with innovative companies such as Tesla, both the luxury and regular electric car markets are undergoing drastic changes. Automobili Pininfarina, for instance, has created the electrically powered ‘hypercar’ – the fastest ever legal road car. What’s more, in the regular electric car market, the number of vehicles sold is set to quadruple by 2020.
The move towards electricity to power vehicles comes from the need to rely less on fossil fuels and improve air pollution. In seven European countries plans to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans have been announced for this very reason. Electric vehicles also come with incentives for customers, such cheaper road tax, greater efficiency, and much lower running costs. As a result, automotive manufacturers will have no choice but to produce more electric vehicles in the future, especially as the infrastructure that supports these vehicles improves.
Trials for fully autonomous cars are continuing with some of the biggest car manufacturers and technology giants, such as Google, getting involved in the industry. Self-driving cars are far from perfect, but they are getting better and there’s much to look forward to.
For instance, Google recently reported that of the 11 accidents Google’s autonomous cars have encountered, none were the fault of the autonomous cars themselves. Autonomous technology firm FiveAI is also confident their driverless cars are ready and have started testing five self-driving cars in Bromley and Croydon as the latest step in its plans to eventually roll out an autonomous car-sharing service in London.
Although the cars need to get better at reacting to unpredictable human behavior, the AI technology that analyzes the deep-learning algorithms and allows it to respond to what is happening in the vehicle’s vicinity is now so powerful that it can also accurately predict what objects in the vehicle’s travel path are likely to do. In fact, the demand for them to learn what to do in these situations is so great that companies have created simulations, because it isn’t feasible to wait for actual vehicles to accumulate the necessary driving hours. Each vehicle also makes the information it learns available to the rest of the fleet, resulting a network that is constantly learning from one-another.
At the current pace of the trials and investment reports claim that by 2040, driverless cars will account for around 75% of the traffic on the world’s roads, changing driving as we know it forever.
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