The future of the automotive industry
2 February 2018
Have you ever walked into a car dealership and kicked the tyres of a shiny new car to ensure its quality? Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Aside from its obvious ineffectiveness, there are other reasons more and more people are leaving this pointless exercise behind.
The automotive industry is bracing for the biggest technological and culture shift since 1808 when the first combustion engine was used to power a car.
For the past two centuries, car manufacturers have designed, assembled and improved their designs based on power, engineering and efficiency. With the rising number of people living in high-density cities in an age of exponential technological advancement, a new set of priorities have emerged for those now questioning the value of owning a car.
How many times have you struggled to find a car park in the city or shopping centre? How many times have you been stuck in peak-hour traffic? How many times has your old rust-bucket broken down on you? The answer for more and more people is too many. Now that there are alternatives to owning a car with ride sharing and car sharing, people can now make a choice.
It’s a choice that is increasingly becoming easier as technology becomes more powerful and cars become sophisticated computers on wheels.
If you are one of those who choose to own a car in the future, it is entirely possible you will own a driverless, electric and automated vehicle.
Research has shown that almost nine out of ten drivers are already wanting some kind of driver assistance – whether it be parking assist, reverse cameras or motion sensors – in their new car, and are willing to switch brands to get it.
Traditionally, a car was built with engineering principals and performance in mind – speed, power and safety. Now that the manufacturers have better access to customer data, the car designers are much better informed as to what drivers and passengers find important. The cars of the future are being designed from a totally different perspective.
The driving forces that will shape the future of the motor world are the ACES - automation, connectivity, electrification and sharing.
Think back to the time when your parents owned their first car, whether it be the 80’s, 70’s or earlier. To close your window, you needed a manual crank to move it. The temperature of the motor, water and oil levels needed to be closely monitored to prevent the car from breaking down. A deep pothole could buckle a wheel as suspension was barely a concept in the early days of automobiles.
In less than 50 years, the nature of driving has become less of a chore as people utilise the ACES to shift responsibilities to their cars. Automatic headlights, wipers and parking assist are just the beginning of a major shift to let the car do the driving.
Fully automated cars, until recently, have been thought of as a Jetsons-type fantasy which couldn’t work in the real world. There have been massive advances made over the past five years to make this surreal concept become reality.
It has been reported that more than one billion dollars was invested in the automation of vehicle systems in 2016 alone as 44 major companies like Audi, BMW, Honda, Ford and GM have joined in the race for car automation.
As with any form of new technology, baby steps begin the path to success.
In the small Bavarian spa town of Bad Birnback, there is a bus in operation taking passengers along a short pre-planned route every day. And it’s free. What makes this bus special, is that there is no bus driver.
Though this may seem irrelevant to anyone outside of Bavaria, it is an example of how the industry is changing, and may be a matter of time before you are catching automated public transport that is not only safer, but more time effective.
It can’t be understated how sophisticated cars already are. A standard new car will roughly have 200 million lines of software coding - four times the amount of infrastructure than Facebook which has about 50 million lines. This figure is tipped to triple in the next 15 years.
Hitching a ride
It’s not just the cars that are evolving, it’s the way we use them as well. The very concept of car ownership is shifting as more and more people look to ride sharing and car sharing.
In Sydney, the popularity and use of ride and car-sharing services has increased from 11% to 33% in only two years. These services until five years ago were almost completely unknown, but are now a dominant influence on our roads.
As more people begin to rely on these services, it is predicted car ownership will peak in 2025 before the percentage of people with cars begins to fall.
The costs of owning a car can add up – registration, insurance, parking, petrol, repairs, cleaning and so on. It is for these reasons that more and more people are utilising their cars as a revenue stream.
Ride and car sharing services have made it possible for those who own cars to generate an income to pay for their purchase. What was previously a means of transporting someone from A to B can now potentially become an investment tool.
A whole new world
What do you picture when you think of automated and electric cars? Something like a bunch of pods zipping through high-tech cities, picking up and dropping off people, right? What you may not have thought about is how massive industries will be affected by the change in car automation.
What happens to drive-through restaurant chains? What about window washers? What about parking attendants?
There is a massive amount of uncertainty for some jobs in the future.
Automated cars have been shown to have 75% fewer accidents than manned vehicles. Though no one would ever say having an accident is good, it does keep car repairers, tow trucks, mechanics and car salespeople in business. How do they survive in this coming age of automation?
Now is the time for preparation and development. Today’s mechanics may become software engineers in the future, tow truck drivers may become data scientists, and window washers may keep washing windows – no matter how often people tell them ‘no’.
We are on the cusp of massive change, and it is very exciting for individuals, cities and society.
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