The automotive industry is one that is facing more significant and fundamental changes today than at any point in its 140-year history. Technological, social, environmental, economic and political factors all exert an influence, and sometimes the effect is that they pull the industry in conflicting directions.
Market research among drivers and those in the industry shows the depth of those conflicts. People want to reduce their carbon footprint but find electric vehicles uninspiring to drive. They are enthralled by smart technology but are concerned about the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. Here, we take a look at three of the most significant trends that will be influencing driving habits and dividing opinions over the coming year.
Electric vehicles have become an increasingly common sight on our roads. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight got us used to the idea and showed that the technology is viable, while cars like the Tesla have broken down the conception that going electric means compromising on style or luxury.
The latest industry surveys have shown that EV adoption is climbing at a rapid rate. Since 2011, the number of fully electric plug-in vehicles on the road has doubled with every passing year. The biggest constraining factor is likely to be that the supporting infrastructure is not growing at the same rate. This year, expect to see more EV charging points popping up all around you, for example at fuel filling stations and in supermarket car parks.
We love our gadgets, whether it is on a smartphone, at home or in the car. Connected vehicles, that are linked to our other devices such as phones, media players, diaries etc are becoming all the rage. But what about vehicles that are connected to one another? V2V Communication is technology a little like Bluetooth and it allows vehicles to share useful information about driving conditions such as the weather, average speed, instances of sudden braking and so on. Over the coming year, it is set to become a standard feature on most vehicles.
The subject of autonomous cars is a controversial one, and blockbuster movies like I Robot probably do little in favour of public perception. Following some high-profile crashes in prototype tests, consumer survey data suggests that trust in the technology is actually dwindling, with the number of people who say they would be “too afraid” to ride in a driverless car up from 63 percent in 2017 to 73 percent in 2018.
There are five levels of car autonomy, ranging from level one, where a single aspect is automated (like the cruise control that has been a standard feature of many cars since the 1990s) to level five, full automation. 2019 will see the introduction of level three, where the car can assume control of all safety-critical functions using mapping features and next generation sensors, but the driver will still have ultimate control.
The futuristic world of the movies is still a long way away, and we will have plenty of time to get more accustomed to the idea as the technology continues to develop.