How Tech is changing the Auto Industry
By Jon Harrison
Ever since the days of Henry Ford, the automotive industry has been one of the most receptive to emerging technologies. Ford understood that technology could redefine how we do things and this push for innovation is still obvious in the industry today. Without technology, our vehicles would be stuck in the past and things we take for granted such as power steering wouldn't exist. Now today we see a new raft of ideas pushing themselves to the forefront of the industry. Whether it is electric engines or self-driving vehicles, how we view our cars is changing faster than ever before.
With that in mind let's hit the brakes for a moment and explore how technology is changing the auto industry.
Under the Hood
The biggest changes to the humble car as we know it is coming under the bonnet. The development of renewable energy engines is something that has been progressing since the early to mid 2000's. The Department of Transport has laid out s new policy to have all new cars and vans sold in Ireland to be zero-emission capable by 2030. The long-term aim is to fully decarbonise transport by 2050.
As you might know in Ireland all cars younger than 2008 are taxed according to their emissions rather than the size of the engine. The Paris agreement for the reduction of greenhouses gasses has made it so manufacturers are seeking to make cars more efficient.
Automotive companies are now required to reduce fleet emissions to 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre for all new cars. This is driving a wave of new technology under the bonnet:
· Reducing fuel intake
· Maximise fuel output
· Omit Car weight reduction
· Material selection
· Renewable energy engines
To put this in context, the proportion of steel used in the manufacturing of the modern car has fallen from 435 (435 what..proportion of steel to what?) to 35% since the turn of the century. Companies can now manufacture lighter and stronger composite materials thanks to technological advancements. We also now have design software that has allowed manufacturers design more aerodynamic, cheaper and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
While making engines more efficient and cars lighter is all well and good, the renewable energy engine is the real future. Electric vehicle tech is finally starting to make a real impact. Since the days of the Prius, electric or hybrid cars on our roads have doubled year on year in Ireland.
"I believe that this growth will continue and result in 85% of all new car sales being electric by 2035," "What's really driving the growth is a recognition of their superiority over vehicles with internal combustion engines. Put simply, electric cars are easier to drive, quieter on the road, require less maintenance, cost less to run and are altogether more fun than their petrol counterparts." Erik Fairbairn, founder of POD Point.
Erik has a point, for example, the latest Tesla Model S will go over 300 miles before a recharge is required. Nowadays an electric car can be charged at home in only 4 hours, while charging at a petrol station can be done in 30 minutes. While many might scoff at a 4-hour charge time, refuelling your car at home while you sleep really is a new age idea.
Even repairing cars could become cheaper due to 3D printing technology. A mechanic will have the technology to print replacement parts onsite. This will vastly reduce the time taken to source and replace parts, meaning cheaper repairs for customers.
As with everything else in the world nowadays, the car is also being taken over by the "connect" or "smart" technology. Research has shown that approximately 18% of all vehicles registered in the UK have some form of internet connection. This figure is rising as cars take on more an more onboard gadgetry. There are many developments taking place right now from in-car sim cards to smart dashboards and everything else in between.
Think about what the modern car can do now that it couldn't ten years ago. Our dashboards can give us exact notifications in place of old school dashboard lights. There are apps that can track our driving performance and we can even start the engine or set the car alarm without the need for a key.
This new tech has opened up the potential for cars to "talk" to each other and the infrastructure around them. Some examples include intelligent transport systems which could alert drivers to traffic conditions traffic lights, tolls and optimum routes, as well as driver assistance systems to control speed, stability and even emergency braking if required.
This simple use of augmented reality shows what technology can do for the automotive industry going forward. While this is an interesting development, the dawn of the "smart dash" is the one to keep an eye out for. A smart dash, in theory, will work like a large smartphone that will read out your text messages, answer calls, find maps and play music. Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto are two of the big players in this new technology.
While some experts have reservations about this technology, many others believe that augmented reality and voice control will make driving safer. If a driver never has to take their hands of the wheel then the safer the roads will be for everyone.
We have all heard about the self-driving car, it's the big technological push that companies are driving towards. We will have a full article on the self-driving car here that goes into more detail on this subject because there is so much going on right now. Basically, the self-driving car works by using machine learning combined with remote sensing technology. They use an array of cameras to generate a 3D map of the world around it, while the Artificial Intelligence(AI) takes control of the driving experience using this information to make decisions in real time.
Automation is far more than self-driving cars, there is a range of clever autonomous features in most modern cars. Systems like active parking assist and advanced cruise control are actually autonomous systems which remove human error from the task at hand. Sure, the BMW 7 series can actually park itself without a driver inside the car. This is only the beginning, in time these technologies will be merged to create a vehicle which will drive better and safer without human control. The self driving car will then become a reality.
Voice and gesture control are also adding to the automation of the modern car through technology. Want to change the radio channel or change the destination on your Sat Nav? Tell the car to do it for you. Voice assistants such as the Amazon Alexa will become commonplace to perform these tasks for drivers. Another big development is coming in the guise of gesture control. We have seen some manufacturers developing this technology so that a simple wave of the hand will answer a call through the cars inbuilt Bluetooth.
What does this all mean
The automotive industry is one of the most innovative around at this moment in time. Developments in technology are being taken on board by car manufacturers the world over as they push the envelope of what the car can become. Every year we are seeing more and more technology making its way into our cars, think about the differences between a car from 2002 and one from 2017. Remember there was a time when power steering and electric windows were considered new age technology. The fact is we are on the cusp of the next generation of technology and the automotive industry is right at the forefront