Auto technology is evolving quickly, as cars become rolling computers and extensions of our home life. As Denis DesRosiers of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants put it, “There is more technology in your car today than there was on the lunar lander.” Five years down the road, you’ll see the following auto trends.
The passion for driving is declining, according to Andrew Smart, director of industry relations and business development at SAE International, the global association of aerospace and automotive engineers. This, in turn, is powering the move toward cars as mobile communications platforms. “The vehicle used to be a rite of passage—a freedom milestone—for every teenager, but that’s no longer the case,” Smart said. Where cars once had a role in social interaction, the Internet and a global network of friends has taken over that function. Studies have shown many consumers would rather lose their car than their connectivity, Smart said.
This determination to be connected is driving a major push for in-car communications, DesRosiers said, as is the amount of time drivers spend in their cars. “Consumers are cocooning in their homes, but also in their vehicles, so they want their vehicles loaded up with convenience and comfort features.”
Anything but driving
As Larry Burns, former General Motors corporate vice-president of R&D noted, “We’ve concluded that, for a lot of people, driving has become the distraction.”
To meet the desire to do anything but drive when behind the wheel, the industry is working on self-driving or autonomous vehicles. Google has already developed a driverless car, combining information gathered from Google Street View, artificial intelligence and sensors on top of and around the vehicle.
But broad commercialization of self-driving vehicles is more than five years off, said Philip Gott, director of long-range planning for industry forecaster IHS Automotive. “It’s too expensive and too radical for most. Are you going to trust your five-year-old to be driven to daycare in an autonomous vehicle?”
By 2017, drivers can expect advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), which reduce accidents, especially among an aging population. Gott likens the demand for autonomous vehicles to the time of the horse and buggy, when the vehicle was “perhaps smarter than the driver.” In the next five years, he said this technology will be seen on commercial trucks creating “platoons” led by a professional driver, with autonomous trucks following nose-to-tail, reducing congestion, increasing safety and cutting fuel use.
The age-old debate between electric drive and the internal-combustion engine has been renewed and will continue to play out over the next five to 10 years.
It’s clear that consumers need more information if electric vehicles are going to take off, Smart said. While trends suggest high levels of satisfaction, he said customer loyalty around hybrid models is only about 35 per cent.
Though the incumbent internal-combustion engines are often written off as having seen their day, Gott said incumbents can be “like athletic teams; once threatened they get smarter and evolve.” Both technologies will further improve as they fight for market share.
DesRosiers said despite continuous efforts to push fuel efficiency and lighter weight cars, it’s nearly impossible to change buying habits; as fuel efficiency improves, consumers just turn to bigger cars. “Every consumer wakes up every morning wanting more, not less.
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