Driverless cars, vehicles talking to each other, artificial intelligence capture the wheel replacing drivers – it seems like we’re one step away from sci-fi becoming reality. The automotive industry is buzzing with innovations, offering faster, smarter, and safer cars to consumers. Let’s take a look at the global automotive trends we saw in 2017 and see where the industry is heading in 2018.
The biggest automotive discoveries of 2017
The Internet of Things in vehicles, improved safety, extensive use of artificial intelligence and more electric cars were the critical advances by automakers in 2017.
Alternative powertrains to decrease emissions
Since environmental protection is one of the most significant concerns today, alternative powertrains are among the top automotive trends in the United States, Europe, and especially Asia. In particular, China is growing its network of charging stations to meet the projected demand of 5 million electric vehicles (EVs) by 2020. Increasingly, countries are offering benefits for electric cars owners from lower import taxes to reserved parking spots.
Consumers can now choose from a range of EVs and hybrid cars: powerful crossovers from Jaguar and Mercedes, cars from Hyundai and Ford with almost 120-mile range, and even the speedy NIO-EP9 supercar, a competitor to the Tesla Model X. The tendency is clear: the automotive market is moving toward actual zero emissions.
AI brings driverless cars one step closer to full autonomy
Self-driving cars aren’t science fiction anymore. Trends in the automotive industry show that the car market is an ideal platform for AI development. Driverless vehicles require a level of perception close to that of humans. There’s still a lot of room improvements to AI in terms of sensing, mapping, negotiating, predicting, and making decisions. Nevertheless, after AI taking off in 2017, we’re now talking about highly autonomous vehicles and real hands-free driving in limited scenarios.
Tech startups that create autonomous driving software, driver safety tools, and car-to-car communication and AI-based auto apps raised more than $3 billion in investment in 2017. There’s still a long path from a simply smart car to a fully autonomous vehicle, but Waymo, Tesla, Volvo and others are proving that it can happen soon.
Cars warning each other about dangers on the road
Many tech features that currently come as a bonus in your new car may be required in a matter of years. For 2017, rear cameras were added to around 80% of new vehicles. But this doesn’t sound like a big deal when AI-based functions like object recognition, route and charge planning, and even car communication are becoming reality. The latest autonomous driving technology can create 3D maps of the surroundings using radar, sensors, cameras, and information from cars further down the road.
Connected vehicle technology can predict dangerous situations like accidents or slippery roads before they occur. This is how car-to-car communication works: one vehicle recognizes a dangerous road condition (a traffic jam, heavy rain, an accident, etc.) and sends information to the cloud, where it is automatically transmitted to other cars on the same route.
The blockchain brings safer data management to automotive
According to the Toyota Research Institute, the blockchain can sufficiently speed up the development of self-driving car technology. The speed at which IoT data is processed from multiple devices is crucial for vehicle safety. “Distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers and manufacturers,” says Chris Ballinger of the Toyota Research Institute.
Some companies are considering adopting the blockchain in their workflows, while others are already using it. For example, Bosch, Cisco and a couple of startups have allied to build blockchain-based IoT apps, while Renault has joined forces with Microsoft to develop a blockchain app to save all vehicle information in a digital maintenance book.
Achievements automotive manufacturers can be proud of in 2017
Last year’s main trends in the automotive industry brought us some revolutionary features and handy devices that you can already use.
Watching your children while driving has become easier
If you’re a driver and a parent, you’re used to watching your kids in the rearview mirror, turning your head a million times to check why they’re so suspiciously quiet in the back seat and grimacing, singing, and doing pretty much anything to keep them entertained during the ride. Well, we have two words for you, friend: Cabin Watch.
With the new Honda Odyssey, the automotive giant solves the problem of distracted parents with its night vision enhanced interior camera. Although the new Odyssey is expected to reach the market in 2018, some lucky people already had the opportunity to try it out in autumn 2017. Other features of the new Odyssey include Cabin Talk, a technology that broadcasts the driver’s voice through the car’s speakers or wireless headphones. Plus, the driver can control the rear-seat screens, air conditioning and infotainment system. Sounds like a new level of family car, doesn’t it?
Cars are autopiloting to Level 3 autonomy
In 2017, Audi presented the world’s first production car with Level 3 autonomy, meaning that no driver supervision is required up to 37 mph (60 km per hour). Audi calls this feature AI Traffic Jam Autopilot. The Audi A8 also monitors drivers and can wake you up if you fall asleep; if it fails, the car will stop automatically. Traffic jams don’t seem as annoying anymore – working, playing with a child, or even sleeping is possible with the smart A8 according to the manufacturer.
Another innovative safety feature in the Audi A8 is lifting the side of the car to protect passengers from side impacts. If the car calculates that a side crash is likely, it exposes the more solid parts of the car to the hit.
Bikers got their share of innovations with helmet-mounted HUDs
“Keep your eyes on the road and your mind on the ride.” Meet Nuviz, the world’s first motorcycle heads-up display that integrates the vital functions of your phone and other devices into your helmet. Navigation, phone calls, music – everything is in front of your eyes in this helmet-mounted HUD. No more distractions: just you, your motorcycle, and the highway.
Driverless cars are hitting local roads
Waymo autonomous minivans are driving the streets of Phoenix, Arizona, right now. And no humans are inside; AI is in full control. Waymo, Google’s driverless car company, initiated this project back in 2009, and now it’s their time to shine. CEO John Krafcik promises that in a few months, their driverless cars will be ready to invite passengers aboard.
What 2018 has to offer for the automotive industry
The technological upgrades of 2018 will continue to improve safety and car-to-car communication and move us toward higher levels of autonomous driving. Here are some of the novelties presented at CES 2018. You can also read our detailed overview of the event here.
Amazon’s Alexa can now be part of your car
Toyota has announced cooperation with Amazon to introduce Alexa cloud-based voice control to select 2018 Toyota and Lexus models. By communicating with Alexa, drivers and passengers will be able to control a car’s infotainment system, choosing music and controlling navigation.
Cars with Qualcomm chips will communicate with each other to save lives
Ford is continuing their partnership with Qualcomm to develop C-2VX technology. The product they’re working on is a chip that allows cars to communicate with other vehicles on the road and receive information about road conditions, surroundings, weather, and more. The system can warn drivers about changing conditions or problems ahead before you can actually see them. Ford has announced trials in San Diego and Detroit.
Live parking maps created automatically thanks to cars
Bosch presented its new parking technology at CES 2018, which is being tested right now in Germany. Cars with enhancements from Bosch can measure the gaps between parked vehicles while you drive through the city and identify free parking spots. Then they can send this information to the cloud where it’s added to a live map of available parking spots.
Nissan isn’t limiting itself to simple car-to-car communication. At CES 2018, the company’s technical experts presented an impressive technology they’re currently working on. Their system detects brain activity and prepares the car for actions you’re going to take. This could let you turn the wheel a millisecond faster than you could with your hands, for instance. It could also detect your discomfort while driving and adjust the seat and controls for your convenience.
Are consumers ready for breakthroughs in autonomous driving?
New trends mean new concerns for consumers and additional challenges for manufacturers. Giving up control over the vehicle to an artificial intelligence system is psychologically hard, so drivers need to have good reasons to rely on a robot. Industry representatives claim that autonomous driving is way safer than having a human behind the wheel. Driverless cars in Arizona have shown great accident-free results, but these vehicles must drive hundreds of millions of miles to carry out a statistically meaningful comparison to human drivers. Still, if self-driving cars were even 10% safer than the average human driver, that would still reduce the more than 37,000 annual car accident deaths in the US alone.
Hacking is another possible issue for self-driving cars. It might sound strange, but driverless vehicles are unintentionally more secure, says security researcher and car hacker Craig Smith. Simply speaking, self-driving cars are smarter than those with only some automated functions; they use lots of different sensors, which are hard to deceive or crack simultaneously.
Yet the future of driverless vehicles will depend on consumer opinion, and right now there are still a lot of technical and moral issues that influence people’s feelings about this technology.
Global automotive trends require a new approach to OEM business models and are reshaping the traditional automotive industry structures. Many tech companies and startups are entering the market to create new alliances and form a brand-new auto-tech ecosystem. To keep up with the times, digital technology companies from startups to giants like Tesla, Apple, Google, and Uber are continuing in the direction of self-driving electric cars.
Intellias is not an exception. We’re working on several impressive projects that are pushing the latest automotive trends in Europe and the US. Want to know more? Contact us to chat with one of our leading automotive experts.