The automotive industry is moving at light speed. New features, functions, and equipment are being designed and developed at a record pace. While the chips that power most traditional gasoline cars are on the older side, the vehicles themselves are anything but.
With the booming electric vehicle (EV) market reaching new heights, it is no surprise that innovation is leapfrogging its way into an almost sci-fi movie-like reality. Plenty of these features have been around or in development for some time. As demand for vehicles grew over the shortage so did efforts to improve existing technology. Now every automaker has some form of smart tech in their vehicles whereas only a few possessed them years prior.
2023 has a tremendous number of automotive features in development which are sure to be announced soon if they haven’t already at the 2022 Electronica Fair. While there are dozens of exciting tech advancements coming out over 2023, these are the ones you should keep an eye on.
1. Autonomous Driving
Self-driving cars or other transport vehicles that can move without the intervention of a human driver have been at the top of the list for years. Autonomous driving itself is not a singular type of technology either. There are different levels, ranging from 0 to 5. Level 0 usually means no type of automation with older cars mainly being placed in said category. Most newer cars today have some degree of automation that places them between levels 1 or 2. Types of automation that fall under level 1 are lane assist technology or adaptive cruise control and features under level 2 include lane-change mode, self-parking, and driver monitoring.
Level 5 is complete automation. Level 5 automation or automated driving system means that it is always in operation and all driving tasks fall under autonomous control. While several automakers have made continual strides towards full automation, there is no singular vehicle line on the market that is equipped with complete automation. Even Tesla, with its Autopilot feature and claims that the cars are “self-driving,” requires human driver intervention to operate.
Automakers have no exact date on when such a vehicle would be released to the market, but every year it is getting closer.
Cruise and Waymo, two automated taxis rivals, have been pushing toward level 5 autonomous taxis. Both operate driverless taxis in San Francisco, CA, and Phoenix, AZ. Where other automakers are pulling back, such as Ford and Volkswagen shutting down their joint venture Argo AI for autonomous cars, Cruise and Waymo are not. Both are expanding their markets to more cities in 2023. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt believes we are in “the golden years of AV (autonomous vehicles) expansion.”
Even Volkswagen CEO, Thomas Schäfer, despite VW’s termination of their joint venture with Ford, believes autonomous VW cars will go global by 2030. VW is continuing to collaborate with Cariad, Bosch, and Horizon Robotics on powerful autonomous tech. Other automakers are continuing to form partnerships with AI and machine learning developers, like Stellantis acquiring aiMotive a leader in artificial intelligence. Stellantis with aiMotive as their subsidiary plans to drastically increase the development of their autonomous driving software, STLA Brain, STLA SmartCockpit, and STLA AutoDrive.
There are even developments in autonomous driving to be found at the university level. The Cognitive Neuroinformatics research group at the University of Bremen’s project Proreta 5 was done in cooperation with auto supplier Continental. This is the fifth Proreta research project which focused on algorithm developments that would derive correct driving decisions comparable to a human’s. This project used sensors for tracking and monitoring with algorithms to examine sensor data with environmental perception. The project has made great strides in autonomous vehicles making more efficient, robust, and safe decisions.
The Automation Fair in Chicago started off with one universal observation made by top executives in the auto industry. It’s that historically the automotive industry is slow-moving at adopting change. Plex Systems Vice President of Product Strategy, Ben Stewart, at the Automotive & Tire Industry Forum asked one simple question to kick off the discussion.
“What are you seeing in the shift to electric vehicles and its impact on the industry?”
The answer, according to other panelists, was that the data obtained by EVs was immense, demand for EVs was incredible and, in order to capitalize on EV demand and create better EVs there was only one solution. It was that digitalization is critical in order to access information collected by EVs and improve their processes. This discussion came right after Ford announced its partnership with Rockwell Automation to help their EV program.
Competition within the EV market has been intense, and many automakers have felt the need to halve production time and offer smarter features within their vehicles. The solution for these challenges is accomplished by automating production lines and data gathering via programs and other processes. Embracing digitalization has been key to breaking apart from the competition that favors traditional processes. Digitalizing has been shown to improve accuracy speed, remove errors, and standardize processes.
The more digital vehicles become so too do automakers themselves. Eagle Technologies Vice President of Engineering, Jason Cleveland, at the same panel credited digitalization for the company’s fast and effective deployment of their systems. Within the next 5 years, it is likely the automotive industry will continue digitalizing to stay competitive. The effects that will have on the consumer will be monumental as it will no doubt lead to better products with more intelligent capabilities.
Electro-mobility or e-mobility is the concept of using electric powertrain technologies, in-vehicle information, and communication that enables electric propulsion vehicles and fleets. In other words, it’s what makes electric vehicles electric!
A few automakers are reassessing their e-mobility targets for the upcoming year. Mazda’s original sales target for electric cars went from 25% to between 25-40% of total sales by 2030 thanks to the eager demand for EVs by consumers. This effort will be aided by Mazda’s plans to introduce new hybrid systems before the release of pure electric cars between 2028-2030. This strategic decision has been made in part by Mazda’s supply agreement with battery manufacturer Envision AESC.
This partnership will be running at the same time Mazda continues work on their electric platform “Skyactiv EV Scalable Architecture.” Mazda isn’t the only one taking time to invest in e-mobility strategies either. Volkswagen and Seat are investing 10 billion euros in e-mobility in Spain, specifically a battery factory in Sagunt and the conversion of Martorell and Pamplona plants to soon produce small electric vehicles. These EVs are planned to be part of VW’s MEB plan which includes electric versions of VW’s popular models, not just brand-new lines.
ABB E-mobility, a global leader in EV charging solutions, and ZF, the German-based automotive part manufacturer, are investing in new e-mobility projects. ZF recently completed a new production hub in the UK that will focus on advanced driver assistance systems, race engineering, steering, braking, and powertrains for ZF’s next generation of electric motors. The new cost-effective, compact, and energy-efficient e-motor is expected to be released on the market in 2025.
4. Driver Assistance
If you have a newer car, you probably have a driver assistance program. What type you have and what it covers depends on several factors including the type of car and the manufacturer. While driving assistance programs continue to be implemented in new vehicle lines, how effective they truly are has been hotly debated.
Not anymore. In 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration partnered with automakers to conduct one of the largest safety studies of its kind. The results of this project, the Partnership for Analytics Research in Traffic Safety Parts (PARTS), are promising.
When certain systems are partnered together, such as forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEW) systems, all front-to-rear crash possibilities are reduced by 49.2%. FCW on its own reduces front-to-rear crashes by 16%. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) were found to not only help stop crashes but reduce crash severity and passenger injuries. Even the driver assistance systems with the smallest impact, such as lane centering assistance at 9% when added to lane departure warning and lane keeping assistance, were shown to increase driver safety.
What does this mean? Well, ADAS systems are here to stay, and the continual improvement of these systems will only increase the percentage of overall crash reduction. Therefore, the ADAS market is expected to grow 11.7% from 2021 to 2028 at a market value of $52 billion USD. Government regulations to improve road safety across the globe are expected to raise demand for classic ADAS systems such as cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.
Something important to note is that while Level 5 autonomous cars are far off in the future, developments aimed at reaching this goal often have a trickledown effect on driver assistance programs. ADAS systems are the initial steps toward full-fledge automation. 98% of all vehicles sold in 2022 were equipped with ADAS functionality. And Tesla isn’t the only name consumers think of anymore regarding ADAS.
Like many others branching into ADAS, Honda recently released their own ADAS called Honda Sensing 360. This ADAS system includes advanced lane change, semi-autonomous driving, hands-off function, and other systems which will become standard on all models sold in the U.S. by 2030. Ford recently shifted focus from self-driving technology to more advanced driver assistance systems after Argo AI disbanded. Even Sono’s solar-powered EV Sion will feature ADAS after expanding its partnership with Continental.
For some automakers, as they shift away from complete automation ADAS becomes the popular re-focus. Since ADAS is usually based off the same data and tech fully self-driving automobiles would be capable of, it's an easy and beneficial refocus.
5. Smart Device Connection
Automobiles are getting smarter! Smart technology has been on the rise over the past few years. Everything from streetlights to cars are being outfitted with sensors and microcontrollers to perform tasks that can be dictated by nothing but a phone. EV pioneer and current leader, Tesla, has been exploring the possibilities of smart functions for years.
Tesla’s Smart Summon system has been incorporated into its vehicles for some time now. It will soon receive a significant upgrade, Actual Smart Summon (Yes, abbreviated as ASS). Actual Smart Summon boasts the potential of being able to be summoned wherever a user is by using the Summon button on the Tesla app. Utilizing GPS coordinates the vehicle will be able to increase both convenience and safety to retrieve users. A long way from implementation, this feature is highly coveted by consumers.
Likewise, is Tesla’s Full Self Driving advancements which should help navigate parking lots, obeying traffic laws, making turns, and more according to the director of Tesla’s Autopilot program, Ashok Elluswamy. FSD Version 11 started rolling out on November 11, at 11:11 2022.
Overall, the automotive infotainment market, which includes these smart applications, is expected to grow immensely in a five-year span by 12.4% from 2020 to 2025. The infotainment market is rapidly growing thanks to advances in new automotive technologies and our love for connectivity. Modern-day infotainment systems establish connectivity between smart automotive technologies including ADAS systems, sensors, telematic devices, and most importantly, smartphones.
Automakers continue to pair with leaders in different areas of technology to find new solutions and applications for cars and smart tech. Volvo’s new SUV is getting help on its infotainment system from chip maker Qualcomm. The SUV will use Qualcomm’s new feature processors in the Snapdragon Automotive platform which supports a planned two-display concept in the SUV.
Mercedes-Benz is taking an interesting turn regarding its own infotainment systems. Rather than seek aid from a chip maker, Mercedes has partnered with Unity Technologies, a mobile game and 3D platform developer, for its new operating system. BMW, more traditionally, is collaborating with Android Automotive to add its operating system to its specific models in 2023. Geely-owned automaker ZEEKER is using Nvidia’s next-generation centralized computer DRIVE Thor.
These advancements are coming but depend on the availability of electronic components to bring them into more vehicles. Throughout the shortage, automakers have been forced to cut some of these smarter features to just get the cars to market rather than waiting in lots for months. As the shortage eases for consumer electronics, chipmakers are refocusing to provide relief while they can for automakers.
Once they do and stability begins to return to the automotive sector consumers should see more of these options become available once again. And with 2023’s line-up of automotive advances, these will be in high demand for some time to come. For those having trouble still sourcing hard-to-find components, the global team of experts at Sourcengine can help you find supply by sending an RFQ.