In every single year, automotive technology moves forward at an exponential rate further blurring the lines of what we thought previously impossible. For the most part, many tech ‘breakthroughs’ usually leave us disappointed, by never becoming a reality, or even worse being finally made available in a watered-down format.
As the world learned last year, you will one day be able to buy a 250mph EV, and if you really want, a Chevrolet with no driver controls at all. But as the automotive world moves into 2019, it, as always, brings with it the promise of new technology emerging at a never before seen rate of advancement.
This advancement is backed up by a report from CB Insights who claim 2019 will see huge advances in automotive tech in all areas from advanced vehicle communications, to the way we build and buy cars, or if we should even own them at all.
Here, we run through what we think you could see coming to automotive tech in the next twelve months, along with a few things you may have to wait a little longer for.
Alternatives to car ownership will continue to grow
You may not be aware, but a large number of cars sit unused for 95% of any single day. This statistic has given rise to an ever-growing number of companies offering Mobility as a Service solutions (MaaS), ranging from car-sharing, car subscriptions amongst a wide array of transportation options.
The report by CB Insights says the use of MaaS subscriptions will increase in 2019 as “a viable alternative to personal vehicle ownership.”
Alternatives to car ownership will continue to grow
The main benefit of any MaaS service is that its users can use a vehicle more often while avoiding high ownership costs including insurance, road tax, and essential maintenance.
Carmaker Volkswagen started its own all-electric car sharing service in Berlin in 2018 following rivals BMW, Ford and Renault, who have launched their own similar services in various cities around the world in recent years.
And it's not just cars
And don’t think that MaaS services is limited to cars either. As it includes a variety of other modes of transportation from scooters and bikes to ride-hailing apps all attempting to provide cheap and effective ways for us to get around without owning a personal vehicle.
In 2018, this market sector has seen massive investment with Uber buying part of electric scooter and bike company Lime. With the likes of Ford following suit buying scooter-sharing platform Spin late last year.
Drivers will continue to switch to EVs in greater numbers
In the last twelve months, electric vehicle (EV) sales have grown to new record numbers across the globe. This is down to carmakers viewing the electrification of their model ranges as a higher priority than previously seen.
In the UK, we are firmly lagging behind with EV adoption with only 8% of cars sold (as of September 2018) running on pure or assisted electric power.
Market share of EVs will grow steadily
With Governments around the world deploying further incentives for EV adoption, the report predicts that the market share for EVs will continue to grow steadily in 2019 with entry prices falling.
Carmakers such as Volkswagen and Jaguar are investing billions of dollars in the pursuit of EVs with models such as the Jaguar I-pace and VW E-Up! already arriving on the market in 2018 as the first models of a vast array of upcoming electric powered vehicles.
Electric cars should get cheaper
One major stumbling block for any potential EV buyer has always been the price hike over a similarly powered internal combustion powered car. Among the many things that add to this cost is the R&D tech investment in such things as electric motor development, and the expensive lithium-ion batteries powering them.
Since 2015, the cost of producing EVs has more than halved according to the report. Predicting that in 2019, this cost will fall further with EV batteries becoming cheaper to produce. The knock on effect giving us lower-priced EVs in the very near future.
Connected cars or telematics as its also known has become more common in automotive via the black boxes deployed by many insurance companies worldwide. These offer live data about how and when we drive and even allow parcels to be delivered to your parked Volvo.
With advancements in-car connectivity, it’s now possible to track an entire fleet in real-time. Proving invaluable for fleet operators such as rental car firms, providing them with real-time data of where their cars are, and more importantly how they are being driven.
Connected cars bring more data
According to CB Insights, in the coming year, we will see further investment in this technology by both carmakers and tech firms alike.
One of the main reasons carmakers are investing in connected cars is the wealth of data that it provides. BMW, Hyundai and Volvo all view connectivity as an integral part of their models in the future, aiming to have 100% of all new cars connected in the near future utilising the collected data for both insurance and maintenance purposes.
Advances in driver assistance
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, fully autonomous cars are still science fiction rather than something you can actually buy. Until this self-driving future arrives, carmakers are focusing on what they can do to advance driver assistance systems to help reduce driver error.
The most interesting point gleaned from the report is that some carmakers, such as Toyota, are spearheading advances in driver assistance systems rather than heading for full autonomy. The aim for the Japanese carmaker being to develop a car that is “incapable of causing a crash.” Which suggests the near future will still require drivers to, you know, actually drive.
Driver assistance will improve safety
This potentially accident-free future is thanks to rapid development in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) being made. Including improved radar and lidar sensors, which when combined can create highly accurate 3D renderings of a vehicles surrounding while accurately measuring distance and speed – all to assist the driver in avoiding any potential hazard.
In the coming twelve months, you can expect to see this advancing tech go even further still while continuing to filter down to cheaper cars with improved automated response systems such as automatic braking and lane assistance going some way to helping reduce driver error.
Revolutionising the way you buy a car
Since the car became a thing of mass production and therefore widely available, there has been pretty much only one way to buy a new one – the car dealer. If ever there was a business model that needs advancing then buying car buying is it.
Yes, small moves have been made in recent years. But, buying a car is still very much a “bricks and mortar” business. In so much that you have to visit a large building full of cars to buy one.
But according to CB Insights, the methods of buying a new car are rapidly changing, which is expected to continue in the coming year with an increase in virtual showrooms.
Meet the car vending machine
Courtesy of Carvana, the online-only car dealer. Buyers can browse, tailor their financial terms and even trade in their old clunker via the company’s virtual showroom online.
This includes a highly detailed 360-degree view of each car and a virtual tour. Once buyers have chosen their car, they can have it delivered, or if they live in a city with a Carvana vending machine, they can collect them from there.
Yes, the humble vending machine, commonly found dispensing sugary snacks has now been supersized to deliver you a new car.
Video games helping to create autonomous cars
In the race for autonomy, there is only one effective way of gathering all of the information required to make a genuinely driverless car – driver data. Critically this is collected from videos recorded onboard an autonomous vehicle.
This, as you’d rightly imagine, is a very time consuming and costly way of doing it. As the greater number of scenarios you want self-driving software to cover (as in, all of them), could run into the billions of miles driven to ensure complete safety.
As this could take years to accomplish, carmakers have turned to another far quicker method – driving simulation platforms.
Driving simulation technology
OK, so it’s not quite a video game. But more a very expensive driving simulation that is a far quicker and cheaper way of gathering the billions of miles of data required.
One such system is the brainchild of gaming video card maker NVIDIA, who has produced its own cloud-based simulation platform called DRIVE Constellation running on its own GPUs. This generates sensor data for self-driving platforms to process, all of which can be used to teach autonomous cars to drive. Other carmakers are also turning to start-ups for simulation tech with Audi signing a multi-year deal with simulation platform Cognata to further its autonomous vehicle development program.
Cars communicating with each other
As far advancing as ADAS is with an array of cameras, radar and lidar systems. They cannot assist a car in detecting what it cannot see. This won’t be for much longer though. As according to CB Insights, in the near future, a new type of automotive sensor in the form of wireless networking will allow all cars to communicate.
While the system dubbed ‘Vehicle-to-everything’ (V2X) is in its infancy. The eventual aim is to enable cars to wirelessly communicate via 5G networks with matching devices on other cars, roads, traffic lights and even pedestrians. Allowing for the rerouting of traffic to quieter roads to optimise traffic flows in congested areas.
In the future, could the flying taxi become a reality? Yes, according to CB Insights. Who says vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft could happen in the future. Estimating that the investment for electric autonomous VTOL aircraft could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040 to meet ever-growing demands for passenger travel and logistics.
If you’re thinking what does this have to do with automotive? Well, Airbus is already teaming up with Audi on such a project in Ingolstadt. We’ve already seen an example of this in early 2018 with Audi’s “Pop.Up Next” flying car concept, an ultra-light two-seater that can be attached to a car or to a flight module.
Before we see flying taxis zipping around our cities though, there is one major issue in addition to the tech aspect – air traffic management. As some type of control system would have to be devised before any commercial services could take to the skies.