Caixin
Nov 07, 2019 02:26 PM

Five trends guiding autotech in 2019

Cast your mind back to when IMDB couldn’t provide every piece of information about a film within milliseconds. How did you decide which era a movie came from? Well, one glance at the cars will tell you whether you’re dealing with “The Graduate” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Each decade’s automobiles have had unmistakable styles, makes, and trends. Future films will be a little tougher. Studying today's auto industry takes more than a mechanic’s toolkit, as tech continues to disrupt what we know and propel us towards a future we thought we’d never see. Take a look at five of the top trends guiding autotech in 2019.

1. Autonomous vehicles

No surprises here. Self-driving vehicles have been the talk of tech for a few years now, but have we come any closer to a driverless front seat? The answer is: Yes, but not as close as we expected. There’s a general consensus forming across the pioneers of autonomous driving technology that it may take a little longer than predicted. As of the end of June 2019, the US Department of Motor Vehicles had received over 160 reports of autonomous vehicle collisions, meaning that while the internal technology may be state-of-the-art, societal safety remains a major concern and talking point. Will industry leaders wait to work out every bug before they launch, or inch towards the goal by pushing semi-autonomous models further and further?

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2. Mobility-as-a-Service

The world is rethinking traditional car ownership, and services like Uber, Lyft, and Didi Chuxing are giving us room to do it. In Lyft’s IPO at the end of March, they claimed that an estimated 300,000 of their customers had given up cars in favour of their services. We haven’t done a headcount, but there’s definitely a sea change afoot in the world of car ownership. Between ride-sharing services and mass movement to cities with reliable public transport systems, a car doesn’t seem like the necessity it once was. We’re excited to see the effects that fewer cars will bring, not only to the daily rush hour traffic but to emission levels.

3. Connected vehicles (V2X technology)

The toughest part of driving isn’t operating a vehicle - it’s co-ordinating with other cars, infrastructure, and traffic control systems on the journey. Vehicle-to-everything technology aims for higher road safety standards by collecting enough data to spot the patterns that are passing us by. Connecting cars to the internet is the easy part, it’s the surroundings that need more work. City planners of old weren’t anticipating the connected reality we now live in, and so it’ll take a lot more work before cities become as smart as our devices.

4. Vehicles of the future

Ok, so we want them driverless, and we want them connected, but what kind of cars are we looking at building? Or will they be cars at all?

E-scooters & bikes: The scooter revolution and bike-sharing companies have taken hold in cities all over the world. Pros: It’s a healthy option for us and for the environment. Cons: The odds of you falling over a discarded scooter on the way to work have just multiplied. Can these companies balance the convenience with the space issues faced by the planet’s most populated cities?

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Electric vehicles: Factors like affordability, sustainability, and improving infrastructure have brought the EV craze to new levels. Considered a niche product ten years ago, over two million EVs were sold worldwide in 2018, and this is projected to increase to 10 million by 2025. Governments worldwide are targeting emissions and air pollution with a combination of tight controls on petrol and diesel and consumer incentives pushing towards electric.

Flying robotaxis: Wow, we never thought we’d be saying those words. This fantasy is being realised faster than expected, with several companies operating working prototypes. Will the regulation move as fast as the technology? And will it ever be an affordable way to travel?

5. Auto-manufacturing & sales

Augmented reality: Does the term “AR” mean anything to you? It’s been hailed as the next frontier for countless industries, and the auto industry is one of them. From a consumer point of view, it means test-driving from home; for manufacturers, digitally testing prototypes will make the process easier, safer, and cheaper.

3D printing: 3D printing is poised to increase efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of car manufacturing. It also gives consumers the chance to take the wheel in the production of their next car. BMW recently made the data set for their Vision M concept available for download, meaning that anyone with a 3D printing machine and a spot in the garage could have one.

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We’ve just skimmed the surface of the autotech industry - the innovation in this sector is incredible, and we can’t wait to see what developments get the green light in the coming decade. We’ll be discussing these autotech trends and more with the world’s most exciting companies, startups, and experts as part of our Auto/Tech track at Web Summit this year. Ticket prices increase on Thursday. Find out more here.

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