It’s not news that 2021 wasn’t an easy year for the automotive industry. While online car sales jumped from less than two percent to around 30 percent, chip shortages and other supply chain issues left many car dealerships with extremely low inventories and longer-than-usual wait periods.
But the woes have not slowed down innovation; here are three trends we expect to be at the forefront of the automotive industry in 2022.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to feature in all aspects of bringing a vehicle to fruition, from development to supply chain to final delivery. AI can be used to execute manual tasks, manage quality control, identify chips, dents, and other faulty parts, assist in forecasting demand, and help with inventory upkeep.
In 2022, AI will maintain its prominence in vehicle safety systems. Through artificially intelligent systems, driving styles can be monitored and learned, enabling safety systems to identify elevated risk in a driver or situation. For example, many 2022 models will have pedestrian detection, lane-assist, blind spot warning, automatic emergency braking, and some will even be able to detect if a driver is drowsy.
In fact, in November 2021 Honda unveiled their Intelligent Driver-Assistive Technology, which, according to Honda, is “the world’s first such technology, [that] uses ADAS sensors and cameras to recognize potential risks in the vehicle’s surroundings, which enables AI to detect driving risks.” The cameras in this technology can sense many risks; for instance, if a driver’s eyes are beginning to shut, the camera will detect it and trigger a “wakefulness assist” response that vibrates the seat, intending to perk up the driver.
Another significant AI-powered trend is autonomous vehicles. For example, in December 2021 Israel unveiled a law to allow 400 self-driving taxis to drive around the country this year; this was spurred by technology company Intel’s purchase of Mobileye, an Israeli autonomous driving firm. Mobileye has previously partnered with General Motors, Volvo, Tesla, and BMW, as well as worked with Ford to develop safety features.
Additionally, manufacturing giant General Motors is making its self-driving technology, Super Cruise, more accessible. Previously only available in Cadillacs, General Motors has now implemented it in the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV.
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Autonomous vehicles are also gaining traction in the last-mile logistics and delivery ecosystem. For example, Domino’s recently debuted a pizza delivery robot car. It is the first on-road, human-free delivery vehicle to be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In September 2021, self-driving technology company Aurora partnered with PACCAR and FedEx to begin piloting FedEx delivery trucks in Houston and Dallas with its software. The company hopes its trucks, by 2023, will not need safety drivers.
Electric vehicles continue to gain momentum. There are currently about 50 all-electric vehicle models for sale in the U.S. right now, and that number is expected to triple by 2025. In fact, Tesla’s Elon Musk said in a recent interview with automotive manufacturing expert Sandy Munro that he believes the crossover point for electric vehicle majority is only ten years away.
Many leading manufacturers are moving full speed ahead with electric vehicle development. Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning truck is set to launch this year, and the manufacturer has confirmed its plan to double the initial production capacity for the model. Cadillac also debuted their first all-electric model, the Cadillac Lyriq, at the beginning of the year.
The U.S. government has hopped aboard the EV bandwagon, as well. In August 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that calls for half of all vehicle sales by 2030 to be zero-emissions vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles. Ford, GM, and Stellantis have already confirmed that they will boost their EV production to help meet this goal. Of course, this increase in the production of electric vehicles must be met with an adequate infrastructure to support them. In this regard, China has invested $1.4 billion into this grid infrastructure, the United States has invested $7.5 billion, and the United Kingdom has invested $400 million.
Connected technology and services, such as vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, vehicle-to-cloud communication, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication enable vehicles to communicate with devices that transmit weather, safety, and mobility data. It allows for more driver awareness of infrastructure, nearby vehicles, and traffic hazards.
One major area we are seeing connectivity is in fleet optimization efforts. For example, rental car company Hertz recently placed a $4.2 billion order for 100,000 Teslas. Hertz not only saw this purchase as an investment in clean energy but also as an opportunity to maintain a more detailed awareness of the state of its fleet for insurance purposes, as certain Tesla models (like the Tesla Model 3s Hertz has purchased) have features that can assess risk and therefore determine insurance premiums.
“By 2030, literally every vehicle that’s sold is going to be connected. And from an insurance standpoint, there are opportunities for usage-based insurance (UBI) and those types of things. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of change in the insurance industry. Our role at Hertz is to make sure that, whether it’s our consumers or our Uber drivers, we’re providing the appropriate amount of insurance,” Hertz Interim CEO Mark Fields said in an interview with Morning Brew.
Another area we’re seeing increased connectivity is through vehicle entertainment and infotainment systems. Toyota Motor North America, for instance, recently debuted a new, next-generation multimedia system with enhanced navigation, voice assistant, user profiles that can be accessed from vehicle to vehicle, access to a digital key via smart phone, over-the-air programming, and safety and service features.
Trends and advances in technology will continue to influence the evolution of consumer habits, wants, and needs. While the automotive industry has done a remarkable job producing products people seek year after year, automakers are doubling down on their efforts to build new, digital ways of selling cars and trucks.
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