The industry is alive and well and developing new strategies and partnerships to meet the increasingly differing demands and an ever-evolving consumer landscape.

8 Automotive Industry Trends Driving 2022

The automotive industry has taken it on the chin in the last few years, from sales dips driven by the pandemic to chip shortages slowing production, both contributing to a hefty increase in used car values and sales, diminished new car inventory and interest.

Dramatically rising fuel costs haven’t helped, fueling greater interest in alternative technologies to internal combustion engine vehicles.

But don’t be fooled, the industry is alive and well and developing new strategies and partnerships to meet the increasingly differing demands and an ever-evolving consumer landscape.

Here are the top 8 trends shaping the future of the automotive industry:

1. Digital Technology Integration

Did you know the first automobile with a touchscreen display was the Buick Riviera, debuting in 1986?  But not a liquid crystal display; instead, Buick relied on a conventional 9” cathode ray tube, green and black, functioning as the ‘graphics control center’ offering control of 91 functions which would have otherwise required buttons, switches and knobs on the dashboard.

Ironically, it didn’t go well for Buick, as customers frequently complained that the display was too distracting to look away from the road to view fuel economy or what was on the radio.

They discontinued that option in lieu of buttons, switches and knobs.

Imagine that.

We’ve come a long way since then, with consumers now demanding manufacturers pack as much advanced digital technology into new cars as is humanly (or robotically) possible.

Vehicles produced in 2022 are replete with massive touchscreen displays offering a wide variety of functions and capabilities, Alexa and Siri voice assistant integration, real-time navigation, and a host of other bells and whistles.

A main theme of automotive tech integration is safety, automated brake-assist, lane change sensing, parallel parking assist, and many more.

Infotainment is another significant touchpoint manufacturers are intently focused on, beyond satellite radio.  In-car purchases for media content such as movies, video games and television shows will supersede FM radio and satellite radio, as manufacturers are able to incorporate 5G and Wi-Fi technologies with a more homogenous CPU design, in contrast to today’s decentralized multi-cpu environment now employed.

It’s clear the future of automobiles lay not in hardware or brand but in software, firmware and content.

2. V2V

Vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V, is a technology focused on connectivity of vehicles on the road.  V2V is intended to create a coordinated driving experience between vehicles, managing characteristics such as speed, distance to other vehicles (stopping), lane change safety and blind spot elimination.

V2V will also be used for what’s known as “truck platooning”, where multiple trucks drive closely behind one another to reduce wind friction, creating, in essence, a slipstream, reduce drag and increasing fuel efficiency.  V2V will monitor and adjust each truck’s speed and distance to ensure optimal performance and fuel efficiency.

3. EVs

Everyone knows about electric vehicles, but as of 2022 we’re poised to see a steep increase in the number of EVs on the road.  There are currently 1.2 million EVs in use in the U.S. today with projections of more than 19 million by 2030.

Leaps in battery technology continue to push the envelope in capacity, charging speed and longevity, we can expect to see EVs soon surpass ICE vehicles in distance and convenience.

4. Fuel Cell Technology

Fuel cells use the chemical energy of hydrogen or other fuels to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity.  Fuel cells operate cleanly, typically producing electricity, water (if hydrogen is the fuel) and heat as byproducts.  Fuel cell technology has been around for quite some time (invented by William Grove in 1839) but the challenge has been to manufacture inexpensive, efficient reliable fuel cells, a far more complicated business.  A growing number of manufacturers are investing in fuel cell electric vehicle development, including Hyundai, Toyota, Renault and others.

5. Connected Cars

The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, has been a buzz term for a while, initially concentrated on devices in the home setting and expanding to include devices or things beyond the household environment.

A car is both a place and a thing, isn’t it?  At least prior to the pandemic, many of us lived in our cars, the commute being more extended isolation in a tiny room than a quick jaunt to the office.  Connected cars refers to vehicles that provide, among other creature comforts, a safe, comfortable, convenient multimedia experience by using on-demand features that allow you to do anything you want on the web while in your vehicle.  Connected cars can (and will) communicate bidirectionally with a range of other systems outside their local area network.  Connected cars can now send data and remote diagnostics, vehicle health reports, telematics, access wi-fi spots, receive real-time turn-by-turn navigational assistance, identify and alert health issues and directly intervene to prevent catastrophic damage.

AI and deep learning technologies will explode onto the playing field as tools for predictive analytics and preventive maintenance technologies, as well as learning and adapting to driver behaviors and driving styles.

6. Shared Mobility

Think of shared mobility as an automotive time-share.  A nascent business model growing in popularity, it’s an alternative to traditional vehicle ownership.  With shared mobility, two or more people use the same vehicle with short-term access. It’s Mobility-as-a-Service.  Many companies already offer MaaS, including RideCell, Zoox, EasyMile, Moovit, and others, with new companies jumping into the fray every day.  MaaS offers an affordable, convenient alternative to the high costs of and responsibilities of the traditional ownership paradigm.

7. Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles are here to stay and will become more prevalent in 2022 and into the future.  There are different levels of autonomous vehicles:

Level 1 – Driver assistance

Under certain conditions the car controls either steering or speed, but not both.

Level 2 – Partial Automation

The vehicle can steer, accelerate and brake in certain circumstances.

Level 3- Conditional Automation

The vehicle can, in the right conditions, manage most aspects of driving, including monitoring the environment.

Level – 4 High Automation

A steering wheel and pedals remain, but no human input or oversight is required except under select conditions defined by factors such as road type or geographic area.

Level – 5 Full Automation

True “driverless” car that can operate under any conditions without human intervention.

Companies such as Tesla, Google and others continue to make headway in the autonomous vehicle market but have a long way to go before achieving reliable, safe automated vehicles beyond level 2.

8. Technology Partnerships

The future of the automobile rests not in the hands of the automotive industry, but those of the technology industries.  Today, the value of an average car is 90% hardware and 10% software.  In the future, hardware’s percentage drops to 40% while software increases to 40% while the remaining 20% is associated with content, including the apps that bridge and integrate hardware and software.

Manufacturers see a great opportunity to create great in-vehicle digital experiences that can attract customers to their brands by integrating their personal devices, providing in-vehicle content, and transforming travel time into time well spent from time wasted.  That means making critical decisions about what skills to keep in-house and what to outsource.

In essence, what technology providers will they partner and collaborate with moving forward.  This sets the auto industry on a new path toward an alternate business model, one in which brand and design may become less relevant than the technologies incorporated into the vehicle itself.

If this path continues (and it probably will), the automobile will become the most sophisticated smart device available to consumers.

So, there you have it.  There’s no denying technology is rapidly altering the landscape of the automotive industry.  It’s a whole new ecosystem.

August 1, 2022

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