Overarching trends of digitalization and electrification continued to drive innovation in the auto industry last year. What technologies are expected to shape the future of mobility in 2021? Read our auto industry tech trends forecast below!
Digital disruption in the mobility industry has become a cliché – yet the number one factor defining automotive product development is still the adoption of digital technologies, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. Therefore, long-standing technology trends continue to unfold gradually, while new technologies suggest further directions in the mobility industry. Find out what to expect in 2021!
Read our previous annual automotive reports:
Even more electrification
Due to a global push to reduce carbon emissions and take further action to tackle climate change, the market share of electric vehicles on the mobility market continues to increase. Thanks to growing variety (with more models being introduced in 2021), government incentives, a competitive edge in comfort, and other factors, EVs are already getting hugely popular with consumers.
Next year, global EV sales is expected to jump 50%, with sales in China (a huge market for electric vehicles) forecast to grow 40%. In some countries, sales of EVs will likely surpass that of traditional combustion (petrol and diesel) engine cars in 2021, and petrol cars may be entirely off the market in no more than a few years.
Car connectivity: OTA, V2V & more
With 5G capabilities slowly being built out and research on 6G already underway, vehicle connectivity has been touted as a defining automotive trend for years. Naturally, vehicle connectivity (including V2G and V2V communication) is vital to autonomous driving. Besides that, the main reason connectivity is set to be revolutionary is that it enables OTA (Over-the-Air Updates), a hugely important feature in tomorrow’s world of digital mobility.
Research suggests that by 2023, 90% of all new vehicles in the US (and 70% of light-duty vehicles and trucks worldwide) will feature embedded connectivity capabilities. This will not only affect the way technical updates are received: with more and more ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) and increasing vehicle autonomy, focus is slowly shifting to (connected) onboard infotainment, which also opens up new revenue streams for carmakers.
Driver-vehicle interfaces & contactless tech
In addition to V2V connectivity, 2021 could also bring a significant change in how drivers (and passengers) and vehicles interface with each other.
Touchscreens are already abundant in modern cars, but their use can be dangerous while driving, and user interfaces are very different across models. To make the use of various vehicle features safer through contactless operation, some carmakers have already enabled voice and gesture control in their cars. We expect this to grow in significance in 2021, along with other contactless technologies.
Learn more about functional safety in the vehicles of the future:
To further improve how humans and vehicles interact, automotive companies are experimenting with AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality) solutions for safety and driving comfort. Examples include projecting navigation or safety information onto the windshield, but also the use of interactive driver monitoring and health tracking systems.
Self-driving cars have been on the agenda for quite some years now, but the timeline to reach full vehicle autonomy keeps getting pushed back. While the development of autonomous driving technology is progressing fast, testing and improving algorithms is still a tricky issue. Another challenge is that of safety standardization: regulators are lagging behind tech innovation, possibly delaying the launch of self-driving cars.
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Overall, experts believe that Level 4 autonomy (e.g. cars that can operate without human intervention or supervision) is still years away, not to mention full Level 5 autonomy – largely considered to take at least a decade more to develop. In the meantime, features relying on lower levels of autonomy (such as ADAS and active safety systems) will continue to spread in the auto industry. With all that said, Ford still states their self-driving cars will be ready to hit the roads by 2022, so we expect to see a lot more innovation revolving around autonomous driving technology in 2021.
Digital purchase process & on-demand mobility
All the above trends, of course, point to digitalization as the overarching process that provides a backdrop to these radical changes in the auto industry. And its effects don’t just affect the technology that goes into our cars – the digital era is also reshaping how we use vehicles. With the “As-a-service revolution”, both car subscription models and shared mobility services are already gaining traction. Both areas are expected to further develop in 2021.
For those opting for ownership, it’s expected that digital channels will increasingly replace physical touchpoints in the process of buying a car. Consumer demand will drive the digitalization of the purchase process, forcing the auto industry to build a multi-channel, fully digital buying experience for cars in 2021 and beyond.
Overall, longer-term trends of increasing digitalization and electrification will continue to have a defining effect on the mobility industry in 2021. As cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, VR/AR/MR, and 5G become more and more widely available, their use in vehicles is expected to grow to improve both safety and comfort.