For a few years now, disruption in the automotive industry has been forcing automotive OEMs and Tier suppliers to adapt. The market trend referred to as C.A.S.E. (Connectivity, Autonomous, Sharing/Subscription and Electrification) is still going strong, while digital technologies continue to transform the mobility landscape as well as the development processes used in the automotive sector. Let’s see what trends are expected to shape the auto industry in 2022!
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Business and development Agility
The digital shift is affecting the industry in several ways. Whether you’re looking at high-tech product engineering & development, mass customization, automated manufacturing, or digital sales channels, carmakers and suppliers have been forced to build out their software capabilities and adapt to rampant digitalization. The growing amount of technology that’s used in cars is, in and of itself, forcing developers to modernize the way they innovate new products.
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In such a fast-changing and software-heavy environment, the use of Agile (iterative and incremental) processes is becoming a priority both in the development of mobility software, but also in the way organizations behave in the marketplace. Business agility, the use of cloud-based solutions, and Agile development methods are increasingly seen as key ways to provide the flexibility and on-demand scalability necessary to thrive in today’s (and tomorrow’s) automotive market. They enable automakers to react to changes and new opportunities, start new business models, and adopt new technologies as they arise.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology making a breakthrough?
2022 is seen as the year fuel cell electric vehicles will finally make their real debut. While the technology itself has been around for a good while (with the concept being first demonstrated in the early 19th century), more stringent regulations on emission control were needed to really advance innovation in the field. Using hydrogen as a fuel source could greatly support environmental goals globally: fuel cell-powered EVs charge faster, have a longer effective range than traditional EVs, and only emit water as a byproduct of their functioning. Of course, the infrastructure to refuel these cars is still mostly lacking, but decision-makers in the UK, EU, and around the world are making progress. Cars like the Toyota Mirai, one of the first commercial applications of fuel cell technology in a mass-produced car, are expected to pave the way for this clean technology – we’ll see if 2022 will be the year it finally makes a breakthrough.
Vehicle autonomy and truck platooning going mainstream
Autonomous vehicles have been all the rage in recent years, and for good reason: most carmakers see the race towards Level 4 vehicle autonomy (high driving automation) as key to their success in the future of the mobility market. Self-driving technology is expected to contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the number of accidents, transportation & travel time and costs, and more. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class comes equipped with all the gadgets required by Level 4 (de facto self-driving), bringing this level of autonomy within reach.
In the meantime, truck platooning requires similar technologies but way less autonomy while bringing significant benefits in freight transport. A feature unlocked by V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) connectivity, trucks traveling at high speeds can line up behind each other to save fuel – which fuel could easily be replaced by hydrogen fuel cells in coming years.
Novel applications of AI in cars
The industry is already taking advantage of Artificial Intelligence in many ways. Manufacturing, supply chain optimization, and automated assembly lines are already widely supported by AI-powered algorithms. Analysts expect this trend to grow in the coming years as AI can contribute to significant cost savings and quality improvements. But vehicle safety can also benefit from the use of Artificial Intelligence.
Another use case of AI that garners a whole lot of interest is driver monitoring. The analysis of the driver’s vital signs, eye movement, and behavior to gauge attention, and other factors can help avoid accidents, making it an important area of research & innovation for carmakers. Besides real-time risk assessment, AI can also help build predictive maintenance in the cars of the future. As AI becomes more and more widely applied, we’re likely to find new use cases for this smart technology in the mobility sector.
New tech to boost car infotainment
Carmakers have been toying with the idea of using technologies like Augmented Reality in their cars, claiming that AR-based window displays could be used to improve safety. In fact, several models announced for release in 2022 already sport AR solutions, projecting relevant driving data and navigation information on the windscreen.
In the meantime, the advancement of technologies like NLP (Natural Language Processing) combined with AI enables the use of voice-controlled virtual assistants in cars to perform simple tasks like initiating calls, playing music, or adding driving directions without having to look away from the road. Besides traditional carmakers, technology companies like Google and Apple (already present in vehicles through their Android Auto and Carplay products) are also bringing voice-activated technologies to cars.
Not a new technology per se, but vitally important nonetheless: as exponentially growing amounts of data are involved in the driving experience, IT security becomes a focal point.
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The importance of protecting both the personal data of drivers & users, and keeping the car itself secure from external attacks cannot be overstated. Hackers have been shown to be able to take control of a car while driving, while the security of personal data has taken center stage across industries. Carmakers are developing new technologies for early threat perception as well as real-time and active defense and response to cybersecurity threats. Naturally, hackers aren’t sitting by idly either, making cybersecurity a permanent item on the innovation agendas of carmakers worldwide.