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How Smart Technology Will Transform the Automotive Industry in 2020

  • by: Conor McKeon
  • On: 26, Aug 2020
7 min read

The devastating impacts of Covid-19 around the world have been felt by millions of individuals, businesses and whole industries. The Automotive sector has seen significant reductions in productivity, output and revenue in an unprecedented time for the industry.

Dealers such as Pendragon and Lookers recently announced headcount reductions of almost 2,000 jobs each, and car manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin, McLaren and Bentley have already made mass redundancies, as those Automakers with current vacancies see over 100 applicants on average for a single role.

As global lockdowns ease and workers across the globe get back to work, With ever-increasing competition, legal regulation and customer demand, the Automotive sector is continually striving to innovate and improve its vehicle technology and customer experience. Artificial Intelligence (AI) made its mark in the 2010s, and further innovation is set to change the driving experience on an unprecedented level.

Here are five ways that smart technology will change the Automotive and Motorsport sectors in the coming months.

5 Smart Vehicle Developments Predicted Before 2021

1. Adapting to New Regulations

The United Nations’ Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) regulations, due to come into force in 2021, will enable the safe introduction of Level 3 traffic automation features. Automakers will need to comply with standards for transition demand when returning to human control, emergency manoeuvres and minimum risk manoeuvres to protect drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

To comply with the regulations, manufacturers will shift to a scenario-based design and test framework, and will increasingly incorporate automation and smart technology into both their processes and their products in the next few years.

Motorsport will also be adapting to new regulations in 2020, and teams are beginning to use smart technology to meet and exceed expectations. As part of the Concorde agreement, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and F1 governing body have announced a $175million budget cap from 2021.

With current Formula 1 team budgets ranging from $120million to $500million, teams will be forced to innovate with dramatically reduced funding and resources whilst adhering to the guidelines.

Pat Symonds, Formula 1’s Chief Technical Officer and former multiple championship winner states, ‘While we have a sport where marginal gains exist, and no matter how marginal those gains are, prolific spend will bring performance to the big teams that is not available to the teams on the lower budget.’ With technology spending limited, the sport will be a much more level playing field, and each team will have to work much smarter as well as harder.

Whilst some worry that the budget cap could restrict experimentation with new concepts and technologies, engineers and technicians are more likely to think even further outside the box for innovation. Smart technology such as Virtual Reality (below) could facilitate top secret design and prototyping experiments from the teams with the savviest scientists.

2. Self-Driving Commercial Services

Autonomous cars are predicted to become the transport standard in the coming years, not only for personal use but for small- and large-scale transportation of passengers and goods.

PwC calculates that the share of autonomous driving in overall traffic will rise to 40% in the next ten years. The growth of the autonomous-vehicle (AV) market is predicted to account for $7trillion of new economic activity by 2050 in the US market alone. As technology improves, trust in self-driving cars, taxis and lorries will see automation advance the industry and its capabilities.

The dream could become a reality much sooner than predicted. In July 2020, Fiat Chrysler and Waymo (an Alphabet company) agreed an exclusive deal to develop self-driving commercial vehicles. Waymo will work with Chrysler to integrate its autonomous driving system into the Ram ProMaster full-size Fiat van. Fiat Chrysler has also committed to partnering Waymo for future Level 4 autonomous vehicles, signalling a rapid push for investment as another major player in the AV market.

Established Automotive brand Ford is also already testing self-driving vehicles on public roads in the US with technology partner Argo AI, and plans to launch a self-driving commercial service in the United States as soon as testing is complete.

3. Enhanced Safety

Whilst fully autonomous vehicles have been widely stated to be safer than standard vehicles due to the elimination of human error through distraction, tiredness and the influence of drugs or alcohol, innovation around increased visibility is rapidly enhancing safety in semi-autonomous cars.

ZF’s new S-Cam4.8 ADAS camera is one of the first to offer a 100° horizontal field of view, enhancing automated emergency braking, lane keeping and semi-automated vehicle functions. Its advanced object recognition technology aims to help protect vulnerable road users by adapting automatic emergency braking to a wider range of scenarios where objects are crossing into the car’s path or where the car is turning, and empowering lane-centring applications to better handle sharp curves.

The camera’s hardware includes a three lens Tri-Cam4 version to support advanced semi-automated driving functions, a telephoto lens for improved long-distance sensing capabilities and a fish-eye lens for short-range sensing with a wider field of view. The camera will help AV manufacturers to meet upcoming requirements of the Euro NCAP 5-Star Safety Ratings and IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

Christophe Marnat, ZF executive vice president states, ‘The S-Cam 4.8 will offer ZF customers the opportunity to further refine systems like automatic emergency braking for pedestrians and cyclists while offering best-in-class lane keeping system performance. It will also offer the prospect of more semi-automated driving convenience functions like Highway Driving and Traffic Jam Assist, and ZF can provide these technologies across the full spectrum of light vehicles.’

ZF’s revolutionary camera and complementary advanced sensors are already being implemented into designs for over a dozen vehicle manufacturers around the world, and look set to further inspire safety technologies in automakers everywhere.

Audi are also utilising smart technology to make the driving experience safer for all involved. LED headlights flood the road with light without dazzling traffic and automatically adjust to dip or increase the beam are joined by predictive pre-sensory accident prevention to enable better control in all weathers.

4. Virtual Reality

As Motorsport becomes increasingly interactive – delighting fans with the ability to boost the power of Formula E drivers and help their favourites to a podium position – Virtual Reality (VR) will continue to follow this trend. Gaming and in particular Esports is hugely popular, with virtual racing enabling anyone in the world, of any age and background, to compete for the chance to become a Formula One champion. And work directly with F1 champion teams.

In addition to improving the fan experience, VR can also revolutionise racing car design, manufacturing and testing, ultimately enhancing speed and performance. The ability of VR to create thousands of potential designs and race scenarios will empower teams to experiment with unlimited new vehicle designs and upgrades in an entirely virtual space. Different car models, weather conditions, tyres and safety challenges could be simulated against hundreds of new designs and extensively stress tested even before making a single prototype. Dramatically reducing design time and resource spend, Virtual Reality in Motorsport would deliver bold design and innovation at every level, changing the racing and viewing experience for good.


5. Reliance on and Opportunities from New Materials

Aluminium has become the fastest-growing material in Auto manufacturing, and thanks to smart cars and electric vehicles is expected to grow a further 12% in the next five years.

Ganesh Panneer, vice president and Automotive general manager at Novelis, reveals, ‘Automotive aluminium market penetration enjoyed year over year growth the past five decades and that expansion is expected to continue as far down the road as can be projected today. As electric vehicles become more widely available, greater aluminium use to extend range and help offset battery weight and cost will ensure consumers will still be able to choose high performing cars and trucks that are safe, fun to drive and better for the protection of the environment.’

Aluminium will enable manufacturers to replace heavier metals and dramatically reduce the weight of each vehicle, resulting in cars that are much more environmentally friendly, pleasing consumers and regulators. The versatile material will also empower rapid advancement in battery, engine and body structural innovation, and improve safety with enhanced crash management system applications. With the growing availability and knowledge of smarter and more flexible materials, manufacturing processes can utilise a wider variety of resources to support smart technology innovation and drive creativity in Auto design.

Continued smart technology development and innovation will help businesses and Motorsport teams connect with drivers and passengers better than ever before.

Is your business reopening following the easing of lockdown restrictions? Find out more about Social Distancing Solutions for Offices and Worksites.

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