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Global Transition Towards Electric Vehicles Poses Major Challenges.

Global Transition Towards Electric Vehicles Poses Major Challenges.

It seems that not much has changed from the age of petrol-fueled vehicles to our current era of electric vehicles(EVs). Scientists are still grappling worldwide over the depleting availability of resources and the effective usage of those resources to meet the rising demand in the automotive industry.

By Ashwini Balan, Eastern Trade Media


General Motors earlier this year announced their commitment towards being carbon neutral, and added that by 2035, all their vehicles will consist of zero tailpipe emissions. Audi, another leading multinational automotive manufacturer, pledges to end the production of combustion-engine by 2033.

With these two market leaders taking the leap forward to an all-electric future, many multinational companies are overwhelmed with the pressure to quickly transition to EVs to maintain their competitive edge but more importantly, meet the rising consumer demand. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) analysis forecasts that by 2026, more than half of new passenger vehicles sold worldwide will be electric.

With the shift from fuel-intensive to material-intensive energy sources, there are two main concerns that scientists are struggling to resolve. Firstly, to reduce the usage of metal in batteries as it is scarce, expensive, environmentally toxic and working conditions hazardous to miners. Secondly, would be to create a recyclable battery system to maximise the utility of the valuable metals available.

Lithium-ion batteries are highly used in EVs due to their low cost which is 30 times cheaper than when they first entered the market in the early 1990s[1]. In addition, BNEF estimated that the current reserves of lithium— 21 million tonnes, according to the US Geological Survey — are enough to carry the conversion to EVs through to the mid-century.[2]  Hence, what concerns researches in EV batteries is Cobalt and Nickel.

In an attempt to address this issue, researches have been experimenting in removing both cobalt and nickel from the composition of EV batteries. However, to successfully remove them would radically transform the cathode materials. In recent years, Ceder’s team and other groups have displayed that certain lithium-rich rock salts were able to perform without the use of cobalt or nickel and yet remain stable in the process. In particular, they can be made with manganese, which is cheap and plentiful, Ceder says.[3]

To create a battery recycling system, another hurdle to overcome is the cost of recycling lithium. A potential solution would be through government support, which is seen in China where financial and regulatory incentives for battery companies are given to source materials from recycling firms instead of importing freshly mined ones, says Hans Eric Melin, managing director of Circular Energy Storage, a consulting company in London.

It is also problematic for manufacturers in their recycling efforts, when the chemistry of cathodes become obsolete at the end of the cars’ life cycle. In response to that, material scientist Andrew Abbott at the University of Leicester, UK developed a technique for separating out cathode materials using ultrasound. He adds that this method works effectively in battery cells that are packed flat rather than rolled up and can make recycled materials much cheaper than virgin mined metals.[4]

Scaling up the volume of lithium also aids in reducing the cost of recycling and this would make it economically viable for businesses to adopt it says Melin. The example of lead-acid batteries — the ones that start petrol-powered cars — gives reason for optimism.  “The value of a lead-acid battery is even lower than a lithium-ion battery. But because of volume, it makes sense to recycle anyway,” Melin says.[5]

With the collaborative effort among policymakers, researchers and manufacturers an all-electric future is an attainable reality.

References of Content:
Original Article Source: Davide Castelvecchi, 2021( https://t.co/amlXvXWs6E?amp=1 )

[1]  M. S. Ziegler & J. E. Trancik Energy Environ. Sci.2021

[2]  BloombergNEF. Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021 (BNEF, 2021)

[3]  Yang, J. H., Kim, H. & Ceder, G. Molecules 26, 3173 (2021)

[4] Lei, C. et al. Green Chem. 23, 4710–4715 (2021)

[5] Melin, H. E. et al. Science 373, 384–387 (2021).

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Machine Vision: MVTec Presents Novel Portfolio At Vision China Shanghai

Machine vision: MVTec Presents Novel Portfolio At Vision China Shanghai

MVTec Software GmbH will be presenting its product portfolio at Vision China Shanghai 2021 from March 17 to 19, 2021. Visitors to its booth will be able to take a first-hand look at the features of the latest releases of MVTec HALCON and MERLIC. In addition, interested parties can learn more about the MVTec Deep Learning Tool, current trends, and technologies in machine vision.

Live demonstrations illustrate practical scenarios

In a live demo, the concept feature “Anomaly Detection” in MVTec MERLIC will be shown. Using the example of an inspection of printed circuit boards it is demonstrated how the all-in-one software can drastically simplify the use of complex deep learning algorithms. Here, a camera from MVTec’s Chinese distribution partner DAHENG IMAGING will be used.

The Embedded Vision Starterkit, a joint demo with Allied Vision Technologies GmbH, will demonstrate how to get started quickly with the development of embedded vision applications.

The latest technologies of MVTec HALCON will also be presented and explained with the help of standard examples on a touch screen demo.

With its Chinese office in Kunshan (near Shanghai) and together with its long-time distribution partner DAHENG IMAGING, MVTec aims to provide customers in China with the best level of support and the greatest possible added value. During Vision China Shanghai, one of the most important international trade fairs for machine vision, visitors will have the opportunity to exchange ideas directly with MVTec experts.

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Schuler Installs Forging Lines For Chinese Customer Despite Pandemic

Schuler Installs Forging Lines For Chinese Customer Despite Pandemic

In the middle of the Corona pandemic, Schuler has installed two forging lines in China, one of which has already been handed over and the other is about to be. This was made possible not least by remote maintenance and virtual commissioning, which allowed all functions to be simulated in advance on the computer and adapted to the customer’s needs. The screw press and the crank press forge aluminum chassis parts fully automatically. Schuler supplied the lines including the dies and furnaces.forging line

The production data of both lines can optionally be accessed via the “mySchuler” portal from anywhere and at any time. The “Production Monitor” displays the operating status and the current stroke rate. The “Press Force Monitor” provides information about the load on the machine and die, “Drive Analytics” enables operators to monitor the main drives and “Cooling Analytics” allows them to monitor the cooling circuits. “Lubrication Analytics” makes it possible to control the lubrication circuit including lubrication cycles, system pressure or oil temperature depending on the stroke rate. In this way, possible deviations can be detected at an early stage and quickly remedied.

Screw presses from Schuler feature a press force of between 250 and 28,000 tons. The water-cooled servo direct drive transmits the torque of the motor without losses and offers a high level of robustness, precision, operational reliability, and economy. The 750 to 16,000 ton crank presses are particularly suitable for mass production. Depending on the specific requirements, the press frame as well as the drive system is designed for high manufacturing precision and high production rates.

 

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ABB To Supply Complete Electrical And Automation System For China’s Northern Copper Industry

ABB To Supply Complete Electrical And Automation System For China’s Northern Copper Industry

Northern Copper Industry Co., Ltd (NCI) – part of the largest producer of raw material copper stock in North China – has selected ABB to supply and install a complete electrical and automation system for its new cold rolling mill, which is scheduled for start-up in 2021.

Based on ABB Ability System 800xA distributed control system (DCS) with high-performance AC 800PEC master controller, the package integrates ABB Metals [email protected] Optimize cold rolling control solution and ABB’s Collaborative Production Management for Metals (CPM4Metals) system for the copper production process.

On completion, the mill will become a first-class high-performance rolled copper strip and foil production line with an annual output of 50,000 tons. As new-type material produced with state-of-the-art technology the products will be widely used in aerospace, 5G communications, new energy industries, smart manufacturing and other high-tech application fields.

ABB’s [email protected] Optimize solution incorporates alloy measurement and advanced thickness control functions, ensuring rolled products, including a hard alloy-bronze that contains tin elements, fulfill stringent requirements. It also ensures strict synchronisation between the roller surface and the copper strip foil to eliminate surface scratches caused by non-synchronised rotating of deflection rollers, and enables the customer to meet specific surface quality requirements. This is achieved through a range of proprietary drive control functions including static friction compensation, online controller parameter adaptation, dynamic compensation for acceleration and deceleration for deflection rollers.

“The 20-high finishing mill project is part of an important strategic vision of Northern Copper Industry to build a century-long copper enterprise,” said Zhenhua Zhang, ABB Metals Lead, North Asia and China.  “We will provide ABB Metals well-proven expertise to ensure the new mill meets expectations for producing high-precision and high-quality copper strip and foil.”

“We have built strong bonds with our NCI counterparts, demonstrating technical competence and stable product quality. This electrical and automation system will provide a foundation for growth and development in several high-tech material application fields.”

ABB’s latest drive system model ACS880, AXR engineering high-pressure cast-iron motor, AMI high voltage modular motor, ABB’s dedicated instrumentation Millmate Tensiometer System, and measuring instrumentation and sensors will also be installed.

The quality of cold rolled flat products is a decisive factor for the metals industry. The ABB process and power system, designed for cold rolling mills, offers advanced solutions for quality supervision and analysis to meet the needs of cold rolling steel in terms of thickness tolerances, flatness and surface characteristics.

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Emerson’s Shanghai Research And Development Center Recognised For Innovation In Welding And Precision Cleaning

Emerson’s Shanghai Research And Development Center Recognised For Innovation In Welding And Precision Cleaning

Branson R&D Center receives designation for exceptional work delivering high-performance plastic and metal assembly technology to China and the world.

The Shanghai municipal government recognised Emerson’s Branson Research and Development Center for its contributions to technical innovation in ultrasonic, laser, vibration, infrared and thermal plastic welding, as well as ultrasonic metal welding and precision cleaning.

In a Nov. 19 ceremony, Gong Zheng, mayor of Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, presented the designation “Shanghai Multinational Company R&D Center” to Emerson’s David Shen, general manager for Emerson’s Branson welding and assembly products. The Center, which employs a staff of more than 30 R&D personnel, was one of nine organisations recognised that day for meeting specific investment, employment, facility, and technology transfer and adoption benchmarks set by the government.

“China’s industrial supply chain is undergoing a rapid economic recovery, a factor that has injected confidence into the global fight against COVID-19,” said Shen. “We will continue to adhere to the localised development strategy of ‘in China, for China,’ using innovative technologies and industry expertise, proactively focusing on new product development, and contributing to the transformation and upgrading of industry.”

As a large-scale, comprehensive ultrasonic equipment production and technology development enterprise, Emerson is committed to technological innovation in the fields of plastic welding, ultrasonic metal welding and precision cleaning.

Shen added that as a trusted welding expert for leading companies in various industries in China, Emerson will continue to advance welding technology, provide customers with professional and reliable customised welding application solutions, and help customers to succeed in light of new market trends. “The strength of our research and development expertise contributes to this effort,” he noted.

The plastic and metal welding experts at the multinational center in Shanghai have played a primary role in developing and introducing key Emerson technologies to China and to the world. These include the Branson GLX-Micro ultrasonic plastic welder, the Branson GL-300 laser welder, the Branson GMX-20 ultrasonic metal spot welding platform, and the Branson GCX ultrasonic generator for precision ultrasonic cleaning systems.

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Wire & Tube China 2020 To Steer Global Economy Recovery As Scheduled In September

wire & Tube China 2020 To Steer Global Economy Recovery As Scheduled In September

At present, the COVID-19 epidemic has been effectively controlled in China, and some overseas countries have managed to stabilise the epidemic situation after several months of travel restrictions. Considering the exhibition industry is important to promote cross-regional economic and trade cooperations, a guideline on the prevention and control of COVID-19 issued by the State Council of China in May declared that all kinds of necessary conferences and exhibitions can be held with a high standard onsite hygiene measures and proper personnel management.

During the pandemic, the organisers of wire & Tube China, Messe Dusseldorf (Shanghai) Co Ltd, Shanghai Electric Cable Research Institute Co Ltd and Metallurgical Council of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (MC-CCPIT) pay close attention to the changes in the domestic and international situation. In addition to the establishment of a joint emergency team, the organisers have actively created a new model of an “offline + online” combined exhibitionwhich can not only warm up the exhibition, but also break the boundaries of time and space to network exhibitors with buyers.

On the other hand, many exhibitors still show their trust in wire & Tube China. So far, over 600 companies have confirmed their participation in wire China, and nearly 340 companies have submitted booking applications for Tube China. Country and region pavilions from Germany, France, Japan, and China Taiwan are expected to join the exhibition at the same time.

Ensuring the health and safety of every participant is always the top priority. The organisers will strictly follow the COVID-19 protection guidelines and provide all participants with a safe communication platform. In response to the prevention and control measures on COVID-19 in Shanghai, all participants need to do online real-name registration before the show, then present health code and take temperature onsite.

Visit http://www.tubechina.net/links?id=95 to register and get passes.

 

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The China Exodus: Survey Shows Sourcing, Manufacturing Moving Out

The China Exodus: Survey Shows Sourcing, Manufacturing Moving Out

A Gartner Inc. survey of 260 global supply chain leaders in February and March 2020 found that 33 percent had moved sourcing and manufacturing activities out of China or plan to do so in the next two to three years. Survey results show that the COVID-19 pandemic is only one of several disruptions that have put global supply chains under pressure.

“Global supply chains were being disrupted long before COVID-19 emerged,” said Kamala Raman, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “Already in 2018 and 2019, the U.S.-China trade war made supply chain leaders aware of the weaknesses of their globalized supply chains and question the logic of heavily outsourced, concentrated and interdependent networks. As a result, a new focus on network resilience and the idea of more regional manufacturing emerged. But this kind of change comes with a price tag.”

READ: Impact of COVID-19 On The Automotive Manufacturing Supply Chain

READ: Coronavirus Outbreak Reveals the Weakest Links In The Supply Chain

Tariff Costs are the Primary Reason to Move Supply Chains

For decades, China has been the go-to destination for high-quality, low-cost manufacturing, and it has established itself as a key source of supply for almost all major industries including retail and pharmaceutical. However, Gartner research showed that the margin between those companies planning to add jobs in China versus taking them away narrowed sharply in 2019. The primary reason is the increase in tariff costs.

“We have found that tariffs imposed by the U.S. and Chinese governments during the past years have increased supply chain costs by up to 10 percent for more than 40 percent of organizations. For just over one-quarter of respondents, the impact has been even higher,” Raman said. “Popular alternative locations are Vietnam, India, and Mexico.

The second main reason for moving sourcing and manufacturing out of China is that supply chain leaders want to make their networks more resilient.”

READ: Trade War Pushes Apple’s Manufacturing From China To Vietnam

READ: Taiwanese Companies Shift Production To Taoyuan As Trade War Heats Up

Balancing Efficiency and Resilience

Only 21 percent of survey respondents believe that they have a highly resilient network today—meaning that they have good visibility and the agility to shift sourcing, manufacturing and distribution activities around quickly. However, 55 percent expect to have a highly resilient network in the next two to three years—a reaction to disruptions such as Brexit, the trade war and COVID-19.

However, resilience has a price. Fifty-eight percent of respondents agree that more resilience also results in additional structural costs to the network.

“We are at a crossroads in the evaluation of global supply chains that pits just-in-time systems designed to improve operational efficiency against just-in-case plans that emphasize planning and preparing for a range of plausible scenarios,” Raman added. “To find balance, supply chain leaders must engage in risk management to assess their organization’s willingness to take risk onboard and decide how to quantify that risk against other network objectives such as cost effectiveness.”

Moving Closer to the Customer

One-quarter of survey respondents stated that they have already regionalised or localised manufacturing to be closer to demand. Despite the cost of adding more players to the ecosystem and increasing the overall network complexity, regional supply chains can ease delays and shortages in times of disruption—if the model is economically viable.

“Many Western organizations will have to explore new forms of automation on the factory floor to decrease the costs of near- or onshore production. Some also favour a partial option, such as manufacturing in Asia and moving only the final assembly closer to the customer,” Raman concluded.

 

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COVID-19 Impact On Global Machine Tool Market

COVID-19 Impact On Global Machine Tool Market

According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the COVID-19 impact on global machine tool market size is projected to reach USD 68.9 billion by 2021 from an estimated USD 65.6 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of five percent.

The projections were based on the ongoing automotive industry production drop, which is the biggest consumer of machine tools and, additionally, the supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the manufacturing industry. Economies rely on machinery for production, and machine tools form the crux of it.

Companies are expected to recover from the recession slowly by taking preventive measures to meet production needs. Chinese firms have also become creative and resourceful to recruit the workforce. Some firms negotiated with local governments for permission to send in charted buses and even airplanes to bring back the workforce from remote regions. Others have started to adopt automation to make up for labour shortages. Some are also applying technologies to do crash training for newly recruited manual labour workforce.

Asia Pacific is expected to recover at a faster growth than compared with other regions post COVID crisis during the forecast period

Even with COVID-19 originating from China, the country has been successfully implementing strategies to control the spread, where it has been successful when compared to Europe and North America. Recently, China has slowly started its production activities with the minimum workforce.

With Asia being the largest automotive producer, the Machine Tool Market is expected to rebound faster with investments in new technologies like Chipmaking equipment, which is expected to propel growth. The field likely will see an increase in demand amid advancement in technologies for 5G communication and artificial intelligence.

Supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 have made machine tool manufacturers, and other end-use industries realise the over-reliance on China could be destructive.

Problems in the supply of materials have affected machine tool manufacturers due to supply shortages from China, has most of the materials were imported from China and due to the lockdown or limited production, other countries were looked upon for the supply of material. Due to the demand, large suppliers of components that dominate the Machine Tool Market prioritised big companies to SMEs at the time of recovery.

Also, the recent disruptions in the supply chain have revealed that machine tool manufacturers over-rely on suppliers of key components and their weak negotiation power vis-à-vis suppliers of CNC, electronic components, casting, high precision components, and others.

 

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Coronavirus Hits Automotive And Aerospace Supply Chains

Coronavirus Hits Automotive And Aerospace Supply Chains

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, its impact can also be felt by automotive and aerospace manufacturers. Auto parts manufacturers across China such as Nissan, Honda Motor and PSA Peugeot Citroen, have suspended operations to keep their workers at home in order to minimise spread of the virus.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and the epicentre of the disease is one of the major auto-industry hubs in China—home to seven major domestic and foreign auto manufacturers, as well as hundreds of auto parts suppliers. According to China Passenger Car Association, the province produced 2.2 million auto units in 2019 which accounted to nine percent of the country’s total production.

“Carmakers will face severe parts-supply issues, something companies didn’t encounter during the SARS period,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary general of China’s Passenger Car Association. “Wuhan is the most cost competitive among China’s car-industry hubs, therefore many parts makers produce components there and supply their clients around the world.”

Automakers are expected to lose 350,000 units or about seven percent in the first quarter of the year if plants in 11 provinces responsible for two-thirds of China’s vehicle production are down until February 10, according to automotive research firm IHS Markit.

Most recently, Hyundai has halted one of its assembly lines in its South Korea factory due to the lack of auto parts from China as a result of the outbreak. The company also plans to gradually suspend production in its factories due to the supply chain disruptions—the first global automaker to do so outside of China.

Similarly, aerospace manufacturers are also affected by this crisis. Airbus has shut down an assembly line in China which is responsible for 10 percent of production for its most popular jet. The company said that domestic and international travel restrictions were posing logistical challenges for operations of its factory.

In a statement, Airbus said that they are “constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.”

With major supply chain disruptions in the manufacturing sectors caused by the outbreak, IHS forecasts a loss of more than 1.7 million units for the first quarter if automotive plants remain closed until mid-March. Given the unpredictable nature of the virus, manufacturers will have to remain vigilant and monitor the global situation closely.

 

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The Auto Industry: Roadmap To The Future

The Auto Industry: Roadmap To The Future

As the sector transforms itself, will the auto industry keep its soul? Article by Paul Gao, Russell Hensley, and Andreas Zielke, McKinsey & Company.

Over the past 50 years, automobiles have continued to be our “freedom machines”, a means of both transportation and personal expression. Even so, as the industry recognised, the automobile is but one element of a mobility system – an element governed by extensive regulations, constrained by a need for fuel, and dependent on a network of roadways and parking spaces. Automobiles are also a force for change. Over the past half century, their very success has generated pollution and congestion while straining the supply of global resources. The rapid surge of emerging markets has heightened these dynamics.

Even more transformative change is on the way. Global competitive intensity will rise as Chinese players expand from their vast domestic market. Governments are examining the entire automotive value chain and beyond with an eye toward addressing externalities. Technological advances – including interactive safety systems, vehicle connectivity, and, ultimately, self-driving cars – will change the game. The automobile, mechanical to its soul, will need to compete in a digital world, and that will demand new expertise and attract new competitors from outside the industry. As value chains shift and data eclipses horsepower, the industry’s basic business model could be transformed. Indeed, the very concept of cars as autonomous freedom machines may shift markedly over the next 50 years. As mobility systems gain prominence, and vehicles are programmed to drive themselves, can the soul of the car endure? This is just one of the difficult questions that confront the automotive industry as a result of the forces described in this article.

The China Factor

Fifty years of innovations in horsepower, safety, and rider amenities have helped automobile sales grow by an average annual rate of three percent since 1964. This is roughly double the rate of global population growth over the same period and makes for a planet with over one billion vehicles on its roads. For the past 20 years, though, sales in North America, Europe, and Japan have been relatively flat. Growth has come from emerging markets – much of it in China, which over the past decade has seen auto sales almost triple, from slightly less than 8.5 million cars and trucks sold in 2004 to, estimates suggest, about 25 million in 2014. IHS Automotive predicts that more than 30 million vehicles a year will be sold in China by 2020, up from nearly 22 million in 2013.

For decades, Japanese, North American, and European OEMs formed a triad that, at its height, produced an overwhelming majority of the world’s automobiles. The growth of Chinese players is changing the equation – and things are moving fast. Ten years ago, only one Chinese OEM, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, made the Fortune Global 500. The 2014 list has six Chinese automakers. Given surging local demand, the Chinese may just be getting started.

Regulating From ‘Well To Wheels’

Governments have been driving automotive development for decades. Initially, they focused on safety, particularly passive safety. The process started with seat belts and padded dashboards and moved on to airbags, automotive “black boxes,” and rigorous structural standards for crash-worthiness, as well as requirements for emissions and fuel economy.

More recently, the automobile’s success has strained infrastructure and the environment, especially as urbanisation has accelerated. Brown haze, gridlock, and a shortage of parking now affect many urban areas in China, as they do in other cities around the world. Municipalities have begun to push back: Mexico City’s Hoy No Circula (“no-drive days”) programme uses the license-plate numbers of vehicles to ration the number of days when they may be used, and dozens of cities across Europe have already established low-emission zones to restrict vehicles with internal-combustion engines.

China too is acting. Influenced by its dependence on foreign oil and by urban-pollution concerns, the government has indicated that it favours electric vehicles, even though burning domestic coal to power them can leave a larger carbon footprint. In Beijing, a driver wishing to purchase a vehicle with an internal-combustion engine must first enter a lottery and can wait two years before receiving a license plate. Licenses are much easier to get for people who buy state-approved electric vehicles.

Regulation would also create new opportunities beyond traditional industry competencies. For example, some automakers are investigating potential plays across the value chain – such as developing alternative fuels or investing in wind farms to generate power for electric vehicles – to offset the emissions created by the vehicles they sell.

In any event, the automotive industry should expect to remain under regulatory scrutiny, and future emissions standards will probably require OEMs to adopt some form of electrified vehicle. Indeed, we believe that regulatory pressures, technology advances, and the preferences of many consumers make the end of the internal-combustion engine’s dominance more a matter of “when” than of “if”. The interplay of those forces will ultimately determine whether range-extended electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, or fuel-cell electric vehicles prevail.

Digital Disruption

The car of the future will be connected – able not only to monitor, in real time, its own working parts and the safety of conditions around it but also to communicate with other vehicles and with an increasingly intelligent roadway infrastructure. These features will be must-haves for all cars, which will become less like metal boxes and more like integrators of multiple technologies, productive data centres – and, ultimately, components of a larger mobility network. As every vehicle becomes a source for receiving and transmitting bits of information over millions of iterations, safety and efficiency should improve and automakers should be in a position to capture valuable data. Electronic innovations have accounted for the overwhelming majority of advances in modern vehicles. Today’s average high-end car has roughly seven times more code than a Boeing 787.

Digital technology augurs change for the industry’s economic model. Over the past decades, automakers have poured their cost savings into mechanical, performance-oriented features, such as horsepower and gadgetry, that allow for higher returns. While it’s unlikely that regulatory and competitive pressures will abate, the shift from mechanical to solid-state systems will create new opportunities to improve the automakers’ economics. The ability to analyse real-time road data should improve the efficacy of sales and marketing. Digital design and manufacturing can raise productivity in a dramatic way: big data simulations and virtual modelling can lower development costs and speed up time to market. That should resonate with customers conditioned to the innovation clock speed of consumer electronics, such as smartphones.

Common online platforms can connect supply and demand globally to increase the efficiency of players across the supply chain. Embedded data sensors should enable more precise monitoring of the performance of vehicles and components, suggesting new opportunities for lean-manufacturing techniques to eliminate anything customers don’t value and dovetailing with the digitisation of operations to boost productivity, including the productivity of suppliers, in unexpected ways. As automobiles become more digitally enabled, expect connected services to flourish. When the demands of driving are lifted, even the interiors of vehicles may give automakers opportunities to generate revenue from the occupants’ connectivity and car time.

Autonomous Vehicles And The Soul Of The Car

Currently, human error contributes to about 90 percent of all accidents, but autonomous vehicles programmed not to crash are on the horizon. To be sure, some technological issues remain, emissions issues will linger, and regulators are sure to have a say. Furthermore, combining autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles in a single traffic mix will be a significant challenge. The most difficult time is likely to be the transition period, while both kinds of cars learn to share the road before self-driving ones predominate. The technology, though, is no longer science fiction.

The possible benefits, by contrast, read like fantasy. If we imagine cars programmed to avoid a crash – indeed, programmed never to crash – we envision radical change. Passengers, responsible only for choosing the destination, would have the freedom to do what they please in a vehicle. Disabled, elderly, and visually impaired people would enjoy much greater mobility. Throughput on roads and highways would be continually optimised, easing congestion and shortening commuting times.

Freed from safety considerations such as crumple zones, bumpers, and air bags, OEMs could significantly simplify the production of cars, which would become considerably lighter and therefore less expensive to buy and run. Automobiles could also last longer as collisions stop happening and built-in sensors facilitate the creation of parts on demand.

But what about the soul of the car: its ability to provide autonomy and a sense of self-directed freedom? Google’s prototype autonomous vehicle has no steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator. The vision of a connected car, in fact, challenges even the most essential concepts of personal car ownership and control. When a rider need only speak a destination, what becomes of the driving experience—indeed, why even purchase a car at all? Manufacturers may continue to refine the feel of the ride and to enhance cabin infotainment. Still, there’s probably a limit to how “special” a cabin can be or even to how special consumers would want it to be.

 

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