03.What The Future Holds For The Car Industry
The car industry can move at a rapid pace. Car makers are always working on the latest technology to outperform their rivals. What will car ownership look like in a decade and beyond?
We’ve all heard the hype around self-driving cars, but we’ve also seen what happens when the technology goes wrong. Uber has halted its self-driving operations after a fatal crash in Arizona, when the car spotted a pedestrian but chose not to react. The back-up driver was on her phone at the time.
With the promise of huge improvements to the way we travel, efforts to improve and refine the technology used have intensified. For example, in 2018, Uber and Volvo announced $300m plans to develop self-driving cars and cabs. “Uber’s mission – to provide transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone – is not possible without moving into this kind of technology,” Travis Kalanick, the chief executive, told the Financial Times.
In 2017, Volvo launched a self-driving car development program in Sweden, called Drive Me, using Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrids with driver-assistance technology, cameras and sensors. Back in the UK, the GATEway project invited the general public to take part in a driverless pod shuttle service trial around Greenwich. The pods used state-of-art autonomy software, detecting and avoiding obstacles to pick up and drop off passengers around a 3.4km route. You can find similar projects around the UK:
The Autodrive scheme, which took place on roads in Milton Keynes, happened over three years and culminated in autonomous driving reaching top speeds of 25mph and lasting ten minutes. It was impressive because, unlike repetitive grid-like roads in the US, the cars successfully navigated the UK’s arguably messier set up.
Driverless cars, dubbed CargoPods, were used to carry groceries on a 3km route around a modern housing estate next to the River Thames in East London. It completed 100 deliveries during the trial.
The UK wants to be at the forefront of this development, actively encouraging self-driving tests, and the government believes the industry will be worth £28 billion by 2035.
“The automotive sector is on the cusp of a revolution. The development of increasingly connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) brings the potential for truly transformative change in the way people and goods are transported, offering significant improvements in safety, efficiency, mobility, productivity and user experience.”
Source: Market Forecast for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles
How could car ownership change?
You might have noticed a dispute emerging amongst car makers and the tech industry. It’s an interesting one. Will we rely on self-driving cars? Will we even need our own cars, if we can request a ride that will arrive in minutes? Or do we like owning cars?
For some, including chief product officer at Uber, Jeff Holden, car ownership is inefficient. It’s expensive and time-consuming to take care of the maintenance. It would be easier, they suggest, to rely on short-term leases or taxis. Of course, a lot would have to change if things were going to work this way – we’d need much greater access to taxis, for instance.
Others, including Subaru’s American president Tom Doll, believe people would continue to own or lease their vehicle in the way we already do. “For real people, swapping out a car, getting all their stuff out – the pens, papers and dog hair – it’s a pain. Most people still want to have a longer-term relationship with just one or two cars in the driveway. It’s easier and simpler that way,” he said at the Chicago vehicle show.
It’s clear the future will rely heavily on electric and hybrid cars, but how we own them is yet to be seen. For the immediate future, there’s plenty we can do to improve the uptake of low-emission vehicles, including:
Exploring ways to reduce the costs.
Purchase prices continue to be the main obstacle to owning electric or hybrid cars. Whether it’s incentives or a reductions in the costs of raw materials, it’s important savings are advertised to potential. People are becoming increasingly aware of the need to reduce their impact on the environment, but they’ve also got to know about the ways they can achieve this affordably.
Increasing awareness and understanding about alternatively-fuelled cars.
In 2017, the AA found one of the most frequently cited reasons for a decline in new car sales over the last 8 months was ‘mixed messages from the government over what fuel-type to buy’ (13%). This was discussed at LowCVP’s annual conference too, because people know pollution is an issue, but they’re unsure of what to do and it’s delaying car sales.