Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD
The e-vehicle industry is speeding up, and if you have anything to do with cars it’s time to get moving. We are in a very exhilarating time, as electronics and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing almost every aspect of cars and how the public relates to them.
Automotive design has always been at the cusp of many forces, with vectors such as consumer demand, manufacturer need, and regulatory compliance all pushing the design in sometimes-conflicting directions. The injection of electronic systems into cars began at the beginning of the last century, but the recent acceleration of development has lead us to the tipping point where the electronics in a car are almost as valuable as the rest of the car itself.
This revolution in vehicle tech is impacting more than just the car and its subsystems, it is also changing how cars are made, sold, and perceived by society. Automation has been a force in vehicle manufacture since it was first introduced in 9161, over a half a century ago, but again, the acceleration in tech has revolutionized manufacturing almost overnight. Online shopping also changed how we look for cars, and Tesla’s direct-sales model is already frightening traditional dealers.
The real change in all of this is the shift in how we will think of cars in the future. People in their 40’s and 50’s may cringe at the idea of letting their car drive itself, but for the younger generational with their nose in their smartphone it is a different value proposition. Cloud-based vehicle-sharing services are shifting the perception of car as personal expressive element to useful personal service.
This shift in perception will take time as well as further tech development, but will eventually spit society into a greater variety of vehicle-use markets. Like candles and paper, human-driven vehicles could be relegated to niches at the top and bottom of the market, while Cloud-dispatched personal and group-owned self-driving cars and trucks could vie for space on the road with the few passenger-operated cars owned by hobbyists, die-hards, and old people.
Having said that, the fact is that for all the predicted change, the pace of development and the types of products and services that will be successful in that future vehicle marketplace are yet unknown. There are a myriad of new approaches being fielded right now by a variety of manufacturers, from novel intelligent-vehicle subsystems to entirely new car and truck designs.
The best part is that these new opportunities and challenges have given the electronic design community an increased role in the creation of the next generation of transportation. Your ideas will be empowering the next generation of cars, buses, and trucks, and form the core functionalities that determine how that vehicle is used and appreciated by the consumer. How the electronic systems work, how they are operated, how they interface with the cloud and other devices will be features as important as the vehicle’s looks and size.