In the ever changing and evolving automotive industry, it is constant innovation and design that pushes engineers and designers to take vehicles to the next level and outdo the competition.
Vehicles have undergone a tremendous amount of design change over the the past decade. In the last few years there has been an effort to increase the amount of technology available to drivers.
With SUVs now dominating the market designers have shifted, in large part, from the boxy style large body to smaller, more streamlined models and crossovers.
Like it or not, many of us are now driving station wagons – they’re just referred to by a different name.
The Studebaker Wagonaire and the Ford Ranch Wagon are long gone, but they’re still here in spirit. They just have a new name and are about half the size.
The amount of technology being built into new models is outstanding. From collision avoidance and lane keeping assist to 360 birds eye camera views, there is a lot of brand new technology on the road.
Moving into the new year, the automotive world is again striving for advances in performance and design.
Taking a look ahead there are several trends that are emerging and will have an impact on the industry in 2020 and beyond.
Carbon Fiber construction.
With most of the industry trying to create lighter weight vehicles much of the focus has been on using aluminum for body construction.
However, carbon fiber material for exterior components is gaining popularity. Carbon fiber hoods and liftgates, truck beds and molding, are becoming popular and with good reason.
Carbon fiber is light, durable, strong, and it resists corrosion.
Industry analysts predict an increase in the use of carbon fiber over the next several years.
More Level 3 Automation
Level 3 automation is referred to as conditional automation. The vehicle monitors the environment and will manage many safety functions but will still require a driver to take control of the vehicle at all times.
This level of automation allows the vehicle to start, slow, and stop in such circumstances as heavy bumper to bumper traffic with very little driver effort.
However, it is not fail safe and still requires the full attention of driver on the road.
This technology is of course part of the quest toward some day having autonomous vehicles.
Improved digital platforms
With all this new driver assist technology, you have to have the ‘brains’ to make it all work properly.
This requires significant upgrades to the software that keeps it all running smoothly.
Automotive companies will have to make investments in upgrading the digital platforms.
This will include allowing for software upgrades to your vehicle after purchase.
If you’re going to be driving a vehicle that makes steering and braking adjustments or determines how far the car ahead is while using auto cruise control, these systems have to be reliable and safe.
The most obvious shift in the future is toward electric vehicles.
There is constant work being done to improve vehicle range and shorten battery charging times.
Currently the biggest drawback to all electric cars is the inability to travel long distances. Range anxiety is keeping a lot of people from making the switch to EVs.
However, the technology is getting better all the time.
There will also be a huge push to create the infrastructure needed so people can charge their vehicles while on the road.
While some companies are producing hybrid models, others have plans to skip the hybrid stage and go directly to fully electric version of their vehicles.
New Start Ups
The growth of the electric vehicle market has started a season of new company startups hoping to get a foothold in the industry.
There seems to be a lot of interest from investors who believe putting their money into a company with well designed electric vehicles will produce a big payoff.
The Rivian company, a start up with plans to produce an all electric SUV and an all electric pick-up, secured $700 million in funding from Amazon. With that kind of money involved, you can be sure they expect good things to happen.
Rivian plans to have to have their first models on the road by the end of 2020.
As the industry moves into the next year of production, there will be a push to take everything to the next level and see who can get the edge over the competition.
This competition produces the best results for consumers as automakers strive to reach the top of the market.
Written by Brian Lockhart