Future Vehicles: Tech, Trends, and Next Moves

Article By : Egil Juliussen

Under the new column named Egil's Eye, I will analyze and forecast which, when and how electronic technologies are transforming the automotive industry...

Electronic technologies are transforming the automotive industry. I analyze and forecast which, when and how. I’m Egil Juliussen, and this is the first of my “Egil’s Eye” columns for EE Times.

The “Egil’s Eye” Column

Of course, electronic technologies have already had tremendous impact on the average car for more than 40 years. But much more is on the way and probably for another 40 years. The goal of these articles is to give you perspectives on big picture: how existing and new technologies may change and even revolutionize the auto industry. The focus will be on key technologies and strategic issues, with occasional forecast scenarios.

You may wonder why I am willing to give these types of perspectives, and chose EE Times as the place to share my thoughts. The short answer is that I’ve got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and I’ve been a reader of EE Times since the 1980s.

I’ve accumulated knowledge and experience from multiple industries — 20+ years in the high-tech industry (semiconductor, PC, internet & smartphone) and nearly 20 years in auto electronics. I have been a co-founder of three market research startups that were later acquired by large information service companies.

Most of my projects were focused on assessing new technologies and projecting their market potential and probable impact on different industries. I have lived through and seen the impact of multiple technology discontinuities — microprocessors, PCs, internet and mobile/smartphone. I learned from making many early assessments and forecast scenarios with minimal historical data. The auto industry is currently experiencing multiple technology discontinuities — autonomous vehicles, mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) and battery electric vehicles — to name the most important ones.

I think my experience gives me perspectives for analyzing the technology discontinuities on the way and the normal technology advances that are now ingrained in the auto industry. The next table is a summary of some of the key technologies that are already making headlines with much more to come. I will write future articles on most of these topics and many additional sub-topics and content areas.

Click the table to enlarge. Notes: AV=Autonomous Vehicle; ICEV=Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle; KWh=Kilo-Watt-hour; OTA=Over-The-Air (Source: Egil Juliussen)

It is rare that a new technology has such vast potential for disruption as autonomous vehicles will have over the next decades. Billions of dollars are invested yearly by high-tech companies, startups, auto manufacturers, their supply chains and many other companies. Covid-19 will have a delaying impact, but much more investment is on the way. Market opportunities worth trillions of dollars are projected to emerge across multiple transportation segments — with MaaS as a leading segment. For more information check previous EET articles such as Exploring the 5 W’s of Full AV Stacks and Autonomous Vehicles: Who Needs ’Em?

Battery electric vehicle (BEV) technology has started a steep deployment growth stage that will greatly impact the automotive and transportation industries. It is noticeable that most auto OEMs are favoring continued BEV investments over R&D investments in other technologies.

3D printing has been advancing tremendously lately, mostly under the radar in mainstream publications. However, its flexibility and reach are being demonstrated during the current pandemic. 3D printing is becoming a strategic technology for supply-chain resiliency and local manufacturing. 3D printing will have a growing impact on the auto industry and may become as important as AVs and BEVs in the next decade.

Unfortunately, the auto industry repeated the mistakes of the PC and smartphone industry by not including built-in cybersecurity when telematics/connected cars were deployed. Hence, add-on cybersecurity is now the main option, which is not as good as built-in cybersecurity.

The tremendous growth of computer technology in the form of ECUs (electronic control units) have made the CAN-bus based electronic system architecture obsolete. Fortunately, the auto industry is now focused on Ethernet-based system architecture to support domain ECUs and better cybersecurity OTA software updates.

In summary, technology changes and impact continue to disrupt the auto industry. These trends are giving more influence and opportunities to the high-tech industry. Temporary uncertainties have been introduced by Covid-19 economy and are haunting most automotive companies.

— Egil Juliussen is a consultant on auto tech trends at IHS Markit.

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