Change is coming to the automotive industry via U.S. government entities that suddenly have the cash, the power and the public mandate to significantly influence the direction of vehicle design and surface transportation. With multi-billion dollar investments in two of the one-time Big Three automakers, the Federal government suddenly has unprecedented leverage over the industry along with a clearly defined agenda for enhancing safety and reducing vehicle emissions.
Just a few years ago industry participants were inclined to eye roll and shake their heads at the plans of connected vehicle (VII, V2X) and HEV/EV advocates, preferring to stick with the prevailing traditional disconnected ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle mentality. In the words of an old American advertising slogan: When something works you stick with it.
What a difference a few years, an economic downturn and a massive embarrassing recall can make! Consumers are shifting to 4- and 6- cylinder vehicles. And even without incentives, consumers are turning to HEVs most notably Toyota’s Prius.
What were once seen as pie in the sky visions of connected electric vehicles have rapidly become remarkably realistic opportunities – even if substantial EV sales volumes are still somewhat out on the horizon (SA EV/HEV forecast - http://bit.ly/9s3lid). Hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested by federal and local governments – as well as overseas governments – to incent EV development and sales. (Strategy Analytics has a spreadsheet of more than 300 EV/HEV legislative initiatives worldwide - http://bit.ly/aRdhK8
At the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stirred to life stimulated by both a distracted driving crisis (from growing fatalities due to talking and texting drivers) and the Toyota unintended acceleration debacle. NHTSA, which was quite recently focused on fusion safety system technology in cars – making use of multiple sensor inputs to assist drivers in maintaining lanes, monitoring blind spots and avoiding crashes – has firmly shifted to an emphasis primarily on avoiding and surviving crashes. The agency is also seeking data recorder mandates among other initiatives.
The crash avoidance portion of NHTSA’s campaign has V2X written all over it. While monitoring blind spots and maintaining a lane are important vehicle applications, true crash avoidance technology can only be achieved with vehicle connectivity to other vehicles nearby and not so nearby as well as to infrastructure using DSRC technology. In fact, at the latest ITS meeting the organization made clear that it is compiling a database of 5.9MHz DSRC providers who will be able to meet the antipated demand for line fit and aftermarket modules.
DSRC was heavily touted and endorsed at the latest ITS meeting in Houston. The ITS is on the verge of releasing its roadmaps for V2X implementation. It is worth noting that the organization is expending significant energy on providing for the use of mobile devices and aftermarket boxes to enable connectivity. (Coincidentally, the European Union has announced its endorsement of similar connected vehicle objectives and implementation plans – http://bit.ly/bFaIUm
The time lines may still be conservative and technical issues remain (see ITS conference concluding presentation http://bit.ly/bYio4k
), but the mandate and the mission is increasingly clear on both the emissions reduction and the safety fronts: In the future, connectivity will be king.
Still, despite the increased interest in safety among legislators, consumers and the Federal government, safety remains a tough sell with consumers. (SA – Consumers Interested in Safety, but not at Current Prices - http://bit.ly/a56WTM
) This is why the increased influence of the government is so important. It will require government mandates to change vehicle designs and force consumer acceptance. Now, more than ever, the Feds have the influence and industry participation they require to bring significant change to pass.
This type of mandate applies to EVs as well. The U.S. is unique in the world in its governmental inability to force through the kind of fuel taxes that could change behavior. Lacking this lever, Federal and local governments have turned to incentives to encourage consumers – and car makers – to bring electric vehicles to market. (This and the CAFÉ standards regime - http://bit.ly/cBwp2r
- U.S. #CAFE
Standards Give Impetus to Wide Range of #Green
Here, again, the influence of the government along with growing consumer interest in both HEVs and EVs are approaching a transformative critical mass. Industry observers have questioned the wisdom of fostering EV technology when the current state of technology is as limited as it is. But it is only with this kind of government support that the obstacles of charging infrastructure, battery capacity and price can be overcome.
Ray Lood, the director of NHTSA, removed any doubt about the government’s passion for change in the automotive industry when he described his own anti-distracted driving efforts at the recent ITS event in Houston as “a rampage” (http://tinyurl.com/24vzrka).
A rampage indeed! Change is coming, probably faster than previously conceived possible. It is coming with government impetus and supervision and it is coming whether the industry likes it or not.
http://bit.ly/bbhqGj - Voice HMI: Connected Car Opportunities and UX Best Practices - Chris Schreiner
- Future Promise of V2X Wireless Comms – Chris Webber
- EV/HEV Technologies Supply and Fitment Database – Kevin Mak
- Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Supply and Fitment Database – Kevin Mak