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E-MOBILITY A charged future for smart automobiles

Mar 25, 2021

Tanaz Buhariwalla, India Director, IDA Ireland - Electric is the ultimate future of vehicles in India and elsewhere in the world. While the COVID-19 might have been a deterrent for the automotive sector, it has not discouraged the industry from continuing its research and development to ensure brazen, electric, smart automotive vehicle systems for consumers. The article by IDA Ireland - an autonomous statutory agency involved in high value-added activities e.g., advanced manufacturing, ICT, knowledge-based industries and biotechnology – explains the technology & future of smart, electric vehicles, the technologies that will play a key role in making it happen and how countries are working towards enabling the autonomous driving future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the auto sector, leading to a shutdown of auto plants for several months, causing losses of billions of dollars in the first quarter itself. While few industry insiders anticipated that the carmakers would cut back on research development and innovation budgets, interestingly, many companies shifted their focus towards autonomous electric delivery vehicles. Many global auto firms, including a few Indian companies, have deployed autonomous delivery pods in hospitals, warehouses and care-centres as they assist in maintaining hygiene, travel in a limited area and/or on fixed courses, making their development easier. For many, this is a proof-of-concept before they head to complex autonomous passenger vehicles.

The global prediction

The global auto industry is transforming towards being connected, electrified and autonomous, and the future is headed towards safe, non-polluting, efficient, self-driven comfortable vehicles. Several automotive brands completely switched their models from the conventional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to electric drive systems. There are Swedish autonomous electric trucks that reduce CO2 emissions by 90%, lower operating costs by 60% and radically improve road safety. There are plans to launch an EV hatchback that can go 275 miles on a single charge and is controlled by Google’s Android software. Brands, like Mercedes Benz, Enride, Polestar, are setting the new way forward in mobility and changing the very experience of driving.

There are project partnerships to develop autonomous electric vehicles and get self-driving cars, pickups and SUVs to market. These developments are clear indications that we are entering a new phase in the capital-intensive global automotive sector. Therefore, it becomes necessary for global automakers to take a digital leap as the industry transforms to produce connected vehicles with autonomous functionality. Experts predict that the value of the car in future will be looked at from the perspective of the software and other IoT solutions it offers, maximising value from the connected devices. With brand, style and mileage taking a backseat to technology, the mobility revolution will witness traditional global automakers, like Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford Motors, Honda, BMW, etc, partnering with technology companies, like Alphabet, Apple, Aptiv, Aurora, Baidu, Magna and Microsoft, amongst others.

Technology for autonomy

Mobility as a Service (MaaS), autonomous driving systems and IoT-powered connected capabilities will be the future differentiators on which automakers will forge ahead. Deep tech companies, including those building a real-time three dimensional (3D) artificial vision system for an autonomous vehicle based on these emerging technologies will become the new tier 1 supplier for automakers. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) algorithms and blockchain technologies with crypto-protection and immutability features will bring in a double-layered shield against cyberattacks to provide robust security features to software-controlled cars. At present, blockchain technologies are being leveraged in urban transport for ride-sharing applications and traffic decongestion in town planning for secure management besides other such usages.

Novel tech platforms for car infotainment are being built, with mobile technologies including Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and the latest 5G for building interactive solutions. This is helping carmakers to take car entertainment to the next level, building creative tools, like talking cartoons, Virtual Reality experiences (like swimming with whales) to keep the passengers of future autonomous vehicles entertained thus, making the customer experience the bigger differentiator. Automakers have already launched various AI-based systems that include a human-machine interface through speech, gesture recognition or eye-tracking and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) features, including camera-based machine vision systems, radar-based detection units, driver condition evaluation and Engine Control Units (ECUs), etc. These technologies will continue to evolve as the industry marches towards higher levels of autonomy.

Pipelined global developments

Countries in the EU remain not just the first adopters of the future car but also the producers of parts that make the future car. Ireland, amongst these countries, stands out, given the innovative research and products emerging from it. Many international & domestic companies in Ireland have developed proprietary globally scalable products through innovative research around AI/ML, blockchain and IoT. Notable amongst these is work done by some companies, like Valeo around vision system, Taoglas around advanced antennas and Cubic Telecom around next-generation IoT connectivity solutions. With dedicated auto-clusters, test tracks and experienced engineering talent, multiple international automakers and component suppliers are taking advantage of the infrastructure in Ireland to accelerate product development.

Also, the Irish Cabinet has approved legislation to test autonomous vehicles on public roads as the first step to testing self-driving cars. Further, the typical Irish wet weather and terrain provide the perfect ecosystem preferred by the automakers over the years for testing new sensor technology performance in a rough season. With the well-defined guidelines in the new legislation, Ireland joins Germany, the UK, the US & some other EU countries having legislations for helping the auto sector to fast-track development of L4-L5 autonomous vehicles.

Future markets & current regulations

While governments are putting stringent regulations regarding future autonomous electrified vehicles, automakers are focusing on passenger safety features, providing the passengers with an engaging environment, giving them control to interact with the surrounding through integrated infotainment system. Companies are working on next generation sweight carbon fibre, alloys, polymer and surface technologies to deliver ultra-high-strength yet lightweight components. Outside of the traditional automotive manufacturing hubs, like the USA, Japan, Germany, India, South Korea and Spain, Irish companies have developed expertise in designing lightweight critical auto parts for tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers of the global OEMs.

Moreover, recently, under a United Nations regulation, an agreement was adopted by 53 countries that oblige respective national authorities responsible for approving car models, to ensure that vehicles are built with cybersecurity protections before they go on sale. Hence, manufacturers will need to guarantee that their suppliers also implement cybersecurity measures and will be required to have forensic technology in place to analyse attempted cyberattacks. Ireland is ranked alongside cyber strongholds, such as Israel, Canada, Australia and India, and is the sixth-best country in the world for cybersecurity (according to a survey conducted by British firm, Comparitech).

Indian markets & offerings for retainment

Talking about India, which is a cost-sensitive and regulated market along with some other Asian countries, it is not easy to pass increased costs to buyers. So, on one side, while automakers will offer mass standardised connected technology for customer satisfaction and loyalty, they will also have a selective option of premium features on the subscription or pay-per-use model. Indian OEMs and their supply chain partners, who want to move up the value chain by building future products, need to develop cost-effective software solutions and countries, like Ireland, can provide them with the right ecosystem to develop and commercialise connected automotive technologies for the western market. Generally, while the availability of cheap labour and unemployment in the developing world may delay the adoption of fully autonomous cars, India saw a surprisingly high demand for Morris Garages (MG) Motor India’s Hector, touted as India’s first internet car with 50+ connected features. Also, many OEMs in India have started offering features, such as 5G internet connectivity on its cars and over-the-air software updates to attract and retain customers.

Image Gallery

  • Novel tech platforms for car infotainment are being built, with mobile technologies including Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and the latest 5G for building interactive solutions

  • It becomes necessary for global automakers to take a digital leap as the industry transforms to produce connected vehicles with autonomous functionality

  • Tanaz Buhariwalla

    India Director

    IDA Ireland

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