CRA Innovation & Technology – Global
Automakers are beginning to embrace innovation as new technologies and manufacturing techniques continue to drive and disrupt the industry.
Improvements in manufacturing and mobile technologies are helping to disrupt the evolving automotive industry.
Improvements in vehicle technology have driven the automobile forward since the first days of the Model T. As the emergence of the electric vehicle continues to drive innovation in the automotive industry, major motor vehicle manufacturers are increasingly looking towards smart technologies to improve their vehicles through the use of modern materials for improved heads up displays (HUDs), 5G antennas and internet-of-things (IoT)-based applications. Due to these improvements, the automobile of the future is evolving to become something much different than the traditional internal combustion engine vehicle most commonly seen on roads today.
Advancements in technology are transforming all aspects of the modern vehicle. As innovative automotive manufacturers like Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) have shown, there is significant potential for growth when technology is fully applied to a legacy industry. The electric vehicle startup, which has grown to become a US$155-billion leader in the automotive industry, has even inspired a wave of next-generation companies challenging automotive norms. While outsiders like Dyson have struggled in their attempts to challenge the industry, new auto startups including Canoo, Lucid and Rivian are working to disrupt the status quo in the auto industry.
As technological breakthroughs continue to enable paradigm shifts in transportation technology, analysts from McKinsey have projected incumbent automotive companies to evolve and adapt on several fronts. “Mobility providers (Uber, for example), tech giants (such as Apple, Google), and specialty OEMs (Tesla, for instance) increase the complexity of the competitive landscape. Traditional automotive players that are under continuous pressure to reduce costs, improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and become more capital-efficient will feel the squeeze, likely leading to shifting market positions in the evolving automotive and mobility industries.”
Niche automotive industry supplier Gentex (NASDAQ:GNTX) is one of the many innovative technology companies working to develop improved components for the automotive industry, including rearview mirrors with integrated tint capabilities and other hardware components.
Connectivity driving automotive industry innovation
According to Business Insider, the number of connected vehicle shipments is expected to rise from 33 million in 2017 to over 77 million by 2025. This increase in mobile connectivity has the potential to enhance automotive capabilities from navigation to mobile communication. As exemplified by the emergence of ride-sharing services around the world, improvements in mobile communication technology have the potential to create new business opportunities that would not otherwise be possible without reliable instant communication technology. For example, Tesla plans to launch an autonomous ride-sharing service, called the Tesla Network, according to Business Insider Intelligence. Established automotive manufactures have also begun to embrace connected vehicle innovations, including Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Waymo and General Motors’ (NYSE:GM) Cruise, an all-electric, self-driven vehicle. Mobile technology company Aptiv (NYSE:APTV) is similarly working to improve the vehicle of the future through the development of sensors and software designed to support assisted-driving systems.
Improvements in the technology used to manufacture vehicle components are also helping to equip the modern vehicle with advancements in safety technology, including heads up displays (HUDs) and new navigation technology that has the potential to improve automobile safety standards. Major automotive companies like Honda have incorporated HUD technology in their vehicles for years. For example, the active HUD offered in the company’s popular Accord model provides drivers with direction, speed and other pieces of critical information without requiring the driver to take their eyes off the road. Honda’s HUD interface also offers options such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, a tachometer and turn-by-turn navigation assistance.
Technologies challenging the automotive industry
In order to work with automobile manufacturers to develop materials specifically for the automotive industry, technology company Metamaterial Inc. (CSE:MMAT) has signed a strategic partnership with Crossover Solutions, a technical consulting company with experience in the automotive supply chain. The company believes its partnership with Metamaterial Inc. has the potential to enhance the automotive industry’s current offerings.
“META’s platform technology offers numerous product applications that we believe can add incredible value to this industry”, said Paul LaCroix, CEO and Founder at Crossover Solutions. “These new applications are just starting to enter the market and we are excited for the opportunity to support META with our global electronic manufacturing operations, our technical sales and program management teams. We are very confident with the process of launching new technologies and we believe we are an outstanding match for the META group.”
Metamaterial Inc.’s innovative NanoWeb® technology has the potential to revolutionize the automotive industry by creating improved safety systems and technologies through the manipulation of conventional metals and materials. Advanced materials like the NanoWeb® metal mesh, which is invisible to the human eye at 500 nm wire widths. (A human hair is 80,000 nm in diameter) behave differently due to their size. The nanometre scale is approximately one billionth of a meter. At this size, many materials begin to behave differently than particles of normal sizes. These unusual physical and chemical characteristics are due to an increase in surface area compared to volume as the particles get smaller. These particles can be subject to quantum effects, causing them to behave in ways that do not follow the laws of physics that larger objects do.
“Metamaterials carry significant disruptive opportunity in automotive and sensing applications, particularly for multi-functional materials for heads-up displays, light guiding, radio wave, microwave, and millimeter-wave frequencies by combining smaller size, lower power, higher sustainability, higher directionality and control, and comparable cost. Once metamaterial options reach the market, conventional offerings in these areas are likely to become obsolete,” said Palikaras.
Technologies previously used in the military and aerospace industries are offering new potential in the automotive industry. By partnering with the next wave of innovators, major auto manufacturers have an opportunity to leverage the technologies of the future to improve the performance and safety of their vehicles while remaining ahead of the competition.
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