Automotive Industry: The Road Ahead

Date: December 29, 2020

Author: Nihil Saboo

The New Path

The 21st century has brought about changes in every aspect of our lives, some more than the other, same is the case for the Automotive industry. These changes are driven by a lot of factors, most important of which are advancements in technology and change in the perspective of consumers. Earlier days, automobiles were assessed and welcomed by the consumers by power delivery, transmission, suspension, and other mechanical factors. With those factors reaching the pinnacle of advancements, automotive industries have moved to develop hybrid systems that work hand in hand to deliver the best experience for the consumers. On the other side, consumer demand has also changed drastically. With more and more vehicles on the road and death by road accidents reaching new highs every year, people are looking for more safety even if it means sacrificing high power vehicles or spending more money. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that blind-spot warning can reduce crashes by 14 percent and rear-view cameras can reduce crashes by 17 percent [1]. People are also becoming more aware of the environmental factors and are making choices for a better future. To meet these consumer needs automotive companies have made significant changes in their roadmap to give out all the safety features by default rather than an option.

The Elephant in the Room: Electrification of Automobiles

If we take a look at electric cars from a few years ago, people were not enthusiastic about the design and the capability of the vehicle as it could barely hold the load of two people and the top speeds were well below the comfortable mobility standards. With advancements in battery technology and the ability to downsize powerful CPUs to small chipsets, there has been a huge boost in the performance of the electric vehicle (EV) which is comparable to the traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. This has led people to think otherwise and choose an EV rather than the traditional internal combustion engine vehicles especially with the raising concerns with environmental problems. Just like consumers have the option to opt for the diesel, petrol, or other options, there are options for consumers to choose from, depending on their requirements. Currently, there are 3 options: Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) which runs on rechargeable batteries and are full-electric, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) which recharges the rechargeable battery through both regenerative braking and “plugging in” to an external power source, and finally Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) which runs on both gasoline and electricity. Each option has its own perks and disadvantages.

New Safety Standards

Nowadays almost all cars come with an airbag system and ABS for better braking but there could be safety measures that go beyond these systems. We know that “Prevention is better than cure” which leads us to think in a direction where we can prevent an accident from happening by using predictive safety systems. With the need for predictive vehicle technologies, all the automotive companies have resorted to using Artificial Intelligence to solve most of the day-to-day problems that might cause accidents. If we step back a few years, running an AI algorithm in a portable system would have been just a dream, but with recent advancements in silicon chip manufacturing technologies like 7nm and 5nm technologies, that dream has become a reality. This has given rise to making high-performance systems that can fit in the size of our palms. Technology supporting the complexity of the algorithms, helped researchers extend their work in this field. This is very evident from the following statistics of the application area to Intellectual properties published in the past 5 years.[2]

The most common occurrence of an accident happens because of lack of awareness of the surroundings or the state of the driver. This has allowed researchers to come up with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which helps the driver to be alert at all times as well as notify if anything is missed which he/she must be aware of. ADAS is an umbrella term that constitutes multiple individual technologies that are small autonomous systems by themselves. A few among those systems are as follows:

  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC)
  • Glare-free high beam and pixel light
  • Adaptive light control: swivelling curve lights
  • Automatic parking
  • Automotive navigation system with typically GPS and TMC for providing up-to-date traffic information
  • Automotive night vision
  • Blind-spot monitor
  • Collision avoidance system (Precrash system)
  • Crosswind stabilization
  • Cruise control
  • Driver drowsiness detection
  • Diver Monitoring System
  • Electric vehicle warning sounds used in hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles
  • Emergency driver assistant
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Intersection assistant
  • Hill descent control
  • Intelligent speed adaptation or intelligent speed advice (ISA)
  • Lane departure warning system
  • Lane change assistance
  • Night Vision
  • Parking sensor
  • Pedestrian protection system
  • Rain sensor
  • Surround View system
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Turning assistant
  • Vehicular communication system
  • Wrong-way driving warning

Most of these solutions are sensor-oriented and based on the feedback from the sensor the driver is given specific alerts. [3]

Most popular predictive technology solutions that are deployed in ADAS include Driver monitoring system, Vehicle detection, Traffic sign recognition, pedestrian detection, and lane detection. Driver Monitoring System will be able to alert the person if he is distracted or drowsy while driving. Vehicle detection algorithms help the system understand the proximity of nearby vehicles and alert the driver to make decisions accordingly. Traffic sign recognition understands all the traffic signs and set speed limitations and other regulations to align with the traffic standards. Pedestrian detection is used to avoid the collision if a person is suddenly crossing the road. Lane detection is used to set lane departure warnings as well as check for blind-spot alerts to avoid incoming or oncoming traffic collisions. The analytics from all the results from these solutions help the vehicle take action even before the driver is ready to manually control the situation.

Paving the Way to Self-driving Cars

Even though the technology and AI algorithms have increased the confidence of deploying self-driving cars on the road, there are corner cases that the system may not be able to handle which adds a huge risk to the occupants in the vehicle. Because of this scepticism, we are still a few years away from having fully safe self-driving cars on road. This future is set forth by bringing in regulations and advancements in Vehicle-to-Vehicle(V2V) communications. Vehicle-to-vehicle(V2V) communication consists of a wireless network where each vehicle within close proximity communicates with each other by sending messages containing information on what they are doing. This information may include speed, location, direction of travel, braking, and loss of stability. V2V would be a mesh network, meaning every node (car, smart traffic signal, etc.) could send, capture, and retransmit signals. Five to 10 hops on the network would gather traffic conditions a mile ahead. That’s enough time for even the most distracted driver to take his foot off the gas. One of the sub-segment technologies that comes under the V2V umbrella is the V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) communication. For V2I the information is transferred between the vehicle and Traffic signals or other stationary devices. This information may contain data with respect to Traffic signal phase, stop sign, no left turn at the intersection, temperature, Signals from cars ahead, approaching emergency vehicle, etc [4]. Having such an ecosystem allows the vehicles to make a decision depending on the decisions made by the neighbouring vehicles along with the analytics from the ADAS solutions.

Safer Tomorrow

The rate of growth in technology and its alignment towards a safer and environmentally friendly tomorrow makes us believe that the future is for the better. The transition of the traditional market to feature driven market is gradual but clearly evident. As more consumers are aware of the carbon footprint they are leaving behind, they are accepting the steps and precautions that need to be amended, setting an example for the next generation.


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