Andrew is a technology buff and automotive junkie from Redwood City. He thinks he looks cool in his '79 Camaro despite what his wife says!
If you've ever attended CES or the Detroit Auto Show, you know that there are some impressive technology concepts showcased at these events. While many of the things that you see or read about are conceptual at best, some are either just around the corner or already in your nearest showroom.
The rate that technology changes personal transportation is accelerating every year. Some of the ideas that sounded like science fiction five years ago are a reality today. Here are just ten new automotive technologies that you should watch for in 2017.
1. Vehicles That Share Information
2. Affordable Electric Cars
New vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology allows enabled vehicles to "speak" to each other while on the road. What's the benefit? Your vehicle can send or receive information on traffic and weather conditions, making the road and the driving experience safer and more efficient. This year, the 2017 Cadillac CTS will offer this system.
So far, electric cars have been out of financial reach for many consumers. That ended last year with the release of the popular Chevrolet Bolt, which was named the 2016 Motor Trend Car of the Year. The Bolt can get you as far as 238 miles on a single charge. The good news for 2017 is that this electric car is now more affordable than ever. If you apply all available tax incentives, you can pick up one of these zero-emission vehicles for under $30,000, which is the best deal on the market.
3. 3D Printing Technology
3D printing technology is now being used in architecture, aeronautics, and even the medical field. It should come as no surprise that this versatile application has been adopted by the automotive industry. 3D printing is being used for prototyping, development, and the manufacture of customized parts. In fact, SmarTech predicts that 3D printing for the automotive industry will be a $1.1 billion industry by 2019.
Take what Hack Rod is doing in California as just one example. This innovative partnership between Felix Holst and Mouse McCoy, a stunt driver and a filmmaker, is working towards creating the world's first generatively-designed 3D-printed car. The central idea of the project is to allow for mass customization of future automobiles.
4. Predictive Analytics
Who wouldn't like a heads-up that their vehicle is close to breaking down or that car insurance rates have dropped with a major carrier? Some predictive analytics tools might be able to give you just this sort of useful and cost-saving data in the near future. This could be an app that is connected to your vehicle's systems, or that saves your buying and driving preferences.
5. 48-Volt Electrical Systems
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Our automobiles today run on a standard 12-volt electrical system. This is becoming increasingly impractical considering how electronics-heavy today's new vehicle is even at the base model. A 48-volt electrical system is not only more powerful, but it can also improve fuel economy, deliver more features, and do all of these things with little additional cost. By the end of 2017, we could see these boosted systems in the Honda Civic 1.6-liter diesel, and it is already being used in the Bentley Bentayga SUV.
6. Electric Axles
It might seem contradictory to demand an SUV and a fuel-efficient vehicle at the same time. With the new hybrid SUV's, this now achievable. There is a new technology called an electrically-powered axel that automakers have already added to some of these hybrid SUVs. This e-axel is an electrically-powered rear axel that both improves performance and boosts fuel economy. You can find this today in current models of the hybrid Volvo XC90, Toyota RAV4, and BMW i8.
7. The Return of Diesel
While diesel sounds so 1970's, the technology has remained popular with a certain segment of the population for several reasons. Diesel engines offer more torque, therefore more power, than their counterparts. A diesel automobile holds its value better than both a gasoline and a hybrid car. Even though diesel fuel is more expensive, a diesel engine is more fuel-efficient than a gasoline engine. Finally, diesel engines don't produce pollution and black smoke like the cars of times past.
Even though Volkswagen deceived the world with its emissions-cheating scandal, consumers still want diesel autos. That is why both Mazda and Chevrolet are bringing diesel cars and SUVs to market in 2017. Starting this year, you can buy a diesel version of the Chevrolet Cruze sedan and the Mazda CX-5 crossover SUV.
8. Self-Driving Cars
By now you've probably heard of Google's self-driving car project. Now called Waymo, the company has logged more than 2 million self-driven miles on the road and has the goal of developing safe, fully-autonomous vehicles.
In 2017, the company is expanding its project by adding 100 vehicles to its existing fleet. Fiat Chrysler in Canada is going to produce a special version of the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan that is autonomous. The van was chosen for several reasons. The first is because it is a family vehicle and Waymo wants to test its technology for its ultimate use - keeping families safe. The second is because the high-profile of the van makes it easy to install multiple sensors. You might see one of these self-driving wonders in your community in the next year.
9. Gesture Control
Many vehicles today are outfitted so that we can yell "Go Home" or "Call Work, " and the fancy infotainment system will respond with the appropriate GPS directions or phone call. Now, you can simply wave your hand and have your vehicle respond with some simple tasks. For example, the BMW 7 Series allows you to "train" the gesture control system to wave your hand to activate the windshield wipers. While this probably isn't worth any extra cost, it's an interesting feature that you could see expanded in the next several years.
10. Ownership Models for Car-Sharing Business
Uber changed the way we view paid transportation, and several other disrupters have floated ideas to bring new vehicle ownership options to market. One example is a new ownership model for the car-sharing business. Tthe original equipment manufacturer (OEM) owns the car, while the consumer pays for its use by the minute, the mile, or some combination of the two.
© 2017 Andrew Armstrong