3 Innovations Shaping the Auto Industry of Tomorrow

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Technology is pumping into the auto industry like never before. Case in point: Self-driving cars are expected to see their heyday within the next 10-20 years, and mobility-as-a-service will be the next phenomenon to shake up the industry, much like the popular ride-sharing services before it.

In fact, up to 15 percent of new vehicles sold in 2030 are expected to be autonomous, according to research by McKinsey and Co. Still, other tech innovations are changing the landscapes of manufacturing and distribution in a much quicker fashion — and without the regulatory issues facing self-driving cars.

Here are three ways in which the auto industry of tomorrow will be disrupted for the better.

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1. Supply Chain and Fraud Prevention: Blockchain

Blockchain technology is poised to impact multiple industries, including the finance and healthcare sectors. But what exactly is this technology? Think of blockchain as a spreadsheet that facilitates processes and transactions in a way never seen before. Blockchain databases are shared publicly and are decentralized, meaning central authority can be removed.

Furthermore, updates can be approved by all stakeholders and are immune from tampering. These systems also allow for automation, and accuracy has brought about obvious benefits for any supply chain process. Blockchain experts have detailed different ways for how the automotive industry could benefit from blockchain systems, which include:

  • Tracking and verifying automotive parts: Supply chain fraud and theft is more widespread than people realize. While this activity is difficult to quantify, one poll found that 42 percent of companies worldwide had suffered from at least one incident of supply chain fraud or theft. For example, despite a number of fraud prevention measures in place, volatile and faulty parts are able to occasionally gain access to supply chains. Conversely, blockchains would create a unique ID for every part created and seamlessly record timestamps from the moment of creation to delivery.
  • Tracking and verify vehicle origin: Apply that same concept to vehicles as they leave the lot and you have revolutionary sales fraud prevention. For example, unscrupulous car dealers will sometimes sell vehicles without reporting the sale to financial or government institutions. Mechanics can also perform repairs on vehicles without proper documentation. This is where our current system of VIN numbers and CarFax reports fails, as it requires a certain level of self-reporting. However, a blockchain system would be more automated, and sales or mechanic fixes could require updating a file protected by encryption or tokenization.

2. Manufacturing: 3D Printing

The rise of 3D printing hasn’t yet made big waves in the automotive industry, primarily because it lacks one key and crucial element: speed. However, the industry isn’t incapable of change; hence the rise of robots in manufacturing facilities. Of course, auto manufacturing has evolved over the years, as it has become easier for companies to ship and receive supplies from around the globe. In fact, the CEO of NanoSteel said about half of the steel in today’s cars didn’t exist 15 to 20 years ago.

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Still, 3D printing has already made a significant impact on the auto industry. The first 3D-printed car was created in 2014 by Local Motors — and the other big brands are taking notice, too. Honda entered the 3D printing market in 2016 with the release of the Micro Commuter. The single-seater vehicle offers 50 miles of range and operates through a majority of 3D-printed parts. Additionally, 3D-printing can improve the prototyping process; in fact, Ford has been using 3D-printed prototypes for 20 years.

3. Safety: Augmented Reality

Video games aren’t the only thing to be revolutionized by augmented reality. In fact, the realistic dramatizations created by this technology can be applied to driver education and training. While driver simulations are already used in drivers ed programs, AR systems will dramatically increase realism and training potential by introducing an environment that looks identical to the real world. For instance, a simulation could replicate the feel of a steering wheel and how the car reacts when driving through different types of terrain.

BMW already began working with AR in 2016 during its vehicle development process — and teams of developers, designers, and prospective consumers can now review renderings through AR headsets. Ultimately, this level of technology speeds up the feedback loop and increases flexibility.

AR also allows for immersive test driving that sales professionals can use, for example, to get a prospective car buyer interested in purchasing their next vehicle. For instance, a dealership could have customers virtually test-drive a vehicle with high-end, off-road tires, then have another simulation with standard tires. Other applications include road rage therapy and the ability to be a DIY mechanic with AR-guided walk-throughs.

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