Automotive manufacturing has advanced in capability and function dramatically in recent years. The way companies build vehicles, from their exterior design to their interior components, has changed in response to technological advancements.
In fact, in the last 100 years, compressed air systems have evolved the development and efficiency of manufacturing at nearly every stage, from assembly to maintenance.
Today, the term “modern vehicle” is about more than gas-powered versus electric-powered vehicles — it’s about what an automotive achieves and offers. Fuel efficiency, operating systems, GPS navigation, entertainment systems and even sensors that measure a vehicle’s performance have all grown.
While it’s easy to look at the automotive industry and attribute its advancements to improved manufacturing techniques, the real motivator is more likely technology. The technologies that power, as well as maintain and exist inside these modern vehicles are more advanced than ever before.
Just consider autonomous or self-driving vehicles, for example, which are expected to be on the road in the millions by the early 2020’s. Technology powers them — technology that is used almost synonymously to design, assemble and operate them.
Today, technology is unequivocally changing the way people interact with and experience modern vehicles. But how is it shifting their manufacturing, design and production?
Autonomous vehicles are in production already, and several manufacturers are working on creating better models of their existing line-up.
But for the most part, the cars on the market today use a form of automation that is meant to assist the driver. They provide more details, direct driving assistance and even take control of the wheel sometimes.
This approach to automation is going to shift over the next few years to something more capable and advanced. The vehicles themselves will soon feature technologies and systems that allow them to be fully autonomous without user control or input necessary.
How is this going to change manufacturing?
Autonomous vehicles will not only need to undergo a complete overhaul in design but also in their operation.
It’ll also become less of a priority to give drivers a comfortable space to drive — but instead to provide them with extra room to lounge while the computer does the work. More entertainment and leisure systems will also be implemented to improve the driving experience.
On the exterior, vehicles will need hardware conducive to automation. Think of a driveshaft or wheel axle that is designed to take precise measurements from a computer, as opposed to a steering-column control system.
Infotainment is a massive component of connectivity in today’s world, thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. But what you may not realize is that there will soon be an operational requirement for connectivity.
Autonomous and driverless vehicles will need to tap into big data platforms to deliver measurements and readings, which are then analyzed and processed in record time and sent back to the automotive in question.
Think of cars, trucks and other vehicles as a satellite communication point for a more substantial AI and operational system.
Cars will soon be connected not just to one another, but networks of data and information which help them react and interact with the world at large.
From a design and manufacturing standpoint, this will require new integral systems that work alongside the old parts and technologies.
As an example, average gas-powered vehicles will be no longer isolated and controlled via human interactions. Instead, a computer tells them what to do, how to react and where to go, and delivers that information to the wheels, engine and various components in new, innovative ways.
Many refer to the ride-sharing economy as a new, yet unreliable consumer trend that may fade over time. In reality, it’s likely to become more advanced and prominent with autonomous vehicles and transportation.
Ride-sharing will change many things in the automotive industry and its operations. Dealerships will begin to see higher lease and rental rates, as opposed to outright ownership.
Larger vehicles will be more popular, as groups of people sync their schedules to share transportation. Even new business models will arise, as cities adopt newer vehicle technologies, such as a wide-scale and autonomous bus system.
This shift to automated ride-sharing will alter automotive manufacturing and design because manufacturers will need to develop safe and smart vehicles for public transportation that consider an array of factors for autonomous city travel.
The Future Is Bright
Even though these new technologies may seem disruptive, the future is bright on both sides of the equation.
Those that work in manufacturing and development will update, revise and or adopt new processes while consumers will adapt to the new vehicle types and technologies.
It’s a future that promises advancements in not only the automotive industry but also manufacturing.
Kayla Matthews is an independent technology writer at Productivity Bytes.