Few can deny that today’s consumers receive more bang for their buck when it comes to new auto purchases. Just 20 years ago, even a standard GPS system was an expensive add-on or aftermarket purchase. Modern vehicles offer so much more, with many features fueled by mass-market demands for standard options that incorporate the latest technological advances in auto innovation.
Government regulations in many jurisdictions require auto manufacturers to offer vehicles with high mileage per gallon rather than gas guzzlers and muscle cars. In addition, they must offer hybrid or electric vehicles (EVs) as part of their product portfolio. Some jurisdictions enforced a rear backup camera to reduce preventable accidents.
Additional features increased manufacturer costs, some of which was passed to the consumer. This does not a happy customer make and steps were taken to make autos more affordable to the masses rather than limit features to the high-end luxury market. In an effort to reduce costs and acquire skills that reflected new tech innovations, outsourcing is basically the norm in volume manufacturing and not just in the auto industry. Whether it is component parts, engineering, design or IT, outsourcing for the supply chain and for externally contracted professionals is common practice.
Innovative Models for the Masses
Models such as the 2016 Toyota Prius and the pending Tesla Model 3 clearly demonstrate that it is possible to provide attractive battery-powered or hybrid vehicles that utilize electrical energy with the latest auto innovation.
The Tesla Model 3 retails at $35,000 (less the federal subsidy of $7,500 for the first 200,000 sold) and the company has already received more than 230,000 pre-orders in a single day. With a 215 miles range per charge, zero to 60mph in less than six seconds, autopilot hardware and a five-star safety rating in an attractive sedan that seats five adults, consumers are sure to enjoy their driving experience.
The 2016 Prius is another welcome addition, especially for those that prefer to have gasoline as an emergency backup between charges. Pricing starts at $32,100 (again, less the federal subsidy) and exact features depend on the model selected. On the Prius Two (1.8L 4-Cyl. Model), standard features include LED daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors with a folding feature, five spoke 15-inch alloys, climate control system, backup camera, Entune multimedia bundle, Star Safety System, airbags and much more.
Sensors Make Auto Innovation Possible
Modern autos contain thousands of sensors (the Tesla Model 3 has more than 60,000) that are later used to implement new innovations, whether infotainment, assisted parking or other advances common to connected cars. In fact, the modern auto is often compared with a standard computer network or Wi-Fi hotspot, with a modular approach to electrical system design that allows diagnostics of any available part or feature. Like any other part of a computer network, it requires an operating system or platform that is secured against hackers.
QNX Systems, a subsidiary of Blackberry and yet another example of auto manufacturer outsourcing, are experts in infotainment systems and their products are factory-installed in many auto manufacturers’ vehicles to take full advantage of available sensors. This is perhaps the primary reason that factory-installed systems are better than their aftermarket counterparts that will not have access to all the car’s sensors. They will make your vehicle “smart” but not as smart as those with systems installed on the production line.
The rise in connected cars has made diagnostics and repair a challenge for those without technical experience. Even fuel consumption is controlled electronically in modern cars, making the automotive industry one that provides a world of opportunities, not only in the diagnostics and after-market industries but also in design, engineering, IT and software development.
Professionals with experience in IoT connected devices, sensor applications and designs, machine learning will be welcome in the auto industry given that advanced navigation systems and remote control are just two of the areas identified as future trends for autos. Neither of these areas specifically require intimate knowledge of a vehicle’s mechanical or material specs.
With legal and insurance requirements currently preventing widespread adoption of ‘driverless’ cars, it is only a matter of time before testing results in new legislation.
It sure sounds like a good time to put your technical and IT skills to good use.