The top trends to emerge for automotive and mobility technology from a key conference at the Los Angeles Auto Show


Automobility 2018 produced eight hours of discussion on the future of the car and technology trends. (Automobility LA) 

Styled as a ‘TED talk’-type technology conference, Automobility occurs annually in a massive tent outside the main exhibition halls of the increasingly important LA Autoshow. While the halls are abuzz with frantic last minute preparations for the main event, attendees can get a sense of the latest automotive tech trends and where the discussion will be going in the coming year. 

1: New technologies and startups are challenging the traditional way that OEMs work. The future is a hybrid of OEMs and startups. Working to reconcile incumbents and insurgents is a huge challenge for a new generation of automakers.

2: Traditional automakers are extremely failure-averse, while startups have the ethos of ‘run fast and break things’. There has to be a reconciliation of cultures. OEMs can often smother startups, so they have to be treated with care.

3: However, startups can vastly underestimate the complexities of the process of getting a technology or product integrated into a larger product like a car, or into the broader marketplace.

4: Winning in the new world of automotive manufacturing looks like new vehicles to meet new urban conditions and new emerging lifestyles. It also looks like a good stock price. With no shareholder value, there’s no business. No business, no cars.

5: Electric cars are the assumed future of the automobile. The internal combustion engine was not mentioned once during the entire day. The chassis of an electric car– the ‘sled’ – may soon become a commodity provided to an OEM by Tier 1 suppliers. OEMs and new players may then supply the ‘top hat‘ – the body and interior that places it within its brand and designated market. Shared cars could be completely different to individually-owned ones. Could Uber become an OEM?

6: Currently 80 per cent of charging is done at home, making electric cars a hyper-local mobility solution. Large-scale networks of charging stations are scheduled to come on line in the next few years. And just in time too, as some 250 electric car models are planned for the US market by 2025.

7: Local utility capacity and infrastructure are critical in implementing a new era of mobility, as are utility rates. Can local and regional utilities scale to meet the demand? Local planning and permitting hurdles are large obstacles. Can permitting authorities rise to the challenge of implementing new technologies in the community?

8: The lack of a standard charging port location on electric cars hinders the efficient implementation of charging stations.

9: It may take a village to make the car of the future, but you can’t neglect the village itself. Working with urban planners and local authorities will be critical. Besides the will to implement new mobility solutions, does a city have the right infrastructure, or can it quickly adapt its infrastructure and traffic patterns?

10: Schools of fish are the unlikely inspiration and teacher for engineers studying autonomous car travel. Honda’s Safe Swarm program aims to create a fleet of cars that act like schools of fish or flocks of birds, thanks to advanced sensors and V2V and V2X technologies.

11: Artificial Intelligence can enable the creation of a car that recognises the driver through face recognition, allows for voice and gesture controls, and enables sharing platforms and autonomous driving. Old, analogue notions of a human-driven mechanical device will fade as the new realities of seamless and stress-free mobility, all tied to your own personal digital lifestyle, allow for a new transportation experience in the future.

12: Amazon’s Alexa became an automobile AI technology through the improvised ‘grass roots’ efforts of the machines’ owners. All sorts of ad-hoc Alexa solutions led to more formal third-party devices, then more integrated solutions such as the one in the forthcoming Audi e-tron. A good lesson in technological adoption, even on a technology that people often fear.

This article originally appeared in our sister title Car Design News.