After two days at this year’s Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars (e.g. CAR MBS), it is clear that this annual gathering continues to be one of automotive’s top leadership events!  Centering around the four themes of connected, automated, shared, and electrified vehicles, participants in the sessions I attended found themselves immersed in strategies, technologies, challenges, forecasts, and tips for creating a financially viable ecosystem, from some of the top automotive leaders, investors, and legal staff in the business.

Here are some of the highlights that particularly resonated with me:

Regarding the four focus areas above,

  • Connected vehicle capabilities are now having an impact on sales and customer satisfaction; this near-term benefit is important as an introduction to the automated capabilities that will be rolled out in the future.
  • Currently, automated vehicle capabilities mostly fall under the ADAS umbrella; these capabilities greatly assist SAE L2 and L3 capabilities. As automation evolves into autonomic (structured L4 capabilities transitioning to unstructured L5 capabilities), a much longer term for return on invested capital emerges as a challenge.  Another co-existing challenge will be customer acceptance of vehicles’ autonomic capabilities.
  • Shared vehicles is presented as the most disruptive of the business models along with the dramatic changes to vehicles that will be required to accommodate a ride sharing, service-based option to customers.
  • Although occurring in the nearer term, vehicle electrification is another highly disruptive technology that is being rolled out now. Electrified vehicles come in many packages from mild through full hybrid as well as Battery and Fuel Cell electric packages.  One major Tier One has identified that they are pursuing 50 different variant packages for this class of vehicles. (In order to maintain the integrity of the product packaging through the remainder of the product lifecycle, a product management platform will be of key importance to manage multiple option packages with the resulting variants.)
  • During one of the introductory sessions, the role of vehicle design was highlighted as a key component for future vehicle development. This presentation by IDEO was the best I have personally seen on identifying and addressing the nuances of the connected, automated, shared, and electrified capabilities necessary for future vehicles to resonate with their customers.  Vehicles were presented as “moving sculptures” with strong emphasis upon new entry/exit methods, seat designs to accommodate shared ridership, and interiors that supported fully immersive connectivity.  Future vehicles for shared riders will be much different from today’s vehicles!
  • During the Connected and Automated session, a chilling story about the Chinese company, Keen, was presented to emphasize the role of cybersecurity in automotive design, development, and operations. This is a “must-have” capability to ensure that future vehicles are safe for customers. The key takeaway from this story is that automotive cybersecurity must be the top priority for automated vehicles to ensure vehicle and passenger safety.  Another key capability, vehicle communications in all their formats (V2V, V2P, V2I, etc.) focused upon the 5G wireless.  More work needs to be done on the standards definitions, development, and, in particular, the rollout of this capability.  This particular communications capability is not ready for connected vehicle prime time as of now.  Danny Shapiro of NVidia presented an in-vehicle platform with strong emphasis upon learning, AI thread execution, and impressive visual capabilities to connected and automated driving.  He also presented NVidia’s capabilities around simulation to improve/validate the functional validation and safety features for these new emerging vehicles.
  • John Waraniak, VP, Vehicle Technology for SEMA, discussed how the automotive aftermarket tier is embracing the key technologies around connected, automated and electrification. His discussions about Roborace and Thunder Hill raceway in northern CA highlights how far these technologies have progressed in the area of performance, detection, and maneuverability controls – true autonomous racing vehicles running on the same tracks as  the FIA Formula E championship uses.
  • The electrification track was particularly interesting to a gearhead such as myself. The complexity of the new vehicle propulsion systems is staggering, especially in all of the hybrid environments.  Electrification extends greatly beyond the powertrain; it embodies chassis components like axles, water pumps, steering assemblies, etc.  It was dazzling watching one Tier One supplier walk through all the various combinations of options that are available for OEMs and Tier One’s who do create complete vehicle packages.  Reducing complexity in this area is going to be essential for future vehicle platforms.
  • Finally, legal/regulatory structures and rules lag behind the technology capabilities related to connected, automated, and electrified vehicles. Two states, Michigan and Nevada, lead the USA in the rules and policies related to the full deployment of these vehicles.  Several other states are right behind; however, many states have not initiated the steps to support these vehicles with testing and deployment.

This year’s conference featured more than incredible sessions and technical discussions; there was also the strong social fabric that is key to the success of this event.  From the opening introductory forum on Sunday evening, to the constant media attention given to  the conference’s main themes, the hallway banter, or the evening tent activities, there were many ways to interact with other participants.

In addition, this year we gathered on Monday evening to attend a product introduction from Toyota.  Positioned on the edge of the golf course was a huge tractor-trailer combination with a red tractor that was powered by Toyota’s fuel cell technology.  Although no commitment was made regarding availability or product release timing of this commercial vehicle, it was a work of art, focused on integrating a hydrogen fuel cell system with an electric propulsion system.  This platform scales the processes and technologies from Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai fuel cell program to this new commercial class vehicle.  The presenters and engineers were proud of this new product as they should be.  Congratulations!

Finally, the leadership of Carla Bailo was very evident during this event.  Whether it’s getting the Wi-Fi fixed, holding discussions with the media, mobilizing her small army of workers, or communicating to all of the participants, she’s doing an outstanding job of building the brand of this conference.  Congratulations to Carla and her team for an outstanding event!

Aras continues to work with OEM s and Tier One suppliers to provide solutions to handle the increased complexity of connected and automated vehicles.  Our product innovation platform reduces overall complexity by providing an integrated platform that links processes, assemblies, and other product data into a secure product management platform. Watch this short video to see what makes our architecture unique. Connect with me on LinkedIn to discuss the challenges you are seeing in the industry, or in your business. I would be happy to meet with you!