Few industries are changing as rapidly as the automotive one. Whether it’s a move towards more environmentally friendly electric vehicles or the rapid advance of technology that is making cars, trucks and SUVs more connected and autonomous than ever before, the motor vehicle sector is changing at breakneck speed.
Most industry analysts agree that vehicles as we know them are likely to change drastically in the next decade. Perhaps more than any other decade since the Model T first rolled off an assembly line in Detroit. Here are five significant ways that the cars we drive will be vastly different by 2030.
Ride hailing and car sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have taken a hit lately – both in terms of their reputations and the number of people who use them. However, this setback is likely to be short lived, as people are likely to share vehicles much more in the future. In fact, by 2030, people may use different vehicles for different kinds of trips, according to a report by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
For example, people may rent or share a small electric car for daily commutes to work. Then they might share a large traditional SUV when taking their family away for the weekend. Instead of owning multiple vehicles, consumers are likely to be members of a service that lets them reserve and pay for the vehicles only when they need them. In fact, companies such as ZipCar already offer this service to some degree. McKinsey forecasts that by 2030, one in ten vehicles sold will be used for some form of sharing.
4. Self-driving and/or Hands-free
Polls and studies show that a majority of the public is not yet sold on self-driving cars. Many people are worried about ceding complete control of their vehicle to a computer or robot. Nevertheless, major automotive brands are pushing ahead with self-driving cars. Roughly 15-to-20% of new vehicles sold in 2030 are forecast to be fully autonomous.
Engineers are already introducing a host of hands-free options into cars, such as parking assist and adaptive cruise control. More and more of these autonomous features will be put into vehicles until they are completely self-driving. Humans will gradually come to accept (and appreciate) taking a back seat to a computer operated car.
Of course, many issues still need to be worked out. There needs to be new laws regulating how self-driving cars can be used and who’s liable in the event of an accident. Governments and insurance companies need to grapple with these issues before self-driving cars can truly take hold. However, there can be no denying the direction in which we’re moving with self-driving vehicles.
3. High-tech manufacturing
Given the seismic changes taking place in the automotive industry, it should come as no surprise that the ways in which cars are manufactured will also change over the coming decade. Many automotive factories are set for major overhauls. They won’t look anything like they do today, once the upgrades are complete.
Lightweight composite and 3D printed materials are already being used in automotive assembly. This is certain to increase over the years. Additionally, numerous smart devices will have to be connected and integrated into cars by 2030, including computers, cameras, and infotainment centers. Future manufacturing methods are likely to involve telecom operators and web designers as much as traditional mechanics and engineers. Think of it more like a science lab and less like an industrial assembly plant.
2. Completely Connected
Cars today are already very connected. But apparently we haven’t seen anything yet. In the coming years, vehicles are forecast to be ground zero for the “Internet of Things.” That will become central to how integrated cars move us around and communicate with the outside world.
Sensors installed in vehicles will communicate with high-tech road signs, markings, networks of cameras, and other vehicles. Possibly even the road itself! This will enable cars to synchronize their movements, minimize fuel consumption, and improve traffic flow.
Technology will also warn drivers about impending collisions (and prevent them) and thermal sensors will allow cars to see far beyond the illumination of headlights. Vehicles will eventually be completely connected to the internet and enable their human passengers to work, surf social media, or watch entertainment. Some analysts predict that by 2030, cars will start to resemble traveling offices.
1. Fully Electric
The biggest change expected by 2030 is that most (if not all) cars be fully electric and no longer run on fossil fuels. McKinsey & Co. forecasts that electrified vehicles, including gas-electric hybrids, will reach 50% of new-vehicle sales by 2030. That’s a massive jump up from just 2% today.
This transition is being helped by the fact that governments in many countries have passed legislation requiring that all vehicles sold in their territory be electric by 2030. Additionally, the cost to buy a fully electric vehicle — now about $30,000 on average – is forecast to come down by roughly one-third. More powerful batteries will also extend the range that a car can drive on electric power. Charging stations are becoming more common and faster.
It takes time, but as the tech improves and the cost decreases, fully electric cars will start to appeal to a larger portion of consumers.