If there is any indication of where the future of automotive technology is headed, the vehicle showcase at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show shows us that cars and transportation technology is about to make a big leap forward. The long-established internal combustion technologies that made the horse-and-buggy antiquated are now themselves falling by the wayside, as the next generation of propulsion, in the form of efficient and torquey electric motors (and more importantly the batteries that power them), begin to prove themselves.
Automakers have made no secret of the fact that they are slowly moving away from traditional gasoline and diesel burning cars. A combination of energy efficiency, government-regulated emission standards, and changing consumer tastes have ramped up the development of electric cars. Nearly all major automakers have committed billions of dollars to electric vehicle development, and by the middle of the next decade, most new cars released for sale will either be fully electric, or an advanced hybrid system that relies mostly on the electric motor.
Electric motors and electric vehicles are not new; the technology has existed for well over a century, so why you may ask, are electric vehicles suddenly becoming so popular? The answer is battery technology. Recent advances in battery technology have led to batteries that have higher charge density, as well as faster discharge rates, meaning you don't have to plug your car in every 20 miles, or be permanently stuck in the slow lane because your car doesn't go faster than 40 miles per hour. You can chalk up the explanation to this: people will not compromise their gasoline cars for something that's slower and travels fewer miles. The electric car not only has to be as good as a gasoline car, it has to be better than a gasoline car, in order to convince people to switch, and we are finally beginning to reach that tipping point, hence the proliferation of electric vehicles that we're beginning to see.
In addition to what drives the car, this year's Geneva showed us what are known as ADAS, or Advanced Driver Assist Systems. ADAS exists in some forms on vehicles currently on the road: lane departure warning, automatic braking, blind spot monitors, Tesla's "AutoPilot", and other similar systems, today found mostly as optional or luxury extras, will soon become standard on all new vehicles. The pinnacle of ADAS will be full automation, where the car will drive itself. We are only a few years away from that being a reality, and there will soon be a day when driving your own vehicle will be a rarity.
One thing not lacking this year at Geneva: beautiful cars. Automakers can't seem to produce enough downright stunning vehicles. We suppose that given the extreme competitiveness of the automobile market, companies just cannot get away with making ugly cars anymore, so although we may one day lose the visceral appeal of a roaring combustion engine, we seem to be regaining the visual artistry that once dominated automotive design.
Until next time....