July 5, 2018

The Automotive Analyst, Summer 2018

On connectivity What if we’re going about things all wrong? There are all sorts of opinions about how many millions or billions of miles autonomous vehicles need to drive before they’re ready for prime time, but we should never lose sight of the fact that mankind has an uncanny knack for devising new ways to gum up the works. What if it doesn’t matter how many test miles are driven? We may never get to a point where everybody agrees that it’s time to release the AVs into the wild, so maybe programming an AV to be able to handle every scenario under the sun is the wrong goal. Maybe a better way is to focus on building out the Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) infrastructure so that the first vehicle in the line to encounter the thing that’s never been encountered before can tell all of the vehicles behind it to STOP NOW. Could the ability to communicate, whether it’s Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Network (V2N), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) or Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P), be the most important advancement in the path to autonomy? Horns, the original V2V communicator Do you remember your driving test administrator asking you to demonstrate that you know how to operate the […]
February 9, 2018

The Automotive Analyst, February 2018

Peering into the Autonomous Future Hopefully you’ve gotten used to writing “2018” by now, or typing it at least. We thought it might be fun to take a moment and reflect on some automotive topics, trends and technologies we think will be important this year but that we may or may not quite understand and try to make sense of them. No headline-grabbing here, just some clear, honest straight talk, in no particular order. Autonomous cars will be here any day now! Or sooner, or possibly later…but wait, they’re already here! Does anybody pay attention to predictions anymore? There are some great roundups here, here and here. The variance of the predictors raises more than a few questions, including, but not limited to: should there be a penalty for overestimating? Who’s being sincere and who’s head faking? And what exactly are they predicting? Ahh, what does “autonomous” mean? There’s a cornucopia of “autonomous” features available today, including automatic braking, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, and auto-parking to name a few that automate certain tasks but you can’t check out and take a nap yet. For that you need a “self-driving” vehicle, which is what it sounds like: a vehicle that drives […]
August 28, 2017

The Aftermarket Analyst, August 2017

To Level 3 or not to Level 3 Audi’s recent announcement that its 2019 A8 sedan would have a Level 3 automated driving system gave new legs to the debate over whether Level 3 vehicles are safer than Level 1 or 2 vehicles. Some say we skip Level 3 altogether and move straight to Level 4 and 5 while others say it’s the logical next step. Just like many topics we encounter on the road to autonomy, the answer isn’t clear cut. SAE J3016 Back in January 2014, SAE International, the organization of aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industry engineers, issued a set of definitions classifying six stages of autonomy (see their chart below). The U.S. Department of Transportation defined autonomy in five stages for a while but thankfully scrapped it in October 2016 and adopted the SAE standards. Think F40, a “bugeye” Sprite or even most lower-end cars today and you have Level 0. In the Levels 1 and 2, the driver remains in control of the vehicle, but the vehicle can assist or perform some tasks like warn you when you change lanes without signaling or maintain a safe cruising distance. In Levels 4 and 5, the vehicle can […]
March 31, 2017

The Aftermarket Analyst, April 2017

The Future of the Automobile It’s the topic at the forefront of everybody’s thinking. There’s nothing worse for the bottom line than getting stuck at the back of the pack, or to have not even gotten started in the first place. But when everybody has an opinion, and everybody has an angle with regards to automobiles and autonomy, how do you decide to whom you should listen? Are you persuaded by the futurists who promise a mobility utopia? Or are you persuaded by the less enthusiastic because we’ve been promised things before that haven’t panned out and you don’t want to get your hopes up? Can seemingly opposing viewpoints both be correct? In a word: yes. In two words: why not? It all comes down to what it is you’re talking about when you talk about autonomy. Some people envision relaxed drives up and down the interstate not having to pay attention between on and off ramps, maybe reading a book, watching a movie, or getting some sleep. Some people envision reinventing urban areas and returning concrete jungles back into something more natural. Some people envision an electric revolution where the internal combustion engine is banished to the ash heap […]