Alternative drivetrains deliver advanced technology and eco-friendly options

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How car makers are racing to introduce semi-autonomous and autonomous driving features.

The automotive industry is transforming to meet the needs of next-generation drivetrains. Traditional gas- and diesel-powered engines are now competing with electric and even hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (such as the Toyota Mirai) for market share. These and other drivetrain changes will revolutionize how cars are powered and reduce vehicle emissions.

Let’s start with the growing popularity of electric cars. A December 2018 report from international market research firm Navigant reported that four million plug-in electric vehicles have been sold worldwide since 2011 (as of June 2018) and that sales in the US alone were on track to exceed 300,000 in 2018.

Meanwhile, car makers are heavily stepping up their electric vehicle plans. Ford, for example, announced in January 2019 that all its vehicles would be available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or all-electric options. Other manufacturers, including Volvo, Jaguar, and INFINITI, have made similar moves.

As these changes are underway, all major car makers are racing to introduce semi-autonomous and autonomous driving features, including Tesla’s AutoPilot and Cadillac’s SuperCruise. These innovations will not only have a huge impact on the way people buy and use cars, but also on the partnerships needed to bring them to market.

The range of partnerships required to make semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles a reality is extensive, including a broad range of technology companies. One prime example is specialist chip maker NVIDIA, which works with more than 370 automakers, suppliers, developers, and researchers, including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

NVIDIA produces what it calls a “self-driving car platform” that includes the computing power to provide deep learning, tight integration of sensor data, and extensive use of on-board cameras to offer comprehensive data about what a vehicle is doing at any given time and what is happening around it, including the actions of other cars.

One of the key challenges with these changes will be building the required on-board technology and innovation into something consumers can afford to buy. One issue is battery life and driving range. There is already a race among manufacturers to provide longer-lasting batteries and make them less expensive to produce. These factors will drive a lot of battery innovation. The world will also need far more charging stations, and these changes will completely transform the service-station model.

That innovation will also need to take place quickly, more along the lines of smartphone cycle times than the traditional pace of change in automotive development.

And not all battery work is about the batteries themselves. Battery management is handled by on-board software that optimizes their use, and improvements to that software can be delivered continuously to connected cars without the need to make any physical changes to the cars or batteries.

New drivetrains and the technology that supports them provide significant opportunities for automakers, with the biggest gains going to those who can achieve maximum efficiency with the best cost reductions and the least environmental impact.

To learn more about Capgemini’s automotive practice, contact Mike Hessler, North America Automotive and Industrial Equipment Lead, at michael.hessler@capgemini.com.

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