The future of cars: Electrification and connectivity top innovation areas

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Electrification and connectivity are the two most important areas of innovation, according to a survey of automotive decision makers. The global survey, commissioned by Molex, focuses on top trends and technologies impacting “ car of the future” strategies and business decisions.

The Molex report, The Future of Automotive survey, conducted by Dimensional Research in November 2020, polled 230 qualified participants in engineering, product, procurement, R&D, supply chain, innovation, or strategy roles at automotive companies with at least 1,000 employees. Respondents were asked questions about what an average new car purchased in 2030 might be like.

Key findings include:

  • 91% of respondents said cars will be either fully electric (64%) or hybrid (27%)
  • 97% expect “range anxiety” to be solved by 2030
  • 94% expect cars to include autonomous driving; only 28% envision fully self-driving cars
  • 56% reported that 2030 cars will be at least 50% more expensive than today’s cars

When asked what would have the most potential to reduce the price of a car in 2030, most said battery cost savings (40%), followed by software integration (34%) and manufacturing processes (32%). Nearly all respondents (96%) agreed the car of the future will require manufacturing factory innovations.

The top five features of ‘the car of 2030,’ reported by respondents, will be high-speed Wi-Fi (26%), wireless charging (25%), car-to-car communication (23%), car-to-mobile-device integration (19%), and built-in home speaker capabilities (18%).

(Image: Molex) Click for larger image.

However, when asked what will most likely be standard by 2030, respondents said, car-to-mobile-device integration (41%), car-to-car communication (40%), high-speed Wi-Fi (39%), zero-theft (38%), and wireless charging (36%).

In terms of innovation, the five most important innovation areas in the next decade are electrification (38%), connectivity (33%), passenger safety (29%), quality and reliability (28%), and software-defined infrastructure (27%). The survey also finds that 60% of respondents believe their company’s approach to developing software-defined vehicles is a top initiative.

So who will be driving these developments? Established automakers are expected to drive development, according to 44% of survey respondents, but 32% cited increasing traction by technology companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft thanks to their expertise in user experience and human machine interfaces. By region, China was selected as the most likely to produce the car of the future first, followed by the U.S., Japan, and Germany.

Respondents expect technology innovations (36%) and customer demand for new features (31%) will have the biggest impact on the average car purchased in 2030. Customers are also asking for green or socially responsible initiatives, including zero-emission cars (66%), zero-accident cars (48%), and zero-waste production (44%).

Still, automakers will face big technology challenges in delivering these innovations: 44% of survey respondents cited insufficient battery life, 36% reported obstacles getting electronics and software to operate in extreme conditions, and 36% noted difficulty finding expertise in electrification, 5G, security, and other needed technologies.

Molex automotive survey technology challenges

(Image: Molex) Click for larger image.

And there are challenges in delivering those innovations, according to respondents. The biggest challenges reported include the cost of new technologies are still too high (57%), needed infrastructure is too slow – charging stations, traffic light sensors, etc. (39%), the supply chain for critical new parts is not reliable or cost effective (36%), and factories need significant changes to produce modern vehicles (36%).

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