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What will cars be like in the future?

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Do you remember the film Total Recall, when Arnie jumps into a taxi driven by a robot called Johnny? Or how about the flying-through-time DeLorean from the Back to the Future movies?

Science fiction, right?

Well, although time travel isn’t (yet?) one of Innovate UK’s priority areas of focus, we’re working hard to ensure the UK stays ahead of the curve in the automotive and mobility industry landscape that’s developing at an astonishing pace.

Right now, technology developments and social change are bringing about a transformation in the transport industry not seen since the invention of the combustion engine. The key trends are connected, automated, shared and ultra low emission. Breakthroughs in connectivity, automation, propulsion and our willingness to share are fundamentally changing our relationship with cars.

The opportunities for successful innovation through market success are immense. But, with opportunities come challenges, such as shifting consumer demands, political and regulatory reform and, of course, the constantly changing face of cyber-threats.

The role of Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the cornerstone of the UK’s innovation ecosystem. We work with colleagues in the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), the Automotive Council, the Intelligent Mobility Planning Action and Coordination Team (IM-Pact), the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the Catapults, and we widely engage across industry and academic. Our aim is simple – to make the UK a centre of automotive excellence, both in R&D, manufacturing and future mobility business models.

We’ve just launched a new funding competition, in partnership with CCAV, inviting businesses and research organisations to apply for a share of up to £55 million to create the world's most effective CAV testing ecosystem. This is the first part of a £100 million fund to invest in CAV test bed infrastructure.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy recently announced the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which includes the batteries challenge investment of pretty much £1/4 billion over 4 years, stretching right the way from fundamental research and innovation to the manufacturing scale-up, to ensure the UK seizes this global opportunity from the transition to a low carbon economy. The UK is going to lead the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of connected, shared and automated vehicles.

Our role, though, is not just about innovation funding but also as a connector service. Encouraging and enabling networking and knowledge exchange is an important part of our work and helps drive invention to become successful innovation, i.e. a market success!

Disruptive technology can have a massive impact on traditional business models and the car industry is well versed in disrupting itself. In recent years, car manufacturers have broken free of perceived industry boundaries to pool resources with a diverse range of technology companies.

The future for connected and autonomous vehicles

Future of the car

Key recommendations in the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Select Committee report Connected and autonomous vehicles: the future? are for the government to continue supporting urban and interurban testing of road vehicles. There is also a recommendation for an increased focus on marine, HGV, public transport and agri-autonomous vehicles as these are where benefits for the economy are likely to be realised first.

With an active portfolio of marine and agri-autonomous systems, drones and public transport inspection projects, we have already made a good start on this. This testing recommendation is exactly where we and CCAV targeted our CAV2 funding stream and now we have some great moon shot projects aiming at SAE Level 4 automation. These projects provide real-world benefits to users, are able to work as part of a wider transport system and of course show clear commercial benefits as each project we fund leverages significant private investment.

Reducing emissions and scaling up innovation

Future of the car 2

The negative impacts of poor air quality are becoming clearer and vehicle emission reductions, especially in high-density areas, have a significant role to play in improving the nation’s health.

Innovate UK has been supporting the Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) sector through the Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform since 2007 and this has helped the industry to speed up the ongoing transition that will see nearly every new vehicle become zero emission by 2050.

UK businesses are well placed to take advantage of the growing global demand for low emission and energy efficient vehicles. In 2014, one in four electric vehicles bought in Europe was built in the UK, yet these new technologies can take time and money to develop and even longer to reach the market.

The sector is moving from the internal combustion engine to hybrid and fully electrified powertrains. We need to develop further UK capability to be world leading in mobile energy storage, all the way from application-inspired research, through product innovation and business scale-up with high-volume manufacturing.

We’re bringing together the energy and transport sectors to help ensure that charging for electric vehicles is built into future energy infrastructures, both in our homes and in industry. Our work in developing supply chains will enable future electric vehicles to be fully assembled in the UK, reducing time and cost. And developing flexible manufacturing processes will mean that future battery chemistry and cell thermal management breakthroughs from our science base can be adopted and taken to market by UK OEMs.

The FT Future of the Car Summit

On 10th May 2017, automotive industry professionals will come together at the FT Future of the Car Summit in London. Representatives from top car manufacturers and other key stakeholders from across the industry will explore the challenges and opportunities in developing the cars of tomorrow.

The line-up of speakers will include OEMs, suppliers, government and academia. They’ll look at the industry’s transformation in terms of electrification, autonomous driving and shared mobility. There’s also be a focus on how new competitors and tech start-ups are changing the landscape of the automotive business.

A panel on ‘breaking barriers in user experience’ will explore how human-machine interfaces are evolving and what can be done to improve self-driving features and how they respond to worst case scenarios. There’ll be discussions on the most exciting developments in connectivity and the evolution of cyber-security threats.

And, yes, they’ll also be reassessing whether the flying car could be re-imagined in a way that’s safe and sustainable, in the light of climate change, population growth and urban expansion.

I look forward to gaining to new insights from the wealth of knowledge and vision that’ll be in the room that day.

Follow me on Twitter: @MrRMeister

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