September sees the annual Cenex LCV show at Millbrook. This year, connected and autonomous vehicles join the show which is becoming more of a UK automotive technology showcase.
Parallels between electrification and autonomy
The inclusion of connected and autonomous vehicles at LCV is timely given the parallels between the industry application of vehicle electrification and autonomy. This can be considered as being in five steps:
- Nascent technology and niche applications
In the modern era, electric vehicles were relatively simple and constrained to very niche applications, such as milk floats and industrial tugs, where short range and heavy batteries did not matter too much. The parallel in autonomy could be considered to be the automated pallet moving systems, following prescribed tracks around factories.
- Improved technologies and extended niche applications
As electrical systems improved, this allowed expansion into other markets such as the Mahindra G-Wiz for personal transport and the Modec electric van. The parallel in autonomy could be considered the pods at Heathrow, which use relatively simple guidance on a dedicated roadway.
- Partial adoption in mainstream applications
Toyota revolutionized mass market powertrains with the Prius hybrid. This adopt electrification but to a limited extent, crucially not relying on battery technology for overall range. The parallel in autonomy may be considered as the introduction of automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane keep assistance systems (LKA). These allow machine control over the vehicle in some circumstances but do not rely upon a sophisticated control system for the entire journey.
- Full adoption in limited mainstream applications
Tesla and other vehicle manufacturers, notably the Nissan-Renault Alliance, have brought full vehicle electrification to the mass market, but these are not yet acceptable to all.
The parallel in vehicle autonomy will be a vehicle which can undertake the bulk of normal journeys in full autonomy, and some requiring human driver intervention. The industry is not there yet, but the signs are that we will not have to wait too long for such developments to appear. It will be interesting to see who makes that Tesla-like market breakthrough.
- The norm
At some point, battery electric vehicles will become the norm and ICE vehicles will become the niche. The parallel in autonomy will be automated driving as the norm and human driving as the niche.
Which will come first?
The question for me is which will come first, the sub-£10k battery electric car with mass market appeal or the sub-£10k car without a steering wheel? Maybe it will be the same vehicle!
We are working on making this a reality, think of the implications that would have on vehicle ownership and use.
The CAV showcase features UK companies, universities and project consortia showing the latest developments and results from UK Connected and Autonomous Vehicle projects.
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