Automotive 2019: Looking Back to Move Forward

Automobility LA sign for automotive 2019AutomobilityLA 2018 left us with a vision of where automotive 2019 is going — more in-vehicle experiences. Getting from Point A to Point B in unique, cool and riveting ways will always be key to what drives (no pun intended) car show previews, but instead of wowing attendees with last year’s spectacles — VR exhibits featuring upcoming film premieres, DJ’s spinning tunes so loud it felt like a death metal concert, customized truffles — measured and focused “User Experience” and “User Engagement” presentations ruled the conference.

It got us thinking how the days of luxury that defined such brands as Lincoln, Cadillac, Bentley, and Rolls Royce have grown beyond the real wood dashboard and gold-plated tuning knobs. Accessible indulgence makes the entire experience feel like today’s driver is being taken into consideration with car production in a wholly immersive way.

We’re not ones to usually opine here — our goal at v2gov.com is to present you “Just the facts, ma’am.” In our new year’s article, however, we decided you might like to know what we feel automotive 2019 holds based on what we experienced at AutomobilityLA 2018.

Road Tripping for Automotive 2019

Road trip collage for automotive 2019Yes, we know. Road trips have been around since there were, well, roads, but they haven’t always been in vogue for a variety of reasons — gas prices, slow economies, fascination with the friendly skies, etc. Over the last few years, however, we’ve noticed a great deal of emphasis placed on the revival of the Airstream Trailer, glamping, and turning the proverbial road trip into something that more people are willing to do even — and sometimes especially — if they only have a few days.

All of this is very appealing to Millennials and Generation Zers, consumers of choice for carmakers, especially with the drop in auto ownership across those two markets. There was so much shown at the conference that supported this continuing trend — Airstream given its own display, the new Prius presented as an AWD road tripping marvel — that we believe it’s a market that will only become more important for automotive 2019 and beyond.

Driving the “give-back”

charity and the auto industry into automotive 2019Considering the event took place in California within weeks of two of the worst brush fires in the state’s history, a proliferation of “we are here to support you” signs sprinkled throughout AutomobilityLA was not surprising. What was interesting, however, was how front and center many of the automakers made their commitment to overall charitable giving.

From the large Toyota Para-Olympics presence with its supporting vehicle to Subaru making your first experience with its exhibit their ASPCA and community involvement — which heavily plays on Subaru’s “LOVE” campaign — the desire to proclaim the stance of doing good was consistently driven home wherever you looked. While we can’t say for sure such overt motor vehicle-based philanthropy will continue into the automotive 2019 space, we believe it is a trend that will build moving forward.

Auto & Tech: Reaching Across the Innovation Aisle

automotive and tech partners into automotive 2019From day one of the conference, it became apparent that reaching across the innovation aisle is key to surviving automotive 2019. There’s still that level of mistrust for a variety of digital and technological advancements being pushed for vehicles. The general public seems to like how it all sounds, but actually owning/driving behind/being a passenger in a driverless vehicle? Not so much. How do you get people behind it when they still can’t equate someone like a Ford or Kia with lasers and artificial intelligence?

Partnerships are the basis of what’s to come as we move toward seeing actual, living Level 5 — fully self-driving, no human operator or even controls required — autonomous cars out there. Not testers, but ones that are driven by someone other than a Waymo or Uber employee. Tech companies still need help getting into the vehicle industry, and automobile professionals need help remaining relevant in the changing motor vehicle landscape. Automotive 2019 will show more of these matchups moving forward.

One classic goes while others thrive

retro styles come into automotive 2019In 2018 Volkswagen announced it would no longer manufacture its iconic Beetle by July of 2019. While that memorable car may be going, VW is bringing the wildly popular Bus into the 21st century and other automakers continue to embrace their past by offering upgraded versions of retro models for the automotive 2019 landscape — a 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt, anyone?

Retro love for Mustang into Automotive 2019

Photo Taken By Joe Ross from Lansing, Michigan – 2019 Ford Mustang “Bullitt” display — 2018 North American International Auto Show, Wikimedia Commons

The desire to return to and remain in the past with design and style just seems to be growing. With Porsche, that also means allowing its serious drivers to maintain control of their car — the German automaker will not pursue Level 5 autonomy. Sure, they’ll have some form of driver assist available, but they will never have a fully-autonomous 911. However, while Porsche has taken this stance it’s not to say like-style automakers are. That’s something we’re watching closely as automotive 2019 moves forward — that intersection between nostalgia and innovation.

Regardless, zero emissions and sedans still exist

sedans and zero emissions still the thing automotive 2019Contrary to what one of the world’s largest automakers announced days before the conference, exhibitors proved sedans and zero-emission models — with a proud add that many would still be made in America — were NOT a thing of the past. Seems the rest of the auto industry took the pre-show announcement as a call to action. Sure, there were tons of SUVs and a bunch of unique cars that looked nothing like the sedans of yesteryear, but plenty of 4-door and/or eco-friendly models were on display as well. For example, the unveiling of the Rivian all-electric duo of the R1T — a truck that holds 5 passengers — and the R1S — an SUV that ferries 7 and goes from 0 to 60 in 03 seconds was met with open mouth awe.

So, are sedans and green vehicles dead? Um, no. If anything, suppliers are reviving and innovating them to the point that everyday humans like you and I will be able to afford and want to buy them sooner rather than later.

Going beyond “self-driving”

U/X into automotive 2019User Experience, you win the “Most Likely to Succeed” of the world of automotive 2019. It’s all about turning your drive into something that goes beyond autonomy and all the way into enjoyment. How can you remind people of what it’s like to engage with their vehicle? Love the experience of, if not driving it then being in it? And how can you use your car for more than transportation?

Volvo blew us away by having no vehicles for preview at their exhibition. They actually had a sign that read, “Don’t Buy Our Cars” and walked attendees through the experiences you would gain through its partnerships and innovation. From Amazon deliveries made to your trunk to Luminar visibility to VR inside your car, Volvo — and others — was all about “you” — the driver, rider, the pedestrian walking or cyclist cycling beside the car and it’s obvious this engagement will only grow.

Innovation and individuality are alive and well

Innovation and individuality into automotive 2019Finally, the cool, the custom, the “think outside the box” were all on display. Cars have always been great canvases for personalization and it’s grown with technology. Extraordinarily beautiful vehicles that seemed impossible were touted — the Infinity Prototype 10 sort of freaked us out, but in a good way — as were all the options for turning your automobile of choice literally into the stuff of dreams.

Concept cars will always rear their headlights but what we’re loving is this immersive mentality of personalizing your piece of the road in a way that truly reflects you. And it goes far beyond just how your car looks and into how you choose to engage with that vehicle.

You can change your automobile as often as you change your clothes through service providers of car sharing, high-end vehicle subscriptions, and ride-hailing as well as unique ways to buy cars through smartphone apps. That innovation-driven individuality is, once again, appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. Automotive 2019 is poised for an opportunity like these to be more available and reinventing an industry that’s closing in on a century and a half old.

Goodbye, 2018. Hello, Automotive 2019

Volvo display Amazon highlight article conclusion automotive 2019Car ownership isn’t going away. Or, better yet, automobiles transporting people around on a personal level isn’t. As much as it seems like unique alternatives to what was once considered a rite of passage are taking over the automotive world, even they confirm that people still love motoring around. If AutomobilityLA and the last year have taught us anything, it’s that the motor vehicle isn’t disappearing. It’s growing up and leaving home to make its own way in the world.

And that, to us, is what automotive 2019 holds in our opinion — a lot of roads previously traveled but in more innovative ways. Sort of like a kid following in their parents’ footsteps but with their own POV. And isn’t that what the industry has always done? Take the old and make it not just new but beyond belief?

We think so and we look forward to more.

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Zero-Emission Vehicles: Golden State Goes All In

an zero-emission vehicle getting charged up

Per a recent study of data collected between 2013-2015 by the American Lung Association, the Golden State is the dirtiest state in the union with six of the top ten worst cities on the list located on the west coast. With more cars per capita than some countries — approximately 749 automobiles per thousand residents — it’s no wonder that California consistently pushes to lower its carbon footprint. It was the impetus for former Governor Ronald Reagan and his administration to create the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 1967. The legacy to further support the goal of clean air and healthy living in the region lives on as shown by Governor Jerry Brown recently signing 12 bills to further strengthen California’s near-zero and zero-emission vehicle or ZEV markets.

Strengthening the rules of the zero-emission on the road

These bills cover a broad, yet clean energy focused spectrum — dedicated, on-street public parking spaces for charging a parked electric car, extending access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes for certain clean alternative fuel vehicles, a clean-car program to help low-income residents replace their high-polluting cars with zero-emission vehicles, and more. A sweeping bill — SB 498 sponsored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) —  raises the requirement for the state’s light-duty vehicle fleet to become zero-emission from the current 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent or more by 2025. Each one of the new bills pushes for more effective and active ZEV support to get the state to a cleaner, healthier place, and move it off of that list of being the dirtiest.

Assisting the greening of commercial fleets

heavy-duty trucks go zero-emission

Heavy-duty vehicles were also addressed in the bills. Commercial automobiles in general and the greenhouse gas they generate have been a subject of much discussion across the country for years. FedEx’s commitment to clean energy and utilizing alternative fuel cells in its heavy-duty trucks have been breakthroughs in support of battling climate change. This “new normal” the delivery giant has successfully established for itself is one that other commercial companies are starting to see as one they can embrace. Bills AB 739 and AB 1073 both support that transformation by specifically dealing with ways to reduce carbon emissions associated with heavy-duty trucks and vehicles. AB 739, drafted by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), will require that at least 15 percent of specific newly purchased state heavy-duty vehicles be ZEV starting in 2025 and 30 percent or more beginning in 2030. AB 1073, drafted by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), extends a current requirement to fund the early deployment of clean heavy-duty trucks. This last is part of California’s existing Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle program.

The bills intentionally do not call out any specific type of clean energy automobile, such as the plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. By targeting the near-zero or full ZEV market, legislation is able to cover a broad range of alternative fuel cell cars that will help stem greenhouse gas issues on a variety of levels. These zero-emission options include the plug-in electric vehicle, the plug-in hybrid electric car, hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas — basically, anything that burns clean energy and won’t add to the greenhouse gas problem.

Governor Brown’s response to concerns about the effects on the state’s residents and environment from climate change came on the heels of the head of the EPA announcing the scrapping of the Clean Power Plan. California has long considered getting rid of its petroleum cars, with the local government putting together plans for all new cars to be zero-emission only by 2050. This total ban on gasoline engines joins remaining part of the Paris Agreement even as the current administration considers pulling out as clear signs of the state’s commitment to its near-zero and zero-emission future. These green vehicle initiatives are nothing new in California, as mentioned, but strengthening them joins support of autonomous car R&D as a way to make ground transport safer, cleaner and more efficient.

Self-driving not to be outdone

autonomous vehicles get comeuppance via DMV

Following the governor’s signing of new zero-emission initiatives, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) released revisions to its autonomous vehicle regulations. The move supports the recent Department of Transportation (DOT) announcement of the loosening of restrictions and requirements for driverless auto testing on public roads and development. There have been rules in place for autonomous vehicles since 2014 in the state with 42 companies currently allowed to test their cars on West Coast roads. This welcoming atmosphere is making California a haven for automakers seeking to test and expand their self-driving capabilities, and grow the technology into a viable business that can finally be put to practical use on the road.

A focus on saving lives

Sacramento makes ZEV easier

Creating innovative legislation to further support stemming greenhouse gas emission, addressing climate change to establish a cleaner, healthier future in the state, and setting forth clearer laws to support the development and testing of autonomous vehicles on the roads are all part of California’s desire to make its state that much safer for its residents. The electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid, plug-in electric vehicle and other alternative fuel cell technologies are sought to be the norm, not the exception on West Coast roads sooner rather than later. This also includes incorporating a more equitable and accessible ground for testing and growing the autonomous vehicle market in the Golden State. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how fast the rest of the nation follows suit. California consistently sets a certain drumbeat for environmental and technological innovation, and these recent changes certainly continue that trend.

But no matter how the rest of the nation — or the world — reacts, California remains steadfast in its mission to clean up and innovate ground travel at home. Both the new zero-emission legislation and the DMV’s autonomous vehicle changes combine to move it out of the position of being the dirtiest state and among the most congested to one where California residents can breathe and move around easier, and are assured of a comfortable, efficient and safe journey in whatever form of transportation they choose.

 

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