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Published in AutoNerve

Technology is constantly changing the way we do things and the automotive industry is at the forefront of that evolution

Think GPS navigation systems, collision avoidance technology and gesture controls. Who would have thought all those advances would have been possible 20 years ago? Technology has a way of completely reshaping the auto industry – something we’re seeing with electric vehicles and soon, autonomous vehicles.

In an industry that is constantly evolving and revolutionizing itself, auto manufacturers are fiercely competing with each other to create new innovations for safety, utility and entertainment.

In fact, what we saw over the past few years is that the technology and transportation sectors have been slowly converging – there are more and more mergers between automotive giants and companies.

Take for example Ford Motor Company’s latest plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence start-up company focused on developing self-driving cars.  Argo AI isn’t the only technology company Ford is investing in. Ford, along with Chinese giant, Baidu, both invested $75 million each in Velodyne liDAR, a developer of 3D mapping and laser-radar sensors.

Last year, General Motors also bought Cruise Automation for $1 billion, another start-up company dedicated to making autonomous cars a reality.

In one of the largest acquisitions in the technology sector, computing giant Intel acquired Mobileye for a staggering $15.3 Billion. Mobileye includes sensor fusion, mapping, front- and rear-facing camera tech and, beginning in 2018, crowdsourcing data for high-definition maps, as well as driving policy intelligence underlying driving decisions.

As automakers race to develop the first fully autonomous cars, we can only speculate on what the future looks like. Things like forward collision warning, emergency braking and parking assistance help drivers to a degree, but a lot more investment and testing are still needed to get to self-driving cars.

Autonomous driving eliminates driving under the influence, texting and driving and other serious forms of distracted driving. In theory, having a centralized system for roads will also reduce traffic problems and making commuting by cars even more convenient.

There’s also the possibility that these autonomous cars of the future will be greener and more environmentally friendly than the current models on the road in order to meet government emission guidelines.

And speaking of green technology, electric vehicles (EV’s) are yet another part of the automotive industry that has grown in leaps and bounds over the past years and will continue to evolve as time progresses. As battery technology has developed and is scaled to large volumes, the trickle-down effect has benefited automakers by increasing range options for drivers and lowering prices.

Not surprisingly for many countries, electric vehicles are part of the solution in reducing greenhouse gases and meeting global climate change goals.

The Chinese auto market is the largest in the world and at the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this year, we saw a plethora of electric concept and manufacturer vehicles were unveiled, including electric sport utility vehicles – combining both China’s taste for large, hulking SUV’s with the green energy goals.

While the green car revolution and the leap to driverless cars are the two most talked about movements in the auto industry, a lot of other new technology will soon be changing the driving landscape.

Within the next couple of years, we can expect to see things like augmented reality – where objects on the road are projected before they appear, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication – where cars broadcast their location, speed and direction to other cars to mitigate potential accidents.

The automotive industry has a lot to look forward to as technology advances. As technology developers work to develop a ‘brain’ for self-driving cars, the future of driving is looking more and more exciting along with green, and who knows what else is in store for the auto industry.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].