“The rise of EVs and autonomous tech is in focus at the huge CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference.”
Preliminary schedule and agenda subject to change
Robo-taxis have received the most attention and investments among the AV and MaaS market segments—due to their large future market potential. The promise of AV-based robo-taxis is also the main rational for the $45 billion VC investments in current ride-hailing companies. This has created an ongoing race to deploy and lead in robo-taxis among TNCs, auto manufacturers, high-tech firms and startups. This robo-taxi race will play out on a city-by-city level in the United States and China first, with other countries to follow later.
Sensors, chips and computer hardware are crucial parts of the AV electronics. Lidar sensors are receiving massive investment to improve their performance and drastically lower their system price to a few hundred dollars. Tremendous computing power is required with extensive investments in chips that can speed up deep learning and neural network required for AV software.
Autonomous Vehicle (AV) driving software is the most complex part of getting AVs ready for deployment—both development and testing. The software complexity varies by AV use cases and is creating multiple AV application segments with different characteristics. The huge AV application potential has attracted many startups and some are current AV software leaders—either as independent companies or via auto OEM acquisition or cooperation.
Autonomous trucks are seeing significant activities, but primarily in the United States and China. Several startups are testing driverless operation on interstate roads in Arizona and surrounding states with a safety driver that takes over for first and last mile driving. These AV truck companies are allowed to charge for delivering cargo as part of their AV testing—with substantial earned revenue. Some companies are planning for teleoperation instead of driver for last-first mile operation.
Last mile goods delivery is getting a lot of attention and investments from startups and established logistics companies. Three segments—grocery, fast food and e-commerce delivery are getting the most consideration. This is done by human drivers currently, but a variety of AV sizes are being tested—from small sidewalk AVs to cars and vans. At least 8 US states have passed sidewalk delivery laws.
Fuel cells and hydrogen-based EVs continue to see strong investments—especially for large EV trucks. However, when it comes to the passenger car market, they are still at a low market penetration in the global market and only a few passenger car manufacturers are investing in fuel cells and hydrogen.
All connected devices need remote software updates and cyber-security protection. It is overdue for connected vehicles and is especially crucial for AVs. These two technologies will provide many advantages for the auto manufacturers and car owners. With most car users having experience from PCs and smartphones, they are starting to demand remote software updates and cyber-security in their vehicles.
Smart cities address a variety of complex transportation issues with auto congestion usually at the top. MaaS has the potential to lower some congestion, even if ride-hailing has made it worse in many cases. Fixed route AVs such as vans and buses have potential for lowering congestion and many smart cities are testing fixed route AVs including simple bus routes and in closed venue transportation applications such as airports, campuses and office parks.
Substantial infrastructure for EV charging is needed for EV owners without home chargers and to charge EVs while travelling. Range-anxiety remains strong—at least among ICEV owners. This means that the quantity and quality of the EV charging infrastructure will play a big role in the growth and success of EVs—especially BEVs. At year-end 2018 the United States had about 10,000 public charging stations versus well over 100,000 gas stations.
Electric Vehicle (EV) technology is on the cusp of a steep deployment growth stage that will greatly impact the automotive and transportation industries. Both Battery EVs (BEVs) and Plug-in Hybrid EVs (PHEVs) are growing currently, but long-term BEV domination is likely. BEV vs. PHEV strategy varies by auto manufacturers. BEVs will take-off when BEVs meet four criteria vs. ICE vehicles: purchase price parity, variety of models for most use-cases, and public charging infrastructure approaching gas station coverage. The fourth criteria, lower operating costs, is already in BEV’s favor.
Solid state battery technology is receiving large attention and investments as better batteries are needed to sustain and increase BEV adoption rates. Solid state batteries are also key to lowering battery costs, increasing range, lowering charging time and increasing battery safety.
Connected and especially autonomous vehicles generate tremendous amount of data that are required for car operation. Some of the data also has value outside the car to many different industries. Telematics services are the classic use cases that have been used for two decades. Data monetization business models are still evolving with new and innovative applications likely to emerge.