Quantum Computing: The future of Auto

Quantum computing (QC) could potentially add billions of dollars to the automotive industry. Thanks to the recent quantum computing device that can operate at 1.5 Kelvin, the automotive sector have been exploring the computing device’s potential.

Although quantum computing applications are still about five to ten years down the road, the automotive industry has been exploring its effectiveness in the manufacturing and synthesis of new materials as well as the management of autonomous vehicles. The technology is said to have the potential to solve complex optimization problems that include processing vast amounts of data to accelerate learning in autonomous vehicles navigation algorithms.

Additionally, original equipment manufacturers and tier-one suppliers have been actively exploring the technology and its abilities to find solutions to existing issues related to route optimization, fuel-cell optimization, and material durability.

Automotive manufacturers such as Volkswagen and BMW have already announced their intentions to pursue quantum computing research. Their area of research includes quantum simulation for material sciences, as they aim to improve the efficiency, safety, and durability of batteries and fuel cells.

Volkswagen partnered with D-Wave in 2019, a quantum computing company based in Canada, to implement quantum computing to reduce traffic congestion to improve the travel routes of nine public transit buses during the 2019 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Likewise, a German tier-one supplier, Bosch, has acquired a stake in Zapata Computing and contributed $21 million Series A investment in the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based quantum start-up.

With quantum computing services estimated to be worth 32 to 52 billion dollars in the automotive industry by the year 2035, the automotive sector, as well as automotive stakeholders are currently working on establishing a lucid QC strategy.

The primary potentials of QC include accelerated research in electric vehicles, improvement in vehicle routing and route optimization, material, and process research, and improving the security of connected driving. Furthermore, it can be used by automakers to improve fuel efficiency during vehicle design and it can also help to reduce drag.

The technology can potentially reduce computing times from a few weeks to just a few seconds, thus ensuring car to car communication in real-time. In areas such as vehicle crash behavior and cabin soundproofing, QC can apply advanced simulations and apply algorithms used in the development of autonomous driving software.

QC is a growing field that assists automotive companies with logistics and production-related problems, as well as the advancement of autonomous vehicles that require tremendous computing prowess for processing and wireless communication. The technology can possibly bring autonomous vehicles from the testing and prototyping stage to the highly anticipated commercial phase.

Just as the Auto Industry Revives Itself, Worker Shortages Impedes the Process

In today’s current climate, companies and employees alike have seen how the Coronavirus continues to affect the economy. This includes the auto industry; an industry that started to recover only to face the roadblock of worker shortage.

When the coronavirus pandemic began back in January, many companies were forced to stop production or implement very rigid protocols. For the auto industry or specifically auto plants, it meant the entire stop of vehicle production. Despite the altogether halt in production, consumers never stopped in their demand for cars and caused an insufficiency in inventory. Consequently, auto plants now have to play a game of catch-up.

So far there has been success in steadily restocking inventory. According to Wards Intelligence, an automotive research and analytics firm, vehicle production in North America has returned nearly to pre-virus levels. With such progress, it begs the question: Why are production levels not matching or exceeding pre-virus levels? The answer: worker shortage.

Auto plants are facing a staffing issue largely due to absenteeism or any reason an employee cannot go to work. The grounds for absenteeism cover a wide range, from reasons like not having childcare to being mandatorily quarantined after positively testing for the Coronavirus.

Furthermore, auto plants find it hard to convince people to join with such a large group of employees-approximately 2,000 people- in one enclosed space and when it lacks high-paying wages.

To combat issues of absenteeism and Coronavirus fears, auto plants have gone beyond hiring more team members and internally moved some of their ‘white-collar’ workers to the production line. This means these office-dwelling employees find themselves in the production line helping in the assembly of vehicles. Desperate times call for desperate measures as companies like Toyota, Honda and General Motors have all employed this tactic.

While it is unusual, it isn’t the first time auto plants have implemented this tactic. Emily Lauder, the vice president of administration at Toyota Mississippi, reflects on when she herself had to go from accounting and help build transmissions twenty years ago.

The automotive industry has had its’ fair share of challenges over the years. From emission woes to the demand to convert to electric powered vehicles, the Coronavirus is the newest challenge on the docket. Although there has been immense improvement, worker shortage has proven to slow-down progress. Hopefully, with the current methods being applied, the auto industry will be once again thriving in the economy.

Uber Says Their Vehicles Will be 100% Electric by 2040

Uber recently announced that every vehicle on its global ride-hailing platform will be electric by 2040. The company will contribute $800 million through 20205 to help drivers switch to battery-powered vehicles, including discounts for vehicles bought or leased from partner automakers. Uber, which has over 5 million drivers worldwide, said it formed partnerships with General Motors and the Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi alliance.

In a separate announcement, GM said the eligible Uber drivers in North America can purchase a 2020 Chevy Bolt and receive a GM employee discount.  The discount can be combined with the $8.500 national rebate that’s currently being offered. Bolt U.S. drivers will also be eligible for a discount of 20 percent below sticker price on accessories, including at-home charging equipment.

GM and Uber plan to launch a pilot program in Los Angeles and Denver to offer special financing agreements through GM financial.

“Through this program we’re offering new ways for drivers and customers across the country to fall in love with driving electric,” Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, said in a statement. “This is a key opportunity to grow Chevrolet’s EV business through a program that matches our expertise and strength with a rideshare platform that brings its own scale and reach.”

Uber says the $800 million program includes discounts for charging and a fare surcharge for electric and hybrid vehicles, which would be offset by an additional small fee charged to customers who request a “green trip.” Uber also says that vehicles on its platform will be zero-emission by 2030. The deals with GM and the Renault alliance focus on the U.S., Canada and Europe. Uber said it was discussing partnerships with other automakers.

Uber has faced much criticism in the past by environmental groups and city officials over pollution. Lyft Inc., Uber’s smaller U.S. rival, in June promised to switch to 100 percent EVs by 2030, but said it would not provide direct financial support to drivers.

Before the pandemic, electric cars made up for only 0.15 percent of North American Uber trip miles. Ride-hail trips overall account for less than 0.6 percent of transportation-sector emissions, according to U.S. data, but the total number of on-demand vehicles has significantly increased since Uber’s launch nearly a decade ago, with 7 billion trips last year, according to Uber’s February investor presentation.

Beginning on Tuesday, all U.S. and Canadian Uber drivers in a fully battery-powered electric vehicle will receive $1 extra per trip, and an additional 50 cents in major U.S. cities if passengers choose to pay extra when booking a “green trip.”

Tesla Looks to Gain EV Lead in Energy Market

Elon Musk has found a new mission in the automotive market: providing power for EVs. Tesla recently acquired a license that will enable them to trade electricity across western Europe, and the company has also been surveying customers in Germany about using Tesla electricity in their cars. Automotive experts and consultants say this could be the beginning of many new partnerships. Germany is currently Europe’s biggest power market and home to many automotive brands.

Generating trading power would help Tesla lower the running costs of its cars at a time where rival automotive brands are producing new electric vehicles themselves. Tesla already sells solar panels to Powerwall battery storage for homes but not appears to be looking at selling electricity directly to customers using the home storage systems to provide services to the grid.

In June, the company became a member of the EPEX spot power exchange, a platform used to trade much of Europe’s cross-border electricity. A month later, it surveyed German customers about their interest in energy services. “What would encourage you to switch from your existing energy supplier?,” the survey said, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

“Would you buy a Tesla photovoltaic system and home storage (Tesla Powerwall) if you could switch to a specially designed Tesla electricity tariff?,” it said.

Tesla also asked potential energy customers whether they would allow the company to control when cars would charge.

This could allow it to coincide charging with cheap electricity rates during off peak hours, consultants and industry executives said.

Companies offering similar services in Germany include sonnen, Next Kraftwerke, and Lichtblick.

“The next and obvious step for Tesla is to get into production, especially of renewable power,” said consultant Berthold Hannes, who has 30 years of energy advisory experience.

“Tesla could use its own locations, for example the roofs of plants or the sites of charging points, and alternatively, or in addition, it could take stakes in solar plants or wind parks,” he said.

Tesla Says No to Hackers

Tesla, an automotive company known for pioneering itself into the electric vehicle market, is putting its focus toward hackers. In recent events, Tesla has discovered that hackers are affecting the upper hand and monetary benefit it has with the “Acceleration Boost” for the Model 3 Dual Motor. In attempts to save face, Tesla is fighting back.

It is not unknown that Tesla offers upgrades with their electric cars in the form of software-locked abilities. For the Model 3 Dual Motor, this an “Acceleration Boost”. Starting off at $2,000, this upgrade offers an additional 50 horsepower while also taking off an extra half second when going to 0 to 60 mph.

With such benefits, it’s no surprise that it is a sought-after feature. However, no one expected there to be another option in installing this upgrade other than Tesla. That was until third party companies, particularly Ingenext, offered the upgrade. Coined as Ingenext Boost 50 module, the company offers it at the lower price of $1,433. This Boost 50 module includes other features that are specific to the company, like a “Drift mode”.

A number of Tesla consumers flocked to the cheaper option until Tesla decided to take a stance against the third-party companies. Now, whenever a consumer installs the third-party option, a pop-up screen will appear. On this screen, the dialog warns the consumer that the vehicle detects an incompatible vehicle modification. This screen does not restrict the driver from their current driving capabilities, but it can not be removed from the display.

Despite this pop-up tactic, third party companies like Ingenext still advertise its product. The Ingenext founder, Guillaume Andre, told the electric vehicle news outlet Eletrek that their update was only hindered by the newest Tesla software update 2020.32.1 and that they sent out a notification to clients not to update. Andre went further in saying that if a client did update, they shouldn’t worry. According to Andre, Ingenext is working on their own patch to help consumers enable the update without any problems.

Since Ingenext is not backing down, it is logical to question and ask: what will this mean for the update, Tesla, and Ingenext? So far, the answer is unknown. Yet, speculation is that this will start a technological war between both companies as they try to succeed in creating updates that stop the other. In such a time only one thing can be clear: Tesla says no to hackers.

Progress Toward the Future: Cars and AI

In the car industry, consumers and automotive companies alike are looking for the newest component to integrate into cars. A component that improves the experience for the customer, increases the value for the vehicle and relevantly addresses the concerns of the Coronavirus. That component today is AI or automated technology.

Automated technology has been incorporated into cars long before drivers were aware of it. Capabilities customers often take for granted, like cruise control and power windows, were the earliest examples of AI. In fact, the hand-free phone that is so common-place in vehicles today was already available back in 1988.

These obscure AI features lead to the most impressive capability to date: voice interface technology. Voice interface technology offered drivers less distractions and more time to keep their hands on the wheel. Due to these safety benefits, cars were the first mass market product to integrate the technology on a large-scale.

Since AI to date has only helped in the safety, value and convenience of both car and driver, how can it be applied to the current situation?

The Coronavirus has changed the way we buy and use transportation. According to Capgemini Research Institute, 75 percent of new car buyers are purchasing a car to get more control over their hygiene while 46 percent of consumer say they’ll use less public transportation and 40 percent of consumers say they’ll use less of ride-hailing services.

Fortunately, AI can address the concern for a safer, more hygienic ride. The answer comes through AI powered self-driving vehicles, or self-driving ride-sharing services. A self-driving system would ensure social distance and a relatively touch-free experience that drivers may find more to their liking. It could also save time that is required when manually driving a vehicle.

Although there are some self-driving capabilities in current vehicles, there is still a long way before things like public transportation can be forgotten. Manufacturers are just starting to progressively implement more AI into areas like IT; digital and mobility services; manufacturing and operations. Beyond that, manufacturers and consumers still must figure out what technology they agree is valuable. Manufacturers are likely to focus on AI features that assist with the mechanics of the vehicle while consumers are likely to focus on AI features that increase the luxury of the vehicle.

AI has been involved in the car industry ever since the introduction of itself back in the 1940s. Since then, AI has been impactful, improving multiple aspects of a vehicle such as the value, efficiency and customer satisfaction. It can even be said that it is the answer, once there is enough progress by car manufacturers, to safer travels in a post Coronavirus world.

The Data-Driven Approach to Your Favorite Cars

A multitude of data can be pulled from a vehicle analysis. Automakers hold millions of reports about produced cars that often encourage future automotive developments. If automakers choose not to analyze their collected information, they sacrifice opportunities for not only revenue but also increasing the safety and satisfaction of drivers.

Data-driven companies are popping up worldwide intending to enable​ new services for the industry. If Original Equipment Manufacturers chose to fulfill these tasks themselves, they would have to come up with their own AI machines to analyze data. Therefore, the companies are looking toward outside organizations to execute the research and tools for them.

Specifically, one machine learning startup that raised $11 million. Now the company will give insight to automakers about vehicles. The company plans to use artificial intelligence by way of machine learning.  Timing is an issue; to aid clients, companies need to face leveraging asynchronous time-series data. After all, gathering and analyzing this type of data is no simple task.

One interesting approach these companies are taking is instituting an assessment of estimated component failure risk. Therefore, before mass producing and releasing vehicles, companies can gauge the likelihood of needed to issue a recall. This can save billions of dollars per year in production for automakers.  Additionally, vehicles now contain sensor updates that are sent to manufacturers. This data can now be leveraged.

After a quick analysis of ongoing reports, automakers can alter vehicles in the production process. This information allows for crucial changes to be made early on in the release of new models.  In the Auto industry, the data-driven approach has only just begun to make an impact; However, manufacturers, machine learning startups, and consumers will benefit from companies leaping toward the future of auto analysis.

Auto Plant Projects Are On The Rise

For more than a century, the auto industry has been no stranger to economic struggles and recessions. When the pandemic forced auto plant shutdowns and stalled production, none could foresee the economic impact the shutdowns would have on the industry months later. However, the industry currently shows an exemplary trajectory in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

Notably, several large-investment projects are advancing during the summer months. Industry leaders have walked a fine line for the past few months, balancing reopening production and ensuring the health of workers. The continuity of these large-investment projects signals optimism within the industry. Some of the projects began before the pandemic hit. Others are beginning throughout the summer to make an impact post-pandemic.

“The industry has been cautious for a while,” observed Bernard Swiecki, director of the Automotive Communities Partnership, an auto project-monitoring program associated with the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “A number of projects have been walked up to the point of making a final commitment, but then put into suspended animation. So there is a bit of pent-up investment just waiting to get a green light of confidence.

“But there are also a number of companies that just can’t wait for that green light,” he said. “They need to position themselves to gain maximum benefits when the recovery comes.”

As noted by Swiecki, many companies see the current pandemic as an opportune time to invest in the future. The companies can invest and capitalize on growth in a particular segment or hire additional workers to raise production levels at existing plants. With the full economic impact of the pandemic and its shutdowns still unknown, funding projects for the future may aid companies in the long-term.

The North American marketplace’s angle differs. Shutdowns gave factory workers much time off, but even their returns to work did not indicate optimism. Within one week of re-openings, auto plants were sending employees home due to cases of the virus emerging within factory walls. This has left millions of Americans without work.

Fortunately, though, industry leaders are confident in a vast revival of the auto industry following the pandemic. The last major recession of 2008-09 caught the auto industry with severe manufacturing overcapacity. Plants closed in 2009. “This time around, we’re much leaner, and manufacturers have even been straining to meet demand,” Swiecki said. “The industry sees this year’s crisis as not being permanent.

“And even where there is a cash shortage at a company, and an automaker can’t support everything in its plan, you’ll see projects that are related to trucks and SUVs receive priority. The last project you’re going to delay right now is a truck factory.”

Some projects remain full speed ahead.

  • Tesla Inc. said last month it will spend $1 billion to construct a pickup factory in Austin, Texas, a project that will require the electric vehicle maker to hire 2,000 people in the next 24 months. But the construction plan represents a major product initiative for Tesla: electric trucks. And there is little time to lose in that category, because competitors see the same gold that Tesla does. General Motors and Ford Motor Co. intend to produce electric pickups. So do startups Rivian and Nikola.
  • Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. are midstream in a project to build a $1.6 billion joint-venture assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala., announced in January 2018. Mazda badly needs to increase its portfolio of crossovers and has no U.S. capacity. And Toyota is capacity-constrained to meet its future North American growth forecasts.
  • Ultium Cells LLC is the 50-50 joint venture between GM and the global battery maker LG Chem. Construction of a $2 billion manufacturing center in Lordstown, Ohio, launched this summer. This plant, expected to employ about 1,000, is no mere production-capacity play. The batteries it will produce will be the cornerstone of a new electrified vehicle strategy for GM in the next three years.
  • SK Innovation, the South Korean EV battery maker, began construction last month on its second EV battery manufacturing facility in Jackson County, Ga., as it completes its first one at the site. The combined $1.67 billion project will allow SK to produce enough batteries for 310,000 EVs a year, with Volkswagen as it initial U.S. customer.
  • Nikola Corp. broke ground last month on a $600 million plant in Coolidge, Ariz., where it will produce zero-emission Class 8 semitrucks and create thousands of jobs, according to Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson. Nikola is a startup that intends to build hydrogen fuel cell-powered commercial trucks for large fleet customers, as well as electric pickups.
  • Ford Motor Co. said at the end of last year that it will invest $750 million in and add 2,700 new direct jobs at its plant in Wayne, Mich., this year and next year. Ford is launching production of the all-new Bronco and Ranger and creating a vehicle modification center at the location.

Post-COVID Trends in the Auto Industry

In late 2019, when news of a rapidly spreading virus first surfaced, most failed to consider the long-term effects of the virus. Almost no one knew the severity of the virus and the fact that it would become a global pandemic and alter the future of the world. In the Auto Industry, factory shutdowns began around March. Jobs were lost and production slowed, but still, most people did not realize the extent to which the pandemic would change the industry. The following are notable trends within the auto industry that may actualize following the coronavirus pandemic.

Subscription Services Are on the Rise: A number of vehicle companies, such as BMW and Audi, offer subscriptions that allow drivers to switch between vehicles each year. Though not generally the most affordable option, consumers love car subscriptions because of the flexibility it offers and its inclusion of insurance and maintenance repairs. Subscriptions offer freedom to choose and a taste of luxury, no matter your location.

Vehicles Impacting Health:  New Health, Wellness, and Wellbeing  (HWW) features are being implemented in cars ​like ionizers and ozonizers that purify in-vehicle air. Self-cleaning features for car surfaces will also become commonplace.

Reinvented Styles: The hatchback could make a comeback. The 2020 VW Golf is sparking the trend of the style. If a pandemic has prompted anything, it’s a desire for change. Whether driven by the immobility of a pandemic or Gen Z’s style ideas, changes will occur.

Financial Differences Worldwide: The auto industry is recovering at different rates in different regions. Notably, the car industry grew in China in the months of April and May but declined in Europe and India.

Remote Work: Now that remote work has been attempted, many companies will choose to continue working remotely, despite where the pandemic’s numbers may lead. Workers who are no longer required to commute to work will decrease personal mileage tremendously, and if remote work remains prevalent, the decreased mileage could have not only individual but global effects. This trend could affect the future of the automotive industry. Sales would decline, and lower commuting miles will be felt in lower aftermarket sales.

Cars as a Marketplace: It is probable that everything related to on route mobility will take place in a car within the next few years. Soon, customers will be able to pay for tolls, refuel, and purchase services, all from the interior of their vehicles. This will largely transform cars from vehicles to lifestyles.

IoT Platforms: Operating systems will soon be standard for vehicles. Automotive producers will offer hundreds of options to customize car features. Connected cars will be dominant in the auto industry within high-end cars.

Shifting Online:  Online car sales have already started to shift, with cars readily available for rent and purchase through sites. The online method limits human interaction, one of the most valuable things currently.

Product Lifestyle to Grow: Car companies are selling more than just physical cars. The sale of new technological and stylistic features is certain. People want to customize as much as possible, and companies are looking to deliver that.

Used Cars Take the Stage: The used car market will have a strong rebirth. Auction prices for used cars are currently on the rise. Used car companies are even seeing increasing customer satisfaction rates.

COVID has certainly impacted the auto industry, but the future is not destined to be negative. Automakers are adapting to current times, and trends stemming from the pandemic are promising.

Ford Runs Toward the Future with Four-Legged Robots on Plant Floors

At a transmission plant in the Michigan city known for automotive development and production, Ford is testing a pair of four-legged robots. The robots are being tested for productivity in hopes that they could eventually aid the industry in masses.

Ford has historically used scans to ascertain what machinery is there and what items need to be updated or moved. These scans are generally implemented when Ford updates its plants with new products. However, scans that Ford used in the past amounted to about $300,000 per facility for 2 weeks of labor. This involved workers manually controlling tripods and lasers. Ford aims to elevate the productivity of these scans by using robots that do the same amount of work in half the time, at a fraction of the cost.

Fluffy and Spot, the two robots now roaming plant floors in suburban Detroit, were produced by and leased from Boston Dynamics. Beginning next month, Ford aims to use the robots, each with five dynamic cameras, to survey the Van Dyke Transmission Plant.

“Fluffy is an amazing manufacturing tool,” said Paula Wiebelhaus, the robot’s handler. “Yes, it’s interesting and new, but Fluffy should really be valued for his work and tenacity. He can do so much more than dance and rollover. We want to push him to the limits in the manufacturing plant and see what value he has for the company.”

The robots’ state-of-the-art technology allows the user to see from the robots’ perspective. Users can see the cameras first-hand as if they are Fluffy or Spot! The robots can even be operated at 3 miles per hour from as far as one hundred and sixty feet away. They also have Scouter, a circular base to perch on, that can move around the plant and conserve battery.

Ford is excited to implement this technology, especially after seeing the positive effects of Digit, a two-legged delivery robot, and collaborative robots that help workers in global factories. For now, Ford is positioning Fluffy and Spot at the Van Dyke Transmission center, but if all goes well, the automaker could see a definite implementation of these technologies in other factories such as its Dearborn Truck and Kansas City Assembly plants.