The past few years have seen the humble car go through extraordinary technological evolution. Today, they are as much computers and infotainment-systems-on-wheels as they are modes of transportation we use to get from A to B.
Energising this transformation is computing power, and amongst the many lessons we have learned over the past 15 months, it is that computers and computer chips – as well as smartphones and video games consoles – are essential items.
COVID-19 lockdowns fuelled sales of these devices as people across the globe had to work from home (difficult to do without a computer and the ability to hold those Zoom meetings), keep in touch with the outside world and get instant access to news and health alerts (smartphones are extremely useful for that), and find a way to keep the kids occupied while schools were closed and excursions prohibited (video games consoles were clearly a popular choice to accomplish that – and just for the kids, you understand, not for their dads!).
The automotive industry, seeing a dip in demand for their cars as COVID-19 struck at the start of 2020, made the move, quite understandably, to cut its orders for computer chips, and chipmakers shifted their production lines to meet the growing demand from those other device sectors. Towards the end of the year, however, demand for cars was back, and in a big way, and suddenly carmakers found themselves without the chips to build the cars to meet that demand. The chipmakers, meanwhile, were busy fulfilling commitments to the other sectors.
Such is the lead-in time for computer chip orders to be fulfilled that it will reportedly take quite a while for everything to get back to normal and, in the meantime, the shortage has had a significant effect on the auto industry with manufacturers – Hyundai, GM, and Stellantis among them – slowing down or pausing vehicle production at some facilities as they wait on chip supply to catch up.
This does feel like a major stumble by vehicle manufacturers – computer chips are as important to their products now as steel or rubber – and while 2020 has taught us a lot, learning to keep a close eye on your supply chain and being ready for wild market fluctuations in this very high-tech world has been a big, and painful, lesson.
VOLKSWAGEN OR VOLTSWAGEN?
I am sure many of you will have read the reports from a few days ago confirming Volkswagen in the U.S. was set to change its name to Voltswagen – a reflection, the company claimed in a statement on its website, of its commitment to electric vehicle technology and ‘future-forward investment in e-mobility’.
Within a day or two, this brand name announcement was questioned and reported by media outlets to be an early April Fool’s Day gag – a marketing exercise apparently arranged to push the launch of Volkswagen’s ID.4 in the U.S. market.
The clever play on the company’s name certainly made plenty of headlines and, as a marketing exercise, I guess that would make it a success.
Car manufacturers do sometimes put out April Fool’s Day media releases, (it is wise to question everything they say when it gets close to the big day), but the fact that this one really caught on and was, frankly, something that sounded vaguely plausible, demonstrates how much effort is being put into the EV cause. And that commitment is no joke.
A NOTE ON ADAS TRAINING
Last month, MTA Queensland, in partnership with ADAS Solutions Australia, delivered the first of its courses focusing on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
That first course was ADAS Awareness – a course aimed at business owners, estimators, assessors, and others who need to understand what ADAS is, need to know its fundamentals, and may have a workplace requirement to identify ADAS components.
The course was exceptionally well received by those who participated, and that feedback does indicate how important it is that MTA Queensland offer such training options. The other ADAS courses available are the ADAS Vehicle Glass course and the two-day ADAS Technician course, which offers a comprehensive, hands-on, deep dive into the technology, calibration, and diagnostics.
I cannot state too strongly how important it is that the industry come to grips with ADAS. The safety features the system enables through sensors such as Lidar and Radar are now common on all new vehicles and just about every sector of the automotive industry – from auto glass to smash repair, from mechanical to tyre fitting and wheel alignments – must understand how important it is that their work include the correct calibration of these sensors. Their accuracy and, by extension, the safe working of the vehicle, is too important to ignore.
MTA Queensland, as the peak industry body for the automotive industry, aims to provide information, advice, and training opportunities on new technologies that impact automotive businesses. ADAS is a big one, and our three ADAS courses offer a great opportunity to be engaged and upskill in this important area.
You can find out more about the courses by clicking HERE.