November 2020

In September, President Xi Jinping of China announced that his country was to commit to being carbon neutral by 2060.

It was quite an announcement and will presumably mean that China will drastically cut its reliance on power derived from coal and other fossil fuels and radically increase its use of renewable energy and nuclear power.

China was not the only country to make such a pledge in recent weeks. In October, Japan followed suit, committing to cutting its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

These two powerful nations join a growing number making such a net-zero emissions promise. Last year, the UK announced its intention to do so by 2050, while Germany, France, Spain, New Zealand, Chile, Sweden – the list goes on – have made similar announcements to be at the net-zero mark by 2050 or sooner.

While the automotive industry will be but a part of the solution to reaching the net-zero goal, these announcements surely mean that the seemingly inexorable advance toward vehicle electrification – be it through plug-in battery power or hydrogen fuel cell systems – is all but assured. And so it was interesting to see, in this atmosphere of emission-slashing excitement, that a vehicle that has often been pointed to as an example of the gas-guzzling extremes we are capable of reaching is to be electrified.

The new Hummer, announced by General Motors last month and due to go into production in late 2021, is now a completely different beast. In its electrified state – using GM’s new Ultium battery and drive system – the Hummer electric vehicle (EV) will still be a big beast but will be emissions-free while also offering supercar performance, decent range and, of course, no requirement to remortgage the house whenever you want to take it on the road and fuel up.

Apparently – and in the vernacular used today to describe something particularly newsworthy and popular – the news of the Hummer EV ‘broke the internet’. The reaction to the truck was overwhelmingly positive and initial demand saw reservation slots for the first model to be announced, the Edition 1, sell out in minutes.

That’s encouraging. If governments push for net zero emissions, then consumers will likely have no choice but to consider purchasing an electric vehicle. It’s good to see such excitement around them when they are launched.

ADAS ON THE MOVE

The new Hummer comes with advanced driver assistance features. In the Hummer’s case, these include something called Super Cruise, which enables automatic lane-changing and partly autonomous driving. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that allow for such features as Super Cruise are the norm in new vehicles and are composed of an array of sensors – such as lidar, radar and cameras – that collect information to be analysed and interpreted by the vehicle’s computers/ECUs. These ADAS systems make vehicles easier to drive and control and are now a critical part of a new vehicle’s construction. These complicated systems are relatively new to the auto industry and ensuring ADAS systems and their sensors are in perfect working order will, as the aging Australian vehicle fleet is replaced with newer models, become an integral part of the servicing, maintenance, and repair schedule.

For collision repair businesses, and those that are involved in modification work, this is especially true. The sensors are secured at various spots on a vehicle’s body and any change to that positioning – be it through accident damage, or replacement of parts such as bullbars and windscreens – means the sensors must be recalibrated.

It’s complex stuff, and everyone in the automotive repair sector should be thinking about what it means for them down the line. It is good to note that there are independent workshops being established that offer ADAS calibration services, and it is also an area that is being explored for inclusion in apprenticeship training.

GETTING MOBILE AND FLYING HIGH

ADAS systems can be viewed as a stepping-stone to autonomous vehicles. The safety features included in them – from autonomous emergency braking to automatic emergency steering to adaptive cruise control and the many others – will all be part of the set-up of self-driving cars once the final pieces of that puzzle are solved. However, while talk often revolves around self-driving vehicles, there is work going on in even more futuristic-sounding areas of the automotive industry.

At the end of October, Dutch company PAL-V, announced that its flying car (yes, flying car!) called Liberty had been approved for road use in Europe. The Liberty had, the company said, completed a ‘rigorous and extensive drive test program carried out on test tracks . . . ’, and had ‘passed the stringent European road admission tests that now allow it on the streets with an official licence plate’. There is, the company said, still plenty of testing to be done to enable it to secure certification with EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency), but that is expected in 2022.

The PAL-V news comes after the Toyota-backed flying car start-up Skydrive revealed in September that it had successfully tested its SD-03 prototype in a short flight in Japan. There are a number of other flying car projects also underway.

It shouldn’t be forgotten either that Uber and Hyundai announced they are to develop a PAV (Personal Air Vehicle) to be used in a future aerial ride-share network. and that companies from start-ups to global behemoths such as Airbus and Boeing are also progressing on the development of these types of flying taxis. Now, it is true that air taxis are different to flying cars in that they are designed only for flight, but the research in all these areas is not just about the individual technology.

While no one piece of tech will be the absolute game-changer on its own, all these developments – including electric trucks, cars, and small urban-oriented vehicles; self-driving vehicles; air taxis; flying cars; V2V communication and the many others being researched – are about mobility. The revolution comes in how all these elements will interact with each other to make moving around easier, simpler, cheaper, and safer.

Exciting stuff!

10 November 2020

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MTAiQ acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which we live and work - the Yugambeh and Yuggera people. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. In the spirit of reconciliation, we will continue to work with traditional custodians to support the health and wellbeing of community.