And its impact
A motor car is the second most expensive purchase – after a home that any person would make in his or her lifetime. As an industry it is worth almost one trillion dollars globally, cities and their economies rose or fell based on the car industry. Toyota has an entire city called Toyota city that includes production plants as well as its suppliers all subscribing to the just in time building technique, to cut down on inventory, the parts are supplied only minutes before they are to be incorporated into the vehicle.
Globally in 2015 over 73 million new vehicles were registered, of those 17 million are registered in the US alone, and while the biggest market in the world in China where over 20 million vehicles were registered in 2015. Germany is the largest market in Europe with almost 3.2 million, (Europe as a whole was 14.2 million), while 3 million were registered in Japan and just over 2 million vehicles were registered in India.
Experts are of the view that the car industry is currently at an inflection point and about to undergo a rapid change, similar to others, such as communications industry. There are three main drivers that will influence this namely
-i) The rapid improvement of electric powered vehicles,
- ii) The introduction of self-driving cars and iii) the change from ownership to rental of vehicles.
All these will have their own implications in changing the relationship between humans and cars.
Currently most cars are petrol or diesel driven, although externally similar internally they are very different, with over 70 percent of an electric vehicles components different than its Internal Combustion (IC) counterpart. The IC engine has many more moving parts, carburetors that mix the fuel with air, cylinders where the fuel is ignited, cooling system to prevent the engine from overheating, exhaust system that evacuate the burnt air, oil pump and lubricating system, generator for the electrical system, catalytic convertors for pollution control etc.
On the other hand the electric car has four basic power components, an electric motor, charger, batteries and the plc control mechanism. The nature of electric motors is that they have a high torque and therefore such vehicles can accelerate rapidly and switched off completely when the car is stationary. But importantly electric vehicle maintenance requirements (due to less moving parts) are less and accordingly maintenance costs are lower. Therefore once the cumbersome issue of a reliable battery has been solved electric cars will be cheaper than internal combustion cars to operate, but more importantly are easier to control remotely and hence the future self-driven cars.
Many companies including Google and others have been experimenting with self-drive cars these are vehicles that can move around without any drivers but based on an ability for direction finding based on satellite navigation as well as 360 degree sensors that can sense and respond to any moving object including the ability to distinguish between windblown plastic bags, cyclists or even birds in flight. The sensors with the help of the on board computer can help identify objects and ensure that the car follows certain lanes avoiding any collision even if the objects move rapidly in its path. To date the Google self-drive cars have driven over two million miles with only one reported accident.
The idea that a vehicle will take you to wherever you wish at a press of a button or controlled by a telephone will mean that most people will not own a car but rather only rent it on a need basis. So car if rented and not driven by the owner then so long as it is safe and reliable most people will purchase expensive and or high performance vehicles but rather comfortable utilitarian ones, where whole life costs (ownership and operating) will trump the bling factor.
Another major impact this will have is on planning of cities. Currently almost forty percent of a city space is taken up by area required for roads and parking, in some cities such as Los Angeles this is as high as fifty percent. However if cars are only for pick and drop then the demand for parking will not be there, similarly the road widths may be reduced due to higher utilisation and increased occupancy due to shared rides. The world is changing rapidly, so if I were you I would not rush to buy the new BMW just yet as its price may not be what you think ten years from today.