Six Auto Tech Trends to Watch Next Year

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【Summary】Cars that can talk to each other is the first item on the list. This technology, also known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, has been in development for some time, but Cadillac will actually bring it to market in 2017.

Original   Timothy Healey  ·  Dec 18, 2016 10:40 AM PT

The new year is almost here, and USA Today and the Detroit Free Press have some recommendations on what tech trends to watch for across the automotive industry in 2017.

Cars that can talk to each other is the first item on the list. This technology, also known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, has been in development for some time, but Cadillac will actually bring it to market in 2017. The brand's system will allow cars to wirelessly share with each other information on driving conditions such as speed, weather, and road conditions.

"It increases drivers' awareness of what's beyond their line of sight," Sam Abuelsamid, Navigant Research senior analyst, told the Detroit Free Press.

V2V communication will help cars and trucks "platoon," or drive close together at higher speeds with less risk of accidents or traffic jams.

Diesel may be welcomed back with open arms in the new year, thanks to offerings from Chevrolet and Mazda. Diesel's reputation was tarnished with the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, and with Volkswagen being the main pusher of diesels in recent years, that was a double-whammy for oil-burners. But with popular, affordable cars, like the Chevrolet Cruze and Mazda CX-5 offering diesel power, the market may be willing to give diesel another shot.

"We don't know what consumer demand for diesels [is], because the largest traditional provider can't sell them," said IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley.

Autonomous-driving tech is talked about so much these days that it may be tiring for some to hear about, but another sign of its imminent arrival comes from Fiat Chrysler, which is working on building 100 self-driving Pacifica hybrids. The minivans won't be sold to the public, but Waymo will use them to conduct further testing of self-driving cars. Waymo chose a minivan because it could better accommodate the necessary sensors.

On the electric vehicle front, the big news is that the Chevrolet Bolt will finally reach commercial markets, and the Tesla Model 3 might join it. Both are "affordable" EVs with longer ranges, compared to what's been available, and cost less than $40,000. With longer ranges that are friendlier to real-world driving, these vehicles will compete not just with EVs, but also with gas-powered cars of similar size, shape, and price point.

"Electric cars are getting better thanks to more energy-dense batteries," said Bill Visnic, Society of Automotive Engineers editorial director. That means more range, and more interest from consumers.

Electric power isn't just limited to the motor – while current non-hybrid/non-electric vehicles use 12-volt electrical systems, 48-volt systems are on the horizon, and they will enable a lot more comfort, convenience, and safety systems.

Finally, electrifying axles may be a way to squeeze more fuel economy (and more power) out of some gas-powered vehicles. Some vehicles, like the BMW i8, already offer electrified axles. Attaching an electric motor to an axle or at the wheels can improve fuel economy, power, and handling in poor weather.

"It's a rare fusion of technologies that can simultaneously offer engineering benefits and give buyers some of today's most desirable features," SAE editorial director Visnic said.



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