Safety, Emissions Regulations Drive OEM Tech Development

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【Summary】Right now, it’s safety and emissions regulations that are driving current technology development in the industry, according to one analysis from research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Original Timothy Healey    Aug 08, 2017 3:01 AM PT
Safety, Emissions Regulations Drive OEM Tech Development

When it comes to developing new products, companies must know the regulatory landscape.

Not only because they want their offerings to comply with regulations, but also because new regulations can create opportunities for new products.

When it comes to the automotive industry, a mixture of consumer demand and government regulations have always driven product development. And right now, it's safety and emissions regulations that are driving current technology development in the industry, according to one analysis from research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

"While the majority of features identified are currently available only across select vehicle models owing to high technology costs, they have significant potential through R&D, collaboration, and knowledge sharing to reach peak performance, adoption and penetration across multiple vehicle models," Frost & Sullivan mobility research analyst Ajay Natteri Mangadu said in a press release.

Examples cited include the growth of 10-speed automatic transmissions (one of which was co-developed by rivals Ford and General Motors), Honda's steer-by-wire system (presently seen in the Acura NSX), GM's acquisition of Cruise Automation, the influx of tech companies working on autonomous driving tech, supplier Bosch's new focus on electromobility and battery technology, Honda's partnership with Hitachi to work on motors for electric vehicles, gesture control, and more.

All of the technologies listed above either address safety (driver-assistance tech, self-driving car tech) or emissions (increased fuel economy, reduced weight, a shift towards alternative powertrains).

Key government regulations that are driving these technologies include fuel-economy mandates, such as those passed by the Obama administration, and safety regulations such as the upcoming requirement that all new vehicles have a backup camera.

Fuel-economy and safety regulations aren't new, of course – catalytic converters and airbags are examples of automotive parts that came into existence to address regulations. But they are hard parts, not software.

For example, the steer-by-wire system in the NSX will help boost fuel economy by saving weight. Depending on how self-driving tech develops, such as system could be part of future autonomous systems, as well.

Gesture control may also result in reduced weight, which improves fuel economy, as well as increased safety if it results in less driver distraction by making it easier for drivers to keep their eyes on the wheel when manipulating vehicle controls.

Of course, autonomous cars are being touted as both safer and more fuel efficient, so virtually all work involving self-driving cars can be said to fall under the auspices of improving both safety and fuel-economy/emissions – which, of course, are the two regulatory categories that are driving most automotive technological developments.

Whether self-driving cars reach market soon or not for a long time, it's safe to say that these regulations are also motivating the research behind what's seen in the cars of today, including both those with electric motors or traditional internal-combustion engines.

"In-car connectivity features are set to boom within the luxury vehicle market, while mass-market segment vehicles are expected to adopt features such as autonomous emergency braking to improve safety," Natteri said. "EV technologies will witness low adoption rates owing to high technology costs."

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