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Three Top Challenges Faced by Auto Industry Executives

Posted by IndustrySelect on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

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The automotive parts industry is a significant part of the national and global economy, historically contributing roughly 3.5% to the U.S. gross domestic product.

What many people don't appreciate is that every car that rolls off the assembly line is a finely tuned collection of parts from suppliers and manufacturers.

All of those parts must work in unison to ensure that the car performs as designed, but maintaining that level of quality in a rapidly changing world is a never-ending task.

More than 400,000 people in nearly 4,400 companies work tirelessly to make that happen.

In the face of new technology, changing demands of drivers and looming regulations, though, the industry faces many challenges.

Here, we will look at three major challenges the executives of those companies deal with every day.

Zero Emissions

Although the phrase has become commonplace and some states are creating laws requiring zero-emission vehicles, they do not yet exist in large quantities. The only ones that can be classified as zero-emission must run purely on solar or wind power.

Since those two energy sources are hard to synchronize with individual driver destinations, manufacturers instead aim for significantly reduced emissions during construction of a vehicle and in its operation.

Promising technologies include hybrids, pure electric and fuel-cell vehicles. All three types offer far lower levels of pollution than traditional internal-combustion vehicles.

Each will require new supply chains, considering that all new components will be created and installed.

At the Nissan Powertrain Assembly plant in Decherd, TN, a series of trials and tests had to be conducted before it could begin production of the eMotor. The synchronous electric motor is the power for the Nissan LEAF.

A contender for the zero-emission title is the Honda Clarity fuel-cell vehicle, which operates by converting compressed hydrogen stored at 10,000 psi into electricity.

Since the hydrogen is generated by solar power, the vehicle would technically and literally qualify as zero-emission. The only exhaust byproduct is water so clean, it's potable.

Creating the equivalent of a lightweight tank that could withstand the storage pressure of hydrogen while remaining intact during an accident was a challenge.

New material technologies and construction techniques were required to ensure safety.

Another issue is the fact that as the lightest and smallest element, hydrogen leaks very easily through any seam or port.

For that reason, composite materials and construction methods not traditionally used on automotive fuel tanks were used.

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Autonomous cars are the other big push in the automotive industry. Although "driverless" and "autonomous" are often interchanged, they have distinct meanings, driverless being a more-advanced level of autonomous.

There are five levels to autonomous driving, level 0 being no assistance whatsoever:

• Level 1 is basic assistance, such as cruise control.
• Levels 2 and 3 assume more control and have varying levels of awareness of the environment, but require the driver to intervene.
• Level 4 is near full autonomy with certain situational exceptions.
• Level 5 is autonomy equal to or better than human, truly driverless.

While significant progress has been made with driver-assist technology on production vehicles, full autonomy is still a ways off.

Part of the problem is finding the right combination of sensors and predictive artificial intelligence that can handle all driving conditions and situations without human intervention.

Many manufacturers are opting to skip Level 3 completely, since it requires humans to step in at the absolute worst time to prevent an accident.

Others are adopting a building block approach in which cameras force the driver to pay attention rather than read a book or take a nap, making Level 3 a viable stop on the road to full autonomy.

Safety

There were more than 40,000 fatal auto accidents in 2018, down 1% from the previous year, but still appallingly high.

To cut the numbers, manufacturers are constantly enhancing the structure and features that contribute to safety.

Short of full autonomy, driver-assist automation is the latest method for actively preventing collisions.

Systems such as lane-keeping, pedestrian automatic braking, blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control have found their way into vehicles available on showroom floors.

The challenge with those systems is improving the technology to a higher level of awareness and intelligence. In some situations, they can be confused by the microelectromechanical sensor (MEMS) location or control module logic.

In other cases, driver inattention resulted in collisions when system recommendations or limitations were not respected.

Companies such as Bosch and Denso, which together command more than 30% of the MEMS market, are focused on improving the sensitivity and intelligence of the systems.

When the sensors are fully mature, experts predict that by 2040 the accident rate will decrease by 80%.

Reaching Out to Companies in the Auto Industry

If you would like more information on companies in the industry, visit IndustrySelect to try out a free demo of our data services.

Subscribers can select up to 30 data points on any company to help identify or pre-qualify leads.

Company profiles also include the contact information for hard-to-find executive decision-makers.

 

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