Besting the 'Pain Points' of All-Electric, Autonomous Vehicle Revolution

All-electric and autonomous vehicle experts at CES 2021 discussed the rapid adoption of new tech.
Donovan Alexander

The electrification of vehicles combined with the multiplying connections technology provides have led to the creation of a new automotive value chain, according to a live panel at CES 2021 Interesting Engineering (IE) attended.

However, the path to this new and exciting automotive world will be expensive. Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, there are clear and distinct challenges to bringing EV fully into the mainstream.

On the flip side of the automotive revolution, the reach of autonomous vehicles has brought us to the cusp of another shift in the world of transportation — encompassing a nexus of electric and AI-assisted mobility that a second CES 2021 panel found promising.


Besting 'pain points' for all-electric cars, autonomous vehicles

Led by the consulting powerhouse, Deloitte, representatives from Continental Automotive Systems Inc., Zero-Emission Transportation Association, and General Motors discussed the costs and hurdles of bringing electrified interconnected vehicles to market.

Regulators can play a vital role in accelerating the mass adoption of electric vehicles — not only in addressing safety and range concerns, but also by remedying the sheer lack of understanding surrounding EVs in the public eye.

This often keeps the average consumer from trading in their conventional combustion engine for a more ecologically-sustainable alternative — in the form of an all-electric vehicle.

All-electric cars will become one of the 'great successes'

As the public's familiarity with EVs grows, consumers will have a wider range of brands from which to choose. GM aims to have 30 new models during or before 2025.

"The EV will be one of the success stories of American manufacturing," said Executive Director Joe Britton Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA), during the CES 2021 spotlight session.

'Right' people with 'right' software can assure protection of consumer data

Until the success story is history, all-electric vehicle manufacturers will have to work to maintain and improve on safety. And they are. High-performance computing systems have opened the doors to more "aware" vehicles.

Additionally, 5G connectivity will help all-electric vehicles interact with the surrounding environment including other vehicles, and of course, the drivers. This, in turn, will keep both pedestrians and drivers safe.

Crucial for the future of EVs is connectivity which involves cars using data to drive and create driver and passenger experience but the essential software needed to optimize this multi-channel operation calls for strategic partnerships between interested corporate parties, according to the CES 2021 panel.

In other words, only the right people with the right software can adequately ensure the prioritization and protection of consumer data.

Lowering the EV learning curve

However, there are some "pain points" for consumers, when it comes to buying EVs. Despite the hastening proliferation of charging stations across the U.S. and Europe, there remain anxieties surrounding range. Even the idea of not pulling up to a gas station and smelling liquid fuel is a new concept for many consumers as the pivot to EV represents a substantial lifestyle change.

Consumers are also unsure where exactly they should go to swap their old gasoline car for a novel all-electric one. And even if all of these anxieties are calmed and despite the meteoric rise in popularity for EVs like Tesla's affordability is still a real barrier in the minds of many.

Naturally, the way to overcome these challenges is to lower the learning curve to understanding the total cost of owning an EV, finding ways to improve affordability, and encouraging regulators to provide more incentives for owning an all-electric vehicle.

Autonomous cars to enhance networks for major cities

If the all-electric revolution is taking seed throughout the automotive industry, the development of autonomy in public transit and self-driving cars is rapidly accelerating from the planning to implementation stages throughout the U.S.

Representatives from Virgin Hyperloop, Caterpillar, and Aurora gathered to discuss the future of transportation as part of another CES 2021 event — which Interesting Engineering also attended.

Autonomy will play a crucial role in the future of the Virgin Hyperloop which aims to run autonomous networks in major cities to transport people, cargo, and goods.

Virgin Hyperloop
The Hyperloop system could transport 'thousands and thousands of people at a time.' Source: Sarah Lawson / Virgin Hyperloop

Virgin aims to scale-up Hyperloop for global ecosystem

Autonomy provides a number of advantages to infrastructural transformation namely, it will make the Virgin Hyperloop more competitive with mass transit, reducing several time-costing factors, including "human latency."

 While the Hyperloop will never be able to ferry more than 25 people per trip, the speed of motion paired with the efficient synchrony of autonomy could transport "thousands and thousands of people at a time," according to the CES 2021 panel.

Virgin envisions scaling this system up to a global ecosystem.

Caterpillar Truck Line
Caterpillar showcased its incredible success with autonomous mining trucks. Source: Caterpillar

Caterpillar drones improve safety, mining efficiency

The industrial vehicle company Caterpillar has invested 30 years in autonomy. During the CES 2021 mega-event, the company showcased autonomous mega-trucks as tall as a two-story house. These colossal mining trucks both expedite existing work projects and provide a higher quality of safety for on-site workers reducing and in many cases eliminating the need for operators to endure the long hours of operating, say, a digger at odd angles, shaking around for a long day shift.

Autonomous delivery is more important now than ever. Source: Einride Pod

Autonomous delivery more relevant than ever

The CES panel pointed to how the COVID-19 crisis has affected people's attitudes in the industry, making them more comfortable with autonomous tech amid the pandemic. This could be a result of the sense of comfort provided by any sign of infrastructural support even if it comes from machines.

Regardless, this development confirmed how autonomy is a growing, not a dying trend in technology. With nearly everyone spending most of their time at home, the autonomous delivery of goods is more important than ever.

Ivan Yeaung
COVID-19 accelerated the development and adoption of EVs and autonomous cars. Source: Ivan Yeung / Unsplash

COVID-19 challenges accelerated development, adoption of EVs, autonomous cars

Additionally, the unique challenges of a socially-distanced consumer population have spurred the development and adoption of technologies that otherwise might have taken years to enter the market.

It will take an immense cross-industry effort to "offset" the job loss as autonomy becomes more widely adopted. "It needs to be a thoughtful transition," said the Aurora representative at the CES panel. As part of a transportation infrastructure already adapting to all-electric vehicles, we will likely see EVs and autonomous cars and related technology unfold much faster than we thought it could, despite the pandemic.

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