Automotive Experts Explore Smart Cities, Electrification and COVID’s Impact

The automotive industry has evolved within the last few decades and some experts have taken a look at how COVID-19 has taken a toll on the industry. Many have agreed that the virus has not only changed the way business is done, but it also gave a pig push into automotive innovations and technology.

The experts included Mike McCoy, CEO, founding partner and creative director of digital industrial startup company HackRod; Carla Bailo, president and CEO at the Center for Automotive Research; Nigel Francis, CEO and executive director of LIFT, a non-profit with a goal of driving the mobility sector toward the future of manufacturing and the session was moderated by John Waraniak, vice president of vehicle technologies for SEMA.

The panel discussion, Vehicle Technologies and Business Opportunities: What’s Now, What’s New and What’s Next, explored the idea of smart cities, new manufacturing technologies and more.

Smart Cities and COVID

Bailo said COVID-19 has caused a global and economic interruption that has put us in a “time of extreme uncertainty. According to Bailo, some of the resulting changes are needed to better form “smart cities,” which she says will be in our future. “With people working from home, a change in commercial real estate will spur conversations about the room cities have and what they can do with it,” said Bailo.

Bailo attributes the spurred assembly lines to the coronavirus and mentioned not only the automotive industry but the manufacturing industry as a whole will be impacted. She predicts that more manufacturing will become automated. “What a great time to be inventive and make things better,” she said. “Cities need to think about intelligent transportation and vehicles connecting to infrastructure and automated vehicle systems coming together to create a sweet spot for automated transit and self-driving vehicles.”

Bailo noted that a smart city includes one app that gives people access to any type of mobility solution, which makes traveling and getting around the city easier. In the U.S., Bailo mentioned that electric vehicles make up less than 5% of cars sold year over year; however, she said that is bound to change.

Industry 5.0

According to McCoy, the fifth industrial revolution will focus on the cooperation between man and machine as human intelligence works with cognitive computing. From this process, he says workers will be “upskilled” to provide value-added tasks in production, leading to mass customization and personalization for customers.

“We all burn fuel for fun. We’re hotrodders and gas has become such a dirty word,” said McCoy. “So, what if we can take connected overall systems and intelligent engineering and upcycle our supply and power sources – wheels, tires, motors. When you start to look at what can be created with advanced manufacturing on top of it, it’s going to solve that small- to medium-size problem of cost.”

Francis reviewed some of the technologies that could be used to transition into Industry 5.0, which include material engineering; applications of additive, metamorphic and smart manufacturing; advanced alloy and process development; and multi-material joining.

“If anyone thinks the pace of change isn’t accelerating, I strongly suggest you widen the group of people you talk to,” said Francis, referring to the Industry 5.0 technologies his organization is tasked with testing and implementing. “There’s a tsunami of change going on in manufacturing. It’s here and now. I would rather be in front of a tsunami than in middle or behind.”

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