A Glimpse Into the Automotive Crystal Ball

Automakers are in the planning stages for Vehicle Valets. These systems will keep drivers and passengers safe, informed, entertained and productive.

Willard Tu

January 20, 2021

3 Min Read
Inceptio Technology Level 3 truck (2)
China’s Inceptio Technology developing autonomous heavy-duty trucks.Inceptio Technology

The dawn of a new year brings so much promise and excitement. At the start of each year, I like to spend some time reflecting and predict what we may see or hear about over the next 365 days.

In automotive, new doors will open as we navigate the autonomous car possibilities. During 2021, the auto industry will continue to embrace new technologies and approaches to autonomous.

Here are some trends that I believe will make the biggest impact in 2021 and beyond:

AI will go beyond ADAS. A few examples include:

  • Self-Healing Vehicles – Vehicles will have prognostics, the ability to offer “self-diagnosis,” virtually eliminating the worrisome situation of being stranded when your vehicle breaks down.

  • Student Driver Mode – Just as AI can create feedback as to driving habits for fuel efficiency, an automated vehicle equipped with cameras, radar and lidar can provide a safe environment that can ensure accident avoidance for a new driver and can coach in real time, just as a parent would teach their children.

  • Vehicle Valet – Iron Man had “JARVIS.” Knight Rider had “KITT.” 2001: A Space Odyssey had “HAL 9000.” While these kinds of all-encompassing systems are a bit farther out, automakers already are planning for such Vehicle Valets.

These systems will keep drivers and passengers safe, informed, entertained and productive. Voice and gesture UI will intuitively understand commands, but these AI technologies are only in their infancy, and HW systems will need to adapt as they improve. OTA updates will maximize the systems’ longevity.

  • Augmented Reality – AR will aid in navigation, providing points of interest or alerts to safety issues, using VR projection to reveal what is behind pillar blindspots.

Autonomous trucking will pave the way for autonomous passenger vehicles

The trucking industry already is going autonomous, and we’ll see even more activity in this space in 2021. We will see long-haul trucking from depot to depot, highway-only driving on special corridors that are enhanced with special 5G-connected, land-based sensor arrays and emergency remote driver intervention (drone mode).

EV growth will transform American urban and rural planning

In many countries such as Japan, China and Germany, train stations are a hub for shopping and restaurants. EVs will necessitate the need for charging stations at hubs that will mirror these train stations, providing services to entertain consumers while they wait for their EV to recharge.

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Battery recycling will emerge as a business

The world needs approaches for dealing with battery disposal and recycling to alleviate future environmental impact.

Automotive OEMs finally unlock regular revenue streams and brand loyalty

Car companies have long aspired to use the personal-owned vehicle as a platform for recurring revenue. One example of this is the foray into satellite radio with XM and Sirius.

As automakers look to create upgradeable, high-performance central computing nodes in the vehicle, they will unlock the ability to sell features similar to the rise of app stores for mobile phones.



These new architectures are starting to be embraced, so be on the lookout for OEMs departing from the traditional, low-cost distributed ECU mindset and transition to a flexible adaptable platform that can support features yet to be designed.

Associated with this, OEMs will create brand loyalty by allowing you to transfer your in-vehicle apps purchased in one vehicle to a new vehicle as you pay your “subscription fees,” the same way you transfer apps today to your new mobile phone.

Without a doubt, the roaring ’20s will be a historical decade, and 2021 will be a major driver for automotive innovation.

Willard Tu (above) is senior director-automotive for Xilinx.

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