An Informa Tech Automotive Group Analyst, Drew Winter follows how vehicle cockpits are evolving in the era of electrification, connectivity, and autonomy. He uses industry surveys and in-depth interviews to create data-driven insights, reports and special events.
Winter is also recognized as the host of “Automotive Inspire”, a series featuring fascinating people that remind everyone how cool it is to be working in the automotive industry. For the month of April, we’re reversing roles and putting Winter in the hotseat to learn about his background covering automotive and where he sees the industry heading in the coming years.
How long have you worked in the automotive industry?
I earned my first paychecks in the industry working summers in an automotive supplier plant making transmission parts when I was in college. I graduated with a journalism degree and started covering the auto industry as a journalist in 1984.
How did you first get into the automotive tech industry?
I grew up in the Detroit area and my dad was an executive at a major automotive supplier. He would bring home awesome test cars home from work filled with all sorts of testing equipment and then he’d explain what they were testing. He was an engineer and an inventor who loved new technology and it all rubbed off on me. In the 1980s there were an amazing number of auto industry trade magazines published in the Detroit area about technology and manufacturing. A lot of journalism majors back then wanted to work for newspapers and cover politics, but I started at one that specialized in new automotive materials technologies. I then moved to a major industry trade magazine called Wards AutoWorld and started traveling the world writing about all sorts of automotive-related technologies. Robots, automation and new materials were very big back then, as they are now. I eventually became editor-in-chief of the magazine and then started developing new ways to inform people such as specialized conferences and research related to vehicle interiors and user experience.
What are some of the topic areas you focus on?
This year I’m focused on three key topics related to the cockpit of the future: sustainable interior materials, smart surfaces and the future of leather in vehicle interiors. There is a lot going on.
What have been the major developments you’ve followed for the past year?
During the past year I focused a lot on separating reality from hype regarding what future cockpits will look like. I used a major global survey and trusted industry sources to explain that we aren’t going to see many personal vehicles without steering wheels before 2030. I also confirmed that cockpit seating and architectures will be limited by safety regulations, for the foreseeable future. That means fanciful autonomous car seating configurations won’t be seen until well after 2030. I also started following smart surfaces and how they might eliminate or reduce the number of knobs and buttons faster than we think and the future of screens in vehicle interiors.
How do you see those continuing to develop throughout 2022?
Small numbers of low-speed delivery vehicles and people movers without steering wheels are starting to appear now. There will be speculation about personal cars without steering wheels appearing but that’s not going to happen. However, there will be growing discussion about luxury vehicles with steering wheels that retract into the instrument panel in certain driving situations but they won’t appear later in the decade.
Where do you see automotive going in the next 5 years?
I see battery-electric vehicles growing faster than expected and self-driving vehicles growing much slower than expected.
I see automotive/mobility splitting into two pieces. On piece will focus resources on premium, high-profit vehicles and mobility of all kinds. The other piece will focus on low-cost mobility solutions. The market for affordably priced family vehicles will shrink.
The development and demand for sustainable automotive interior materials will skyrocket.
Vehicle cockpits are going to evolve into amazing spaces that are much more comfortable and enjoyable than ever before. All mobility is going to get better. Even sitting on a bus will become a user experience.
We sat down with Winter for a LinkedIn Live Interview on April 14th where Winter provided additional insights on the future of interiors, UX and safety features in the car. Watch the interview on-demand now >>
Connect with Drew Winter at our upcoming events, including:
Wards Intelligence Q2 Outlook Conference, May 19th, Online
AutoTech: Detroit and the WardsAuto Interiors & UX Conference, June 8 – 9, Novi, MI
AutoTech: Trends, April, Online