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AutoTrends Weekly

News Highlights 
  • Virtual reality is speeding up vehicle design (Professional Engineering, Aug. 3)

  • MOT, MOHURD jointly release new rules on shared mobility and encourage 'vehicle leasing' (The Beijing news, Aug. 8)

  • 5 ways technology is affecting the sharing economy (Information-age.com, Aug. 4)

  • Daimler invests in Volocopter flying car company (Motor Authority, Aug. 3)

  • China's used cars put a dent in global industry (Financial Times, Aug. 4)

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Automotive VR/AR

The virtual reality of future car shopping

  • While consumers have been using the Internet to research car purchases for as long as there has been an Internet, many now are looking to buy cars online.

  • Virtual reality, video, Internet and other technologies can show buyers the virtue of buying a particular car – with knowledgeable salespeople on the other side of the connection who can guide buyers on the most important features and show how to use them.

  • That's the idea behind the 3D Car Configurator, being developed by IBM and Zerolight.

  • According to a study by consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, the 3D Car Configurator now exists to overcome automotive retail barriers and transform automotive retail as the world knows it today.

  • With the system, car buyers can have a retail experience by zooming in on minute details such as the stitching, by opening the doors and trunk, turning on and hearing the engine and taking a virtual test drive in a setting of their choice. (Ward's Auto, Aug. 3)

Genesis offers augmented reality manual as an app

  • Hyundai Motor America's Genesis premium brand is now offering an augmented reality manual (Genesis Virtual Guide) for the 2017 G80 and G90 as a free download on App Store and Google Play.

  • "Genesis Virtual Guide is a modern take on the traditional owner's manual, allowing consumers to use their smartphone or tablet to get how-to information for repairs, maintenance and vehicle features. Using 2D and 3D tracking technology, the guide is able to deliver in-depth levels of information related to specific parts of vehicles. The manual will be compatible with 2018 models later this year," the automaker said.

  • The brand used quality and consumer survey results to determine the top features to incorporate into the guide. The app contains a number of informational guides including: 135 how-to videos and 25 3D overlay images that appear once users scan areas of their vehicle, like the engine bay. 

  • Users launch the guide app on their device and select their vehicle. They can next select engine, interior, exterior, instrument cluster or videos from the menu. (just-auto.com, Aug. 7)

Virtual reality is speeding up vehicle design

  • Gravity Sketch, a professional grade 3D design tool, enables 3D models to be presented and edited in real time, and at scale. Creative sketches and complex visualizations can be plugged into existing CAD software.

  • "The industry is now facing a revolution thanks to VR," said Gravity Sketch co-founder Oluwaseyi Sosanya. "2D artists, 3D technicians, and clay modelers will no longer be separated in an impractical workflow. Gravity Sketch's professional capabilities - distinct from the artistic aims of other VR products - is democratizing design, bringing together these disciplines under an efficient workflow that can be reduced by 30% when compared to current processes."

  • The product has been in beta testing since Jan., and has been used by 500 vehicle and industrial designers.

  • Sosanya said the technology could save "millions of pounds" across industries such as architecture, design, and automotive. (Professional Engineering, Aug. 3)

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Urban Transportation

MOT, MOHURD jointly release new rules on shared mobility and encourage 'vehicle leasing'

  • China's Ministry of Transport (MOT) and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) recently begun to solicit public opinions on the guidelines on promoting the healthy development of the auto leasing industry (exposure draft). 

  • The exposure draft stipulates that vehicles for leasing must first undergo safety checks and environmental protection inspections, and be registered with their local public security bureau before being put into operation. Meanwhile, those who have not completed real-name registration should not be allowed to rent a car. 

  • Based on the terms of the exposure draft, the MOT encourages companies to provide time-based car rental services, but requires reasonable allocations of vehicles based on urban road resources and parking conditions. (The Beijing news, Aug. 8)

Chinese timeshare rental car market may have over 300,000 vehicles by 2020

  • The 2017 Future Mobility Forum was recently held in Shanghai, with the participation of a large number of industry experts coming together to discuss the future of China's mobility industry. The forum was aimed at promoting industrial cooperation and mobility model innovation.

  • The Chinese timeshare rental car industry has taken great strides in recent years thanks to the government's favorable policies and the development of the country's electric vehicles and mobile Internet. Tongji University associate professor Wu Xiaoyuan believes that the Chinese timeshare rental car industry is leading global car-sharing trends. 

  • The majority of experts are bullish about the Chinese timeshare car rental market and predict that the niche market will have more than 300,000 vehicles by 2020. (Gasgoo, Aug. 4)

Toyota to roll out electric-car sharing in Thailand

  • Toyota Motor will launch an electric-vehicle sharing service in Thailand, offering 30 cars at a university by mid-2018 in its first such venture in an emerging economy.

  • The service launches this Dec. on the Chulalongkorn University campus here under a partnership announced Thursday. It will start out with 10 ultracompact single-seaters bookable via smartphone. The cars will cost 30 baht (90 cents) for the first 20 minutes.

  • The Japanese automaker and the university will study the effects on curbing traffic congestion and air pollution, both serious problems for emerging countries. (Nikkei Asian Review, Aug. 3)

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Sharing Economy

5 ways technology is affecting the sharing economy 

  • The sharing economy has been significantly boosted by technology. It is allowing millions of people to create and innovate, discovering new customers and new ways of working in the process.

  • But how does it manifest itself? Here are five ways tech is affecting the sharing economy.

  • First, it is shaking things up; second, it is changing our day-to-day lives – for the better; third, it is encouraging businesses to go patent-free; fourth, it means reputation is made - or broken - online; last, it is changing the way we work.

  • The sharing economy has the potential to completely overhaul the way businesses operate and the way employees work. In turn, it is creating a whole new way of working that is finely attuned to the rapid pace of technological change we see today. (Information-age.com, Aug. 4)

The sharing economy is booming with the UK leading the way in Europe

  • Peer-to-peer transactions generated by the UK’s five most prominent sharing economy sectors are expected to grow by 60% – or £8 billion – this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

  • By 2025, total transactions in the UK sharing economy could peak at £140bn, an increase from £13 billion in 2016.

  • Rob Vaughan, economist at PwC, comments: "Innovation will remain crucial to success in the sharing economy. The success of new services will be an acid test of whether sharing economy platforms can eventually become the established leaders of their markets, or will forever be known as the 'disruptors.'"

  • According to research by OnBuy.com, at least 275 sharing platforms have been founded in Europe, facilitating €28 billion worth of transactions over the past few years. (Real Business, Aug. 4)

4

Automotive Intelligence


Daimler invests in Volocopter flying car company

  • It seems Daimler wants a piece of the flying car market as it has sunk a $30 million investment into the German start-up Volocopter. Volocopter's ultimate goal is to develop a battery-electric flying taxi that could revolutionize transport.

  • The goal is far from being realized, but Daimler and other companies have supplied fresh cash, according to a report from Reuters. Among a crowded field of start-up companies, Volocopter has made progress, however. It unveiled the E-Volo 2X 18-rotor VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) multicopter earlier this year in production form. The company hopes to start producing the multicopter as soon as next year.

  • The multicopter is capable of traveling up to 17 miles at speeds of 43 mph, but the company says it can go 27 miles with an optimal speed of 31 mph. While the company promises self-flying capabilities, there's still a traditional joystick and manual controls to pilot the multicopter as well. (Motor Authority, Aug. 3)

Nissan adds rear-seat reminder tech to 2018 Pathfinder

  • Nissan said it is installing software aimed at notifying parents to check the rear seat before walking away from a parked vehicle, part of a growing effort by automakers to help tackle the problem of children dying of heat stroke in vehicles.

  • In a recent statement, Nissan said it will be putting its new "Rear Door Alert" (RDA) technology inside the three-row 2018 Pathfinder SUV this Sept.

  • Nissan's system detects if a rear door was opened or closed before the car was started, but then wasn't re-opened again after the vehicle was put in park and turned off, the system notifies the operator with display notifications in the instrument panel of the car. If the driver fails to open the rear door, the car will then emit subtle but distinctive chirps of the car horn.

  • The idea came from Nissan engineers Elsa Foley and Marlene Mendoza who wanted to find a way to remind drivers to check the backseat before leaving the vehicle. (Automotive News, Aug. 2)

Autonomous cars race narrows on doubts about clear path to profit

  • BMW and Daimler, the world's top premium carmakers, have announced alliances with suppliers, talking up the virtues of having a bigger pool of engineers to develop a self-driving car.

  • But another motive behind these deals, executives and industry experts told Reuters, is a concern that robocars may not live up to the profit expectations that drove an initial investment rush.

  • Carmakers are increasingly looking to forego outright ownership of future autonomous driving systems in favor of spreading the investment burden and risk.

  • The trend represents a clear shift in strategy from little more than a year ago when most automakers were pursuing standalone strategies focused on tackling the engineering challenge of developing a self-driving car, rather than on the business case. (Reuters, Aug. 8)

5

NEV Industry

Nissan and NEC sell rechargeable electric battery business

  • Nissan and NEC have agreed to sell their rechargeable electric battery joint venture - Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC) - to Chinese private equity firm GSR Capital, providing both companies with an exit from an industry that is capital-intensive.

  • The transaction will be implemented by Nissan first taking full control of AESC, as well as its wholly-owned battery electrode subsidiary NEC Energy Devices (NECED). The deal is expected to be completed by Dec. this year, pending necessary approvals.

  • No financial terms were provided by Nissan, but it was reported in May the price tag for the stake might be around $1 billion.

  • China is increasingly focusing on the global battery market amid rising demand for electric cars.

  • The move by a mass producer would mark a significant shift for Toyota, which has been a proponent of hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

  • Rising demand for electric vehicles has been driving the global battery market. (Financial Times, Aug. 8)

Toyota plans electric vehicle mass production in China in 2019

  • Toyota Motor is set to start mass-producing electric vehicles (EVs) as early as 2019, shifting a strategy focused on gas-electric hybrid cars.

  • The move comes as countries around the world are tightening environmental regulations on automobiles.

  • Beijing is to oblige automakers to sell a certain percentage of electric vehicles and other types of eco-friendly car under a system that will be introduced in 2018 at the earliest.

  • As hybrid cars use gasoline to run, they will not be deemed as an eco-friendly car, forcing Toyota to devise countermeasures to deal with the new regulation.

  • Toyota plans to develop the Chinese mass-production model based on its SUV C-HR. Batteries and other core components will be procured from local suppliers.

  • While the Chinese model will be sold exclusively in the country, Toyota also plans to release another type of mass-production EV around 2020. (The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 8)

Even big oil foresees an explosion of electric-vehicle sales

  • EVs will comprise the majority of the new-vehicle market by 2040 - 54%, versus 35% as it previously forecast, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). It expects EVs will comprise one-third of the total vehicles in service by 2040, as internal-combustion vehicles are retired and replaced with electrics.

  • Now, even Big Oil believes it is seeing a faster rise for EVs than previously forecast. For example, Exxon Mobil had been anticipating 64.8 million EVs globally, but it has now raised that estimate to 100 million. 

  • Despite at least one thought-provoking economic study suggesting even faster growth of EVs if autonomous-vehicle technology moves rapidly, the vast majority of experts expect that vehicles with internal combustion engines will comprise the majority of sales for 20 years or more.

  • For awhile yet, through 2025, the number of plug-in hybrids will surge. But after that, Bloomberg suggests, low-cost, high energy-density batteries will tilt the market away from cars that can use fossil fuels. (Car and Driver, Aug. 4)

6

Used Car Market

China’s used cars put a dent in global industry

  • China’s car market has been key to the recovery in global auto sales growth since 2009. But now major change is coming to the market from two directions.

  • The first sign of change is the fact that H1 sales rose just 2.7% this year. This is the lowest increase since 2005, and compares with an 11% rise last year. Official forecasts for full-year growth have also been revised down to 1-4%. A further sign of the slowdown is the rise in price discounting.

  • The second change may be even more important from a longer-term perspective. It seems likely that China’s used car market is poised for major growth. The background to this unusual situation is that China’s new car sales were relatively small until the government’s stimulus program began in 2009. 

  • Guazi.com, like BMW and others, have seen that the used car market offers very favorable prospects for growth prospect. Local governments have also played their part under pressure from central government.

  • Strong growth rates in used car market and the slowdown in new car sales suggest China’s auto market may have reached a tipping point. (Financial Times, Aug. 4)