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Automotive industry professionals gathered last month for the virtual SEMA 360 event to discuss upcoming trends and advancements in vehicle technology. 

Carla Bailo, president and CEO of the Center for Automotive Research, offered key takeaways on what to expect in the coming years and how the industry has shifted since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The presentation, “Vehicle Technology and Business Opportunities,” touched on micro-mobility, smart cities, the rising interest in electric vehicles, and more.

SEMA’s vice president of vehicle technology and moderator of the event, John Waraniak, kicked off the presentation saying, “Don’t let it become a capability crisis—prepare for the future.”

 

  1. Home Delivery

With many people working from home and sheltering in place, Bailo said the pandemic has caused an accelerated adoption of home delivery services across the country. Families that used to peruse the aisles of their grocery store can now have all of their favorite snacks and meals dropped at their doorstep, which Bailo said she doesn’t see changing any time soon because people have grown accustomed to it. 

 

  1. Electrification 

The trend is no secret to industry observers.

“We have seen a huge uptick in electric vehicles,” said Bailo. 

While the sales of electric vehicles seems to be small, she said they are growing each year. In fact, comparing 2019 and COVID-19-stricken 2020, electric vehicle sales dropped less than any other vehicle segment in the market. 

The pandemic also brought about new opportunities for electrified vehicles to deliver goods and services. 

“We are going to see more and more EVs being used in the delivery market,” said Bailo, predicting that automakers and tech companies alike will begin to deploy fleets of electric vehicles. 

“If you get electric vehicles out in fleet services where there is less downtime, you can then manage charging levels properly,” she said. 

 

  1. Transit

When it comes to mass transit, Bailo said “it is not going away, nor should it, but how it looks will change.” 

In the coming months and years, mass transit vehicles will have enhanced cleaning measures, reduced capacities, social distancing, and compulsory masks, said Bailo. 

Micro-mobility, like electric scooters, have also started to rebound, said Bailo, in part due to the implementations of slow streets and enforced social distancing.  

“If I have my wish,” she said, “We’re going to see cities keep a lot of the implementations they put in place.”
 

  1. Smart Cities

Bailo also encouraged the transition to “smart cities.” 

“A smart city is one that is liveable, workable, and sustainable, but continues to grow with technology,” she said. 

What sets a smart city apart from traditional cities is its ability to respond to changing environments and landscapes. Take your vehicle for example, said Bailo: “95 percent of the time, you’re not using the vehicle.” But when it isn’t being used, where is it being stored? In the garage or along the street taking up an entire bike lane?

“We are not using vehicles and vehicle space efficiently,” said Bailo. “We need to think of new ways of doing things.” 

Along the same thread, Bailo also emphasized the need for more diverse solutions depending on the geographic location, climate, and demographics of the city. 

“One solution in one city is not going to work in another,” she said. 

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