“It used to be better” – such a message can often be found both in philistine conversations about cars, and in the dialogues and materials of professional colleagues. Today, the car is still pretty much the same as it was 10 years ago, except that some of the nostrils glow. The steering wheel and pedals are in place, 500 horsepower is still a lot, and the roads are still laid on the ground, not in the air.
But technological progress and global processes in society are changing both the car itself as a product and the way it is used. In this article, we will recall and summarize the trends that made cars the way they became by the end of the “tenths” of the 21st century, and in the next we will look at the economic and social trends in the automotive industry. If you have something to add – welcome to the discussion in the comments!
Self-driving cars have not yet appeared
We constantly read the news that autonomous vehicles plow the expanses of Nevada, California and even closed industrial areas in Russia. And also about the fact that another Tesla made another accident while the driver was mastering the functionality of the built-in “autopilot”. But there is no such thing as going to a car dealership and buying a car without a steering wheel and pedals, and will not be for quite a long time.
Developers of autonomous driving systems faced three types of obstacles. The most obvious layer of difficulties is technological. Radars-lidars-algorithms are becoming more perfect, but so far neither optics, nor artificial intelligence, much less their bunch, have been brought to the level to replace a person behind the wheel in all situations. The second problem is legal. No country has yet allowed the full movement of cars driven exclusively by autopilot.
And finally, the third problem is social. Recent surveys have shown that as the number of incidents increases, people are becoming more wary of the idea of using unmanned vehicles. Globally, everyone is in favor, but so far few people are ready to conduct experiments on themselves. According to a study by Deloitte, in all leading markets (except China, where consumers do not worry about anything), every second respondent is not confident in the safety of self-driving technologies.
“Two liters turbo” as a universal motor formula
At the beginning of the outgoing decade, automakers massively built micromotors with microturbines (1-1.2 liters for the compact and golf class), but by the middle of it, the downsizing trend gave way to the so-called right sizing. The new generation engines have grown back in size, with 1.6 turbos becoming the standard for the compact class and 2.0 turbos for larger cars. Both petrol and diesel. Moreover, two-liter engines are now installed on everything up to full-size crossovers like the Volvo XC90, Mercedes-Benz GLE or Volkswagen Teramont.
Interestingly, right sizing is a double-edged sword. After all, the reason for the rejection of ultra-small volumes was the low reliability of units operating at the limit, as well as the desire for unification in order to save money. But now a similar situation has developed not with small cars, but with medium-sized models – for them, a two-liter turbo engine in terms of load on it is about the same as for some Focus – a liter Ecoboost. However, Ford still offers this micromotor, as does Skoda for several of its models.
But BMW changed its mind, and the new 3 series does not offer a small three-cylinder engine, as on the previous one. Today, the starting size is 4 cylinders and 2 liters. The engine of the same configuration replaced the 1.6 engine under the hood of the Mini Cooper S in the latest generation. Other ideologists of right sizing are Audi (and their TFSI 2.0) and Mazda (Skyactiv engines of 2 and 2.5 liters). Interestingly, in Russia, turbocharging is still wary – therefore, for example, the new Volkswagen Jetta will also offer atmospheric 1.6, which is not available in other markets, and for the fresh Hyundai Sonata , we do not have a 1.6 turbo engine – only naturally aspirated 2.0 and 2.5 .
Classic hybrids are no longer relevant
Conventional hybrids that charge on the go have been replaced by plug-in hybrids closer to electric vehicles. They have a larger battery capacity and they are charged from the outlet, so you can not stretch a couple of kilometers on electric traction, but normally drive up to 30 on average. In fact, this is a transitional step from a conventional car with an internal combustion engine to an electric car, because when using the scenario of regular charging from the network and short daily trips to the gas station, you can not call for weeks.
The first mass “plug-in” can be considered the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid (2011) , although a little earlier there were both the Chinese from BYD and Toyota with a pre-production plug-in version of the Prius. Then came the successful Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2013, the first plug-in crossover), and since the middle of the decade, other manufacturers began to massively offer “plugged” versions. For example, now in the range of Mercedes-Benz and BMW there are no traditional hybrids at all, but almost all models have a version with an internal combustion engine, an electric motor and a large battery.
But instead of conventional hybrids, manufacturers are increasingly making microhybrids (which even the brands themselves don’t even consider hybrids) – with a 48-volt on-board network and a starter-generator that can support coasting and save fuel a little in other modes, like “ Golf “8th generation , for example. And the simplest examples of the implementation of microhybrid technology appeared at the end of the last decade – for example, Smart MHD of the 2008 model. But now, a decade later, new 48-volt systems have taken micro-hybrid technology to new levels of efficiency.
Voice control and gestures have not become convenient
Today, almost every modern golf car and above can be equipped with voice control. But our practice shows that you still don’t want to interact with machines by voice. Embedded in even the most modern multimedia systems (for example, BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz), artificial intelligence is not flexible enough to communicate with it in a free manner, although it is positioned as such.
As a result, most attempts at voice interaction on the threshold of 2020 end up the same as in 2010 – saying basic voice commands in the hope that the system will at least understand them. But manufacturers are not giving up, joining forces with IT companies to embed their voice recognition systems – the same Ford already worked with Amazon in 2016 to integrate Alexa technology.
And given that the market for home gadgets is now experiencing a boom in smart speakers with voice control (including the Russian “Marusya” from Mail.Ru Group and “Alisa” from Yandex), high-quality voice dialogue with the car is a matter of the near future. But gesture control is not so common yet. The main adherents of this interface are BMW and Volkswagen, but it is still difficult to call their solutions convenient and debugged.
Screens and sensors have taken over salons
Back in 2010, the Jaguar XJ was one of the first mass-produced cars with a fully digital tidy. Since then, the technology has been offered not only in the executive segment, but also in more mass ones – today even the Golf has an LCD panel instead of the classic scales, and already in the database. And Korean manufacturers (the same Sonata ) are actively mastering the beautiful animation of the dashboard without sacrificing functionality, while BMW in an avant-garde manner drives the scales into the corners of the drawn instrument cluster.
The main displays have also changed a lot – today the maximum diagonals reach 12 inches (and even 15 in the case of the Tuareg!) towering above the horizon. Even the Chevrolet Niva has not lagged behind fashion . Manufacturers explain this by taking care of the driver’s concentration – this way the eyes are less refocused between the road and the monitor. Although there are layout reasons, especially in the case of large diagonals.
Another revolution in this area was made by the Tesla Model S in 2012 – a vertical huge display and the almost complete absence of mechanical keys radically changed the user experience with the functions in the cabin. Tesla was the first to be repeated in Volvo in 2014 (XC90), and soon countless Chinese pulled themselves up with inferior (and not so) copies, especially with models for the domestic market . Finally, from the middle of the decade, sensors began to replace ordinary buttons in interiors – almost all manufacturers indulged in this to one degree or another, but American brands and, more recently, Volkswagen and Porsche have been among the leaders. The most conservative in terms of screens and sensors are Japanese brands.
LED headlights replaced xenon
LEDs, which have become affordable and much more technologically advanced, have thoroughly untied the hands of both designers and engineers. The former learned to create bizarre patterns or recognizable family patterns of daytime running lights (remember the four dots in the headlights of recent Porsche models and a similar pattern for Kia Ceed), as well as “three-dimensional” rear optics with complex graphics and even animation (dynamic turn signals for many brands or optional lights of the current Passat or Tiguan, for example).
And techies created one of the best automotive inventions of the “tenth” years – a matrix head light. The first car to feature matrix LED headlights was the Audi A8 in 2013, but competitors quickly caught up with similar designs. Today, almost all premium segment brands offer matrix light for their mid-range models and above, and in some cases (for example, the new Golf), this technology can also be obtained on a compact car of the “people’s” brand.
By the way, the second generation Volkswagen Touareg in 2010 became the first car with a conditionally “matrix” light – its xenon beam of light was dynamically darkened in the desired area with a special mechanical curtain. The advent of matrices of diodes (tens of pieces in each headlight) made the light beam much more flexible and fast. And on more affordable cars, single (not matrix) diodes have replaced xenon and even halogen – many models (for example, Mazda3) are now offered with such headlights already in the database. By the way, until recently, diodes were massively prone to breakdowns even on expensive cars – we even did a little investigation about this .