- Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology is driving the auto tech financing boom, according to a CB Insights presentation, but two other developing industry tech trends that stand out are artificial intelligence (AI) and 3-D printing.
- Some automakers are using 3-D printing to manufacture custom parts for classic or luxury cars, which Los Angeles startup Divergent 3D claims makes cars "greener, lighter and safer."
- The presentation also highlighted a growing trend toward "flexible ownership," or cars as a subscription service, where members of a program swap different cars as they need them.
There's a lot of innovation driving the auto industry right now, and auto supply chains are about to be transformed.
Like all industries, the auto industry is quickly realizing it needs to adjust business strategies to keep up with rapidly changing consumer tastes and needs. Sustainability, green energy and low emissions are a huge part of that, pushing forward electric vehicle development, which also goes hand-in-hand with developments in automation and AI.
3-D printing parts for cars could lead to radical decentralization of the auto industry and auto supply chain. If the auto industry evolves to the point where it is manufacturing large quantities of parts via 3-D printers, then automakers will breeze through the prototype phase (unless you follow Musk's route and skip it) and the entire supply chain will accelerate.
Not only that, but 3-D printing car parts also has the potential to help companies better meet their sustainability goals — there is lots of room for using recycled materials or more environmentally-friendly materials here.
"Flexible ownership," on the other hand, could ease consumers' apprehension about AVs by allowing them to check out vehicles as if they were books in a library, based on their various vehicle needs or tastes. Apparently that's already a growing trend: according to CB Insights, consumers are more likely to lease plug-in EVs instead of purchase them.
Regardless of current consumer preferences, the State of Auto Tech report revealed automakers are racing to develop AV technology, and manufacturers and 3PLs are already banking — literally — on the tech to be mainstream (and, presumably, desirable) within the next 10-20 years.
The innovation boom is rattling the industry, and while it's hard to accurately predict whether some of these technologies will become mainstream, they all point to the same trends prevalent in every other industry: meeting consumer expectations, decentralizing and streamlining supply chains, and aggressively pursuing sustainability goals.