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Autonomous Vehicles

The Digital Age & EVs — Rethinking & Revitalizing Transportation

What will a new era in all-electric transportation bring for drivers, manufacturers, and economies?

Historically, the industrial sector was the largest energy consumer, but the gap between industrial and transportation sector energy use has narrowed considerably in the last decade. In 2019, transportation accounted for 18% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and, as a result, focus has turned to electrification of global transportation to reduce emissions. Cities and countries around the world are revitalizing transportation, with electric vehicles forecast to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as much as 43% in comparison to diesel engine vehicles.

Environmental policies on climate change and directives for the potential use of renewable energy sources to power electric vehicles will impact the speed and efficiency of zero emissions transportation. In the battle against pollution and the effects of the climate crisis, electrification is gaining momentum with encouragements like incentives, rebates, city chargers, and special parking for electric vehicles.

Today, digital technologies in vehicles represent at least 50% of the total value of a vehicle. Lots of these changes are possible because the digital age has met the need for sustainable transportation. The disruptive effect resulting from digitalization is the most important phenomenon in the auto industry’s 140-year history.

A combination of factors are on the way to upending the automotive industry:

  • High demands for improved or new digital services
  • Increasingly competitive, economical, and autonomous electric cars
  • The use of efficient renewable energy resources.

Digital technologies are revitalizing transportation and disrupting traditional business models. Soon the integration of AI into motor design and control will further advance auto technology to meet up with the present digital age.

Of course, the impacts of digital transformation on the automotive industry must take into account the points of view of different actors, ranging from automobile manufacturers to service providers, public transportation providers, consumers, and governments. The effect on the retailer, which covers manufacturers, the sales force, and consumers, is dynamically redefining the way these constituents interact and communicate with each other.

Embracing the Players Who Have Come Before

Digital technologies like networked devices, cloud computing, and data analytics have been transforming energy-intensive sectors, including transportation. Though tentative because of a lack of immediate payoff, capital risk, and uncertain return on investment, legacy automakers are beginning to plunge ahead in the electric vehicle marketplace to meet consumers’ growing desire for accessibility, connectivity, simplicity, cost, quality, real-time services, user choice and support, personalization, and deliverability. More major investment in digital transformation, infrastructure projects, and R&D will continue to take place so legacy automakers can gain a competitive advantage in the global automotive industry marketplace.

Yet the process of revitalizing transportation through electrification is incremental, generally consisting of identifying potential and problem, data collection, product design, design validation, design revision, product testing, product revision, and final production. These steps are time-consuming and often onerous.

The growth of EVs as a segment of the US vehicle market has already compelled urban planners and policymakers to reconsider the existing ecosystem of fueling stations, parking lots, and municipal electrical infrastructure. Some policymakers, energy grid and charging infrastructure operators, as well as the automotive industry players are beginning by studying the characteristics of early adopters of battery electric vehicles to gain insights into motivation and demands.

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are investing heavily to adapt to digitalization trends in the automotive industry, as they do not want to give up their leadership in products and technology. Digital transformation in the automotive aftermarket will facilitate both hardware and software updates, requiring compatibility, as clients now expect a fluid interaction both physically and digitally when buying automotive products or services.

Digitization will also bring significant improvements to the value chain by boosting efficiencies, reducing costs, and generating greater collaboration and innovation. Specific domains within the smart vehicle include autonomous navigation control, advanced driver assistance systems, vehicle health monitoring, battery management systems, vehicle power electronics, and electrical power drive systems. Adding in mobility as a service, fleets to alleviate the need for individual ownership, solar EV charging, digital information sources in car purchasing, and big data, possibilities for disruption abound as electric vehicles become commonplace in the marketplace.

The Human Effect on Revitalizing Transportation in the Digital Age

Migration to electric vehicles involves a large number of users, and psychological mechanisms can work to impede humans to make the shift to EVs. The comics industry, which injects humor into our most difficult situations, has not yet found a single onomatopoeia for the noise of electric cars. “Brooomm,” “Drooow,” “Vroom,” and “Roammm” are the car standard noises. “Zzzz!” just won’t do.

That’s just one example with a 2021 article in Sustainability which traces how human perception of reality is the result of conditioning, in so that potential electric car users are inundated with information that often have little to do with driving an electric vehicle itself. Arguing that an “ideology of the present reigns, which tries to ensure the preservation of the status quo,” the authors outline how critical elements of EVs can be divided by humans into subjective and objective necessities.

For example:

  • How many humans are really ready for what’s known as the fifth level of automation, or fully automatic driving and the absence of the driving position?
  • What arguments can be made to offset the demand of charging infrastructure “to minimize the fear of being stuck in a blizzard with a flat battery?”
  • What about the increase costs associated with giving greater responsibility from the user to an autonomous system?
  • How can performance anxiety that is captured in the collective imagination as a primary psychological factor be reduced as a barrier to widespread adoption of EVs?

What’s to be done when considering the effect of human psychology on the digital age and electric vehicles? How can we reduce “limiting points of view (that) include the inertia to abandon a hegemonic present, to embrace a future vision?”

Maybe the solution is to return to the digital wonder of electric vehicles, introducing how a system based on the concept of Internet of Things can optimize transportation experiences.

  • It’s experiencing acceleration as one of the most appreciated human aspects of EVs — and “even regenerative braking was found to be pleasant,” according to the authors.
  • Perhaps it’s time to discuss new protocols in in place for dealing with cell failures, as thermal technology innovations now make the likelihood of an fiery accident “akin that of being hit by a meteorite.”
  • Certainly it’s increasing range-related knowledge, practical driving experience, and the encounter of critical range situations.
  • Likely it’s embracing older users, in order to keep their attitudes, “to remember the possibility of helping them with the weaknesses of age.”
  • And the grandchildren, who are “thinking that it is more important to have a latest generation mobile phone than to drive a Porsche 911 in the city, will appreciate the revolution of shared and autonomous mobility.”

Electric vehicles are the future in terms of revitalizing transportation. From exploring electric vehicle networks in smart cities through big data analysis technology to considering distribution network and urban transportation networks that maximize drivers’ travel comfort in urban trips and reduce costs of both charging station installation and losses, there are many efforts to encourage use of EVs. It’s clear that the development and improvement of electric vehicle technology combined with transportation management strategies have become relevant and even pressing topics if the future is to embrace sustainable transportation.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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