2021 gave us many amazing innovations that have become a huge part of what automakers are implementing for the future.
There’s always going to be a way to do things better. Some of these innovations have to do with the vehicles produced, others have to do with the processes we see, and still, others are just cool ideas that might help save the environment for the future. Let’s dig in and see some of the amazing developments that came out of one of the most turbulent years in the auto industry.
Steel that Can be Made Without CO2
Making steel takes coal, which produces CO2. For centuries, there hasn’t been any way to get around this. Steel is not its own element; it’s a metal that’s made of several ingredients, one of them being pure iron. Instead of coking coal, which produces copious amounts of CO2, a breakthrough in steelmaking has been found that can use hydrogen instead of coal. This could revolutionize the steelmaking industry and create much less air pollution.
Assembly Workers Get to Feel Like Robocop, Sort of
The wear and tear on a person that has to repeatedly reach overhead with tools and materials in hand can have long-term negative effects on their body. This leads to a lifetime of pain, medical bills, and upper-body strain. GM has been experimenting with wearable exoskeletons that allow the weight and strain to be distributed to the machinery and to the hips of the worker during the workday. Many who have worn them have reported improvements in how they feel when away from work.
Forget the Gear Lever
If you thought going from a gear lever to select your automatic transmission direction to push buttons was something unique, Tesla is taking things farther. The steering wheel is being made with sensors to guess which direction you want to go. This new steering system has the same shape we’re starting to see in many Tesla models but won’t be bogged down by a gear selector. Instead, the sensors will figure out which direction you want to go and take you there. Certainly, we can expect testing to be a huge part of making certain this system doesn’t take us in the wrong direction.
Online Shopping Continues in the Auto Industry
One of the most important innovations that began in 2020 and continued into 2021 was the ability to purchase vehicles online. This process will continue and might never change back to traditional selling processes. Customers can now sign documents electronically and know their signature is secure. This new process is making car shopping more enjoyable and easier for everyone.
Window Installation Makes the Assembly Line Move
Traditionally, vehicles have to be taken off the assembly line to have the side windows installed, but one of the suppliers for Volkswagen, Durr, found a way to avoid this. This process uses a new gluing technology, and it can install the windows during the flowing process of assembling the vehicle. This process is extremely exact and positions the body and the windows for installation while allowing the assembly line to continue to run.
Improved Safety for the Big Rigs
Do you ever wonder whether or not the big trucks that we see on the road have the same safety systems as what we find in our cars? Thankfully, Bosch and Daimler Trucks North America have found a way to add more safety to these trucks. The innovation of adding Level 2 Active Lane Assist to the Daimler Class 8 commercial trucks came about in 2021 to give truck drivers more safety on the road. The professionals carrying massive loads behind their trucks need to have some way to bring products to stores around the country safely.
Production Flow Allows for Larger Market Share
GM could not have taken advantage of a new contract from FedEx to provide the new EV600 electric commercial vans without the assistance of its tooling supplier Kuka. To quickly retook the Ontario assembly plant from the Chevrolet Equinox to the EV600, Kuka found a workaround that allowed both companies to benefit. Kuka is making fewer than 500 of these vans by hand, but once that number is reached, the equipment needed to make the electric van will be sent to the CAMI Assembly plant in Ontario to have these vans produced there.
A Porsche Dealer is Going the Extra Mile
One of the innovations found in 2021 didn’t require more technology or advanced product development but better customer service. A Porsche dealer in Philadelphia has put a single full-time employee on the job of answering phone calls, emails, and customer questions. Not only does he have the answer for their questions, if he can’t resolve their issue remotely, but he is also out on the road visiting the customers where they are to show them how to use their vehicles and answer any questions they might have in person.
A Digital Solution to an Analog Problem
Because of the travel restrictions put on the world during the COVID pandemic, designers and product planners at various auto brands had to find solutions that would allow them to work together electronically. Thanks to a development by PPG, project managers in separate locations can work in a shared space and see the same precision to select the right colors to select for the different vehicles being developed.
Better Experiences for Ride-Share Customers
Some of the most impressive innovations in the auto industry for 2021 came about to help dealerships, automakers, and workers. Let’s not forget the entire segment of this industry that is simply customers using ride-sharing services. Some Miami Uber and Lyft customers are enjoying vehicles that are equipped with personalized entertainment and massaging features to give them a more pleasant experience when out on the road. Hire an Uber or Lyft ride in this city, and you just might get to enjoy an infotainment screen and a vibrating back cushion during your ride to your next destination.
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