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Here's why these 3 things are the automotive fails of 2018

2018-12-31 07:23

Lance Branquinho

Power lines

Image: iStock

Battery cars and autonomous driving were predicted to be the crucial issues for 2018, but instead, the most pressing threats to our driving democracy were political.

WATCH: Honda tests self-driving, off-road 'autonomous work vehicles'

For South African car fans, political issues beyond their immediate control were the biggest fails of 2018. 

Autonomous everything

Our lives are so digital that we often forget analogue systems still control almost all cars. Because devices have woven themselves so intimately into the fabric of our existence, the addiction we have to all things digital is often misinterpreted as trust. 

As such 2018 was the year of many promises that self-driving vehicles were ready. The technology had arrived, it was infallible and only required some mild testing. How wrong we were.

                                                                         Image: iStock

Apple. Google. Uber. Tesla. All the peak technology companies operating within the automotive sphere have failed to deliver on their vision of a safe fully autonomous vehicle, with 2018 featuring a sequence of self-driving vehicle accidents and frustrations – some of them fatal.

READ: What if autonomous vehicles actually make us more dependent on cars?

The complexity and unpredictability of pedestrian behaviour, inconsistent road marking quality and wild animals are just some of the issues that conservative mechanical engineers warned would not easily be solved by clever coding. They were right. 

Trade wars

Most cars aren’t built in the geography they are bought. The global automotive supply chain is complex and competitive. And now, thanks to a British referendum and President Trump’s anti-import rhetoric, it appears increasingly fragile.

READ: 'The automotive sector needs clarity' - Aston Martin issues statement on Brexit

The conflict between America and China over automotive imports could possibly also draw in Germany, as Geely has taken a substantial shareholding in Mercedes-Benz. Tesla faces the potential of having its Chinese customers (the world’s largest volume battery car market), dealing with a huge surge in product pricing.

Car assembly line

                                                                       Image: iStock

Brexit is looming with terrifying immediacy and for Jaguar Land Rover, the influence is unknown – and potentially daunting. The anchor British automotive brand has already reduced its amount of shift workers. 

Strangely, an automotive trade war between America and nearly everyone else (Europe and China), might benefit South Africa in the short term – as we could become an emerging market supplier of choice, thanks to our robustly structured local automotive assembly industry. 

In the long term, trade wars are debilitating for any technologically driven industry. Hopefully, sanity will prevail somewhere during 2019. 

Eskom

As Tesla triggered an urgency amongst legacy automotive brands to develop battery vehicles of their own, the issue of stable non-monopoly recharging networks has become a crucial narrative in any discussion concerning electric cars and 2019.

Power lines

                                                                         Image: iStock

Many premium brands, especially the Germans, are committing to supply South Africans with their latest and greatest battery vehicle concepts. But the issue is that unless government allows independent power producers, especially at the most local level (your own home), battery cars simply won’t work in Mzansi. 

With Eskom in crisis and drowning in debt, it is terribly unlikely that they’ll allow sustainable and independent power producers to proliferate. Which means South Africans will merely become spectators as the global market acquires greater choice in the offering of battery-powered cars, crossovers and SUVs. 

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