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A Look Back at All the Cool Car Tech in 2021

Written By, Jordan R

Wow, 2021 was something else! Who knew the blow out of 2020 would have such unforeseen effects on the auto industry? Demands for new kinds of fuel, a lack of resources for new modern features, and all kinds of startups popping up from the debris – it was wild. This year was also a great year for automotive technology, because there was always something new, be it an investment towards alternative fuel vehicles or a new venture. We collected a handful of our favorites and broke it down into a couple of categories of some of the big revelations in automotive tech.

Electric Vehicles

Just about every automaker finally made the switch to going electric. Whether a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or going all-electric, one thing was for sure – the auto market was seeing a shift. Chevrolet introduced a new electric vehicle (EV), Mercedes-Benz announced all-electric plans, for the first-time-ever Nissan announces an EV plan, Mitsubishi Motors announced a new PHEV flagship model (the Eclipse Cross PHEV) to take over as it becomes more of an EV-focused automaker, whereas Kia Corp that announced an all-electric plan is fast on the rise with the likes of the new Kia EV6. The most surprising had to be the announcement of eMuscle, the all-electric upcoming lineup from Dodge muscle car automaker. For some automakers, EVs and battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) weren’t enough. Their focus was on hydrogen-powered vehicles and taking to the skies.

Self-Driving and Neat Stuff

Just a few years ago, people were getting used to the idea of using a ride-hailing app to get around. It was no different than hailing a taxi, and consumers could reserve a vehicle at their convenience. Now, ride-hailing services are everywhere, but could we really be ready to hail a ride from an aircraft? The Hyundai Motor Group thinks so (HMG), and HMG and Uber are already working on the Airbus movement, joining many other startups and automakers looking into air travel as the new avenue.

Many startups popped up out of seemingly nowhere this year, but that was a good thing. Self-Driving Company Plus tested their autonomous commercial trucks in China, continuing the expansion of self-driving vehicles on a global scale. Aurora Innovation is another self-driving startup that Stellantis and Kia Corp has invested in for self-driving hardware that can be used in robotaxis and commercial fleets. On the other end of the spectrum, EV startups like Lucid Air have been getting some attention, but our personal favorite was the RT1 electric pickup truck from Rivian. Did you see that all-in-one camping kitchen Rivian built right into the truck?

Speaking of cool stuff, recently, Mitsubishi Electric – sister company of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) announced their data findings after a year-long project utilizing their net zero-energy building (ZEB) test facility, SUSTIE®. The company was able to design and operate a medium-sized office building (around 6,000m2 of floor space) with HVAC and lighting systems that, through the use of solar-panel technology and software, was able to reduce energy use to 115-percent – basically, the building created more energy than it used. We wonder how this could help the development of EVs, but it seems Ford is already working on renewable energy in trucks.

Semiconductor Chip Shortage

It wasn’t all glamor, though. The major fallout of 2020 was the 2021 semiconductor chip shortage. Think of every electronic consumer product people use today – smartphones, smart speakers, Bluetooth devices, laptops, computers, video games, and yes, even cars. They all use semiconductor chips and when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people went to Amazon and chip suppliers shifted all of their resources towards consumer production. This led to many automakers needing to cancel features in models or shelve the production of some altogether. It took nearly all year for automakers to start forming partnerships with tech companies to produce more semiconductor chips, like Stellantis and Hon Hai Technology Group. Really, they should start to look at the new designs major suppliers of semiconductor chips are using now, but automakers can’t even agree on the best EV battery to use.

New Tech

Despite all of that, there is a lot of cool automotive consumer tech on the horizon. Automakers are all about connectivity these days, connecting consumers to their cars via their smartphone or even their smart speaker. Stellantis brands like Jeep are equipping vehicles with Amazon Fire TV, as long as the vehicle has a mobile hotspot or Wi-Fi connection. Kia Corp completely replaced its UVO infotainment system with Kia Connect and even started a new virtual assistant “Hello Kia” that works much like the smart speakers we use today, a.k.a. Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Kia even partnered with Google to add a new Google Assistant App to future Kia vehicles.

That seems to be the new big thing – virtual assistants in automobiles. Basically, being able to talk to the car and tell it where to go and what to do while using an augmented reality (AR) interface from the almost non-existent dashboard. That’s where we’re heading, and it looks pretty interesting. You can always learn more about upcoming car technology when you follow us on Now Car social media.

Happy Holidays!

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