Social Impact in Autonomous

By: James Raia

Autonomous vehicles are expected to be designed as ACES (autonomous, connected, electrified, and shared) in the trillion-dollar industry, according to LORD, the global technology and manufacturing company headquartered in Cary, N.C.

The company notes electric vehicles are "strongly contributing to the widespread advancement and adoption of autonomous vehicles." The reasons are varied and logical. It's easier to implement autonomous features on electric vehicles because there are fewer moving pieces. Wireless charging also integrates seamlessly with autonomy. Further, more efficient self-driving extends the range. It's still a concern for manufacturers and potential new buyers.

According to a recent report on Automotive News, sustaining the push toward improved fuel efficiency, lower emissions and other green technologies is industry wisdom in electric and autonomous vehicles.

BorgWarner, the global automotive industry components and parts supplier headquartered in Auburn Hills, Mich., has been focusing on green technologies for more than a decade. Its new variable timing system debuted in 2011 Subaru Foster. It helped the carmaker achieve ultra-low emission vehicle standards.

"Making products with increased fuel efficiency or lower emissions is just good business,"  Kathy Graham, a spokesperson for BorgWarner told the website. "Eight or 10 years ago, fuel economy came at about 25th on the list of customer needs and wants. Since the recession, customers are asking for better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. The future is in being sustainable."

Three years ago, BorgWarner's new Eco-Launch hydraulic accumulator and solenoid valves, were instrumental in Cadillac's commitment to greener efficiency. The BorgWarner technology provided smooth, fast engine restarts in the Cadillac's new fuel-saving, stop-start systems.

But to what degree is the industry collectively committed? Financially, there's little doubt.  

According to industry reports, since the end of the economic recession in 2008, automakers have spent more than $63 billion to upgrade about 100 auto plants. An additional $12 billion is planned for green technology improvement through 2020.

Nissan and Ford have invested substantially, the former to modernized its truck factory in Louisville, Ky., the latter to increase its focus on its facility in Smyrna, Tenn. Ford's perennially top-selling F-150 pickup with its aluminum body will be made in Kentucky. The electric Leaf will find is production home in Tennessee. 

Arconic, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Penn., became a separate company from the Alcoa Corporation in 2016. It invested $275 million and created 200 jobs to increase production if automotive-grade aluminum sheet at its mill in Alcoa, Tenn. The lighter weight aluminum parts it creates further advance automotive efficiency and thus help sustain a better environmentally-conscious industry and its continued sustainability in the future of autonomous vehicles.

Ford's part involves its legendary in the Cleveland Engine Plant in Brook Park, Ohio. Opened in 1952, the facility is now a decade into its transition to the manufacturer's EcoBoost engines. With a smaller displacement, advance turbocharging and other efficient mechanics, Ford has made more than one million trucks with improved fuel economy since the engines debuted in 2011. More than 60 percent of Ford F-150 pickup truck buyers now select the EcoBoost option. 

Bill Diehl, managing director of KPMG and an automotive industry consultant, put the environmental focus, including the growing autonomous segment of the automotive industry, into sharp focus. The renowned international professional services network KPMG is a multinational professional services network, and one of the Big Four accounting organizations, 

"If you're not focused on this in today's environment, you're behind the curve," Diehl told Automotive News. "China has very stiff penalties with a very aggressive timing each year on how much of your fleet has to be electric.

"The U.S. is quite a way down, as far as prioritizing electric vehicles. But since it's a global market, the domestic automakers are all focused on electric — not because it's going to hit the U.S. tomorrow, but because they have to service China and Europe."

If the automotive industry's increasing focus on the future of electric and autonomous vehicle needs and its sustainability needs any further proof, leave to Daimler and its marque — Mercedes-Benz. 

The iconic carmaker plans to feature 130 electrified varies by 2022, buses, trucks and electric vans. Mild plug-in hybrids to nearly a dozen all-electric vehicles will be in the mix.

In the ever-changing industry, Daimler predicts as much as 25 percent of its sales will be battery-electric vehicles by 2025.

Do you know a company making a positive impact? At Automotive IQ, social impact is at the center of what we do. Our Social Impact Awards at Autonomous Vehicles Silicon Valley are designed to recognize the extraordinary work being done in the community. Get involved in the nomination process before the award ceremony, suggest a leader or company that embraces the spirit of the mobility community by nominating them on our website