Flying auto, Autonomous Vehicles, Electric Vehicles, Auto Insurance

As a business leader, you are focused on the future of your company. As an educator, you are focused on the future of your students. But what about the future of where you spend a large portion of your time in your vehicle, either commuting or enjoying a road trip?


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Find out what is trending in autos, how they are being sold, and even how they’re being insured, including the pros and cons of usage-based insurance.



What is unique about cars now that will be standard in the future? You may not know the latest changes/cool vehicle features that can save you time and money and even make you awestruck.



Trends in Vehicle Features

What’s the go-to dream auto? Cue George Jetson. Most of us think flying autos first captured everyone’s imagination in the baby boomers childhood heyday with the ‘60s cartoon The Jetsons, as family man George whizzed around the sky in his bubble auto, dropping his family one by one via special flying pods.


Actually, the flying auto idea has been around for over a century. Curtiss Autoplane introduced the first one in 1917.


Either way, we can’t stop craving them. We’re so close, or so we’re told by companies including:


a) PAL-V – a Dutch company that touts the world’s first flying auto, the Liberty. The commercial vehicle requires a driver’s license and an autogyro (gyroplane) license. It recently became street-legal in Europe. The price? It starts at $400,000.


b) SkyDrive Inc a Japanese company that announced the first successful public demonstration of a piloted flying auto, the SD-03, a few months ago.


c) Hyundai and Uber – These two companies announced at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show that they were partnering on an all-electric air taxi that would be part of a future “aerial ride-share network.” Hyundai showed its S-A1 as a small-scale model with VR and a nonfunctioning full-scale model.


d) Terrafugia headquartered in suburban Boston with manufacturing in China and creators of an auto/plane called Transition, which made its debut flight two years ago.


e) Elon Musk  tweeted over a year ago that a future version of the Tesla Roadster will fly thanks to SpaceX technology.


Since there are no actual certified flying autos yet, regulations surrounding operating them don’t exist and the infrastructure to support the ideas doesn’t either, in most cases.


Some companies are proposing flying-auto reality as early as 2023. Morgan Stanley analysts have predicted urban air taxis to be common by 2040. While we await those mass-produced flying wonders, let’s look at what’s happening with vehicles currently and in the nearer future.


Autonomous Vehicles Are Leveling Up

Autonomous is not fully synonymous with self-driving. In fact, there are five levels of autonomous vehicles (AVs)


a) Level 0: No Automation (just cruise control; your everyday vehicle)


b) Level 1 Driver assistance (adaptive cruise control and lane assist; in most autos today)


c) Level 2 Partial automation (speed/steering assist; examples: Tesla Autopilot, Volvo Pilot Assist, Audi Traffic Jam Assist)


d) Level 3 Conditional automation (self-driving capability, but only under ideal and limited conditions and at certain speeds; although hand-offs, a driver is still required behind the wheel and to take over when conditions are no longer ideal).


e) Level 4 High automation (self-driving but restricted to known-use cases; auto has a cockpit and driver can request control. Waymo, the former Google self-driving auto project, started operating driver free in Phoenix in certain tests with human test drivers in late 2017, and in October 2020 rolled out hundreds of fully driverless vans in a 100-square-mile “geofenced” area of Arizona. Regulations and legal obstacles to go beyond this are yet to be resolved).


f) Level 5 Full automation (fully self-driving through all road conditions and requiring no human intervention; there is no need for pedals or a steering wheel. Many of the technological components for it exist, but more regulations and legal obstacles are yet to be resolved)


So we have almost-self-driving autos, and soon we will have better almost-self-driving autos. At least right now you can ease the burden of your commute or road trip. 


While no current production auto in the United States will allow you to be asleep at the wheel (or allow you to drive while reading or tweeting), many systems can maintain following distance with the vehicle in front of you, or keep your auto centered in its lane.


There is a lot of interest in the additional benefits of Level 5 autonomous vehicles: The National Safety Council has joined with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Foundation for Senior Living, the Foundation for Blind Children, and Waymo for the public education campaign “Let’s Talk Self Driving.”


They feel autonomous vehicles will save lives and money. With human driving, an NHTSA study valued the economic and social harm of traffic accidents at over $871 billion in 2010. Driver mistakes cause 94 percent of vehicle crashes.


Research by McKinsey & Co. suggested widespread adoption of self-driving autos could reduce traffic accidents by as much as 90 percent, and have the potential to eliminate the tragedies that come from drunk driving. 


With this level of reduced risk, the consulting firm KMPG found autonomous vehicles could lower auto insurance premiums by as much as 50 percent. Combining this with the reduced cost of accidents, autonomous vehicles could save nearly $1 trillion annually.


Root Insurance started offering a discount in 2017 to Tesla owners who used the Autosteer feature, which may reduce crash rates by 40 percent.


When should we expect mass-produced Level 5 autonomous vehicles? Dates keep moving: A decade ago, experts predicted 2020; at the start of 2020, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute backed that up to the 2030s or 2040s.


Electric Vehicles Are Hitting Their Stride

This is the year that new full-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are in almost all sectors of the new auto market, including Audi’s E-Tron, BMW’s 3 and X3 plug-ins, Ford’s Mach E, Jaguar’s I-Pace, the Jeep Wrangler plug-in, Mercedes’ EQ models, the Polestar 2, Porsche’s Taycan, and VW’s ID4.



Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan are currently the Big Three of electric auto sales, capturing over 60 percent of the U.S. market, according to data through September 2018.


And while the electric vehicle market only comprised about 1.2 percent of all sales in 2017 in data from the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, McKinsey predicts that the share of electrified vehicles could be between 10 to 50 percent of new vehicle purchases by 2030.


So electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more popular every year. A contributing factor?  They have been coming down in price.


Of course, the other major factor is that they are being touted for their energy efficiency, reducing their carbon footprint, and making a positive impact on the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates electric vehicles offer 80 perfect fewer greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.


Proponents also note electric autos improve handling, responsiveness, and safety because they have a lower center of gravity. They also require less maintenance (there’s no regularly scheduled maintenance), which could save you approximately $1,500 over a five-year period. There’s also the savings on fuel, at about $700 annually.


Overall, an electric vehicle will cost you less than half as much to operate as a gas-powered auto, according to a 2018 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.


The Industry Is Playing Better With Others

It should be no surprise that advances in technology are revolutionizing additional aspects of the vehicle industry, which is trying to stay on top of the realization that consumers expect their vehicles to do much more than get them from point A to point B.


The established automotive industry will increasingly converge with contemporary technology, as 5G-enabled vehicles are anticipated to reach 16 million sold annually in the United States, European Union, and China by 2030, according to PwC.


This innovation means the formerly staid automotive industry is shifting its balance between hardware and software: Hardware previously dominated automotive technology, but now novel software solutions are the name of the game. So auto manufacturers are integrating with vendors previously outside of the industry.


For example, the U.S.-based startup Apex AI offers modules to build 3D perception, localization, and control to enable autonomous vehicles and has created a data management platform that reliably transmits data from the vehicle to the cloud.


Auto companies realize they have to adjust their research-and-development (R&D) processes to innovate faster to meet the ever-changing demand of consumers and to keep up with existing and new competitors such as Tesla, a brand that points to a future roster of novel brands taking advantage of automotive industry disruption such as electrification. 


For example, 3D printing has helped accelerate the design and testing phases of production, print spare parts to match their requirements, and create automotive parts that are lighter, stronger, and more durable.


We are Learning to Share

Another trending feature is that we are becoming more willing to share these new-and-improved vehicles — where we’re sharing an auto we own or not. 


Although it’s a relatively recent phenomenon, everyone knows about ride-hailing/ride-sharing, as apps like Uber, Lyft, and Bolt have gained popularity with well-advanced algorithms matching drivers and customers similar to a taxi service.


Not only is it super convenient, but it has also been a boon for consumers who expect to drink, who can choose not to take any chances behind the wheel — and no one in the group has to “miss out” by being the designated driver. Uber, ridesharing’s first company, partnered with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving to encourage safe and sober ride options.


Results are encouraging: A study of the New York City metro area found a 25-35 percent decrease in alcohol-related auto accidents since the inception of Uber, compared to other locations where the company doesn’t operate.


While overall, most other studies so far show just a minimal decrease in the number of alcohol-related auto accidents with the advent of ride-sharing, the number is expected to rise as the ridesharing market grows and expands to more areas, and more companies partner with drunk driving organizations.


Now the next step in this customer-to-customer (C2C) business model is the shared mobility mode of auto-sharing. This is a form of auto rental, but it differs from the traditional mode as the vehicle owner is often a private individual. It is usually cheaper, more convenient, and can be done with a few taps on your screen.


Vehicle sharing enables occasional use of a vehicle or access to different brands of vehicles. You can be auto-sharing through a commercial business, or a user-organized company, public agency, cooperative, or ad hoc group. You can access the vehicle in a variety of ways as well, including an app to unlock the auto to meeting with the vehicle owner to exchange keys.


Auto-sharing companies either own the vehicles they rent, offer privately owned vehicles (called peer-to-peer auto-sharing), or both. If you want to drive, your driver’s license and your driving history are screened before you can rent. If you want to rent your vehicle, it will undergo an inspection, and may require hardware installation so the rental can be opened with an app.


All of the companies offer roadside assistance, insurance, and protection plans included in the price or for extra.


The biggest names in the auto-sharing business are Turo, ZipCar, Getaround, and EnterpriseCarShare. There’s also HyreCar, but this is primarily for rideshare, food, and delivery drivers who want to rent a vehicle to perform these services.


Auto sharing is set to increase in the 2020s as technology continues to support these trends while consumers use them as ways to save money.


Around 10 million people were already using this type of service just three years ago, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan, who adds that by 2025 that will rise to 36 million users — an annual growth rate of 16.4 percent. And Global Market Insights forecasts the value of the global auto-sharing market at $11 billion by 2024.


The Shared-Use Mobility Center, a public-interest nonprofit based in Los Angeles, lists numerous benefits of auto-sharing, including reducing traffic congestion and transportation costs, improving efficiency and mobility choices, mitigating various forms of pollution, and identifying choices for those who can’t afford to buy and maintain a vehicle.


Trends in Vehicle Sales

Are auto dealers and their staff obsolete? Not necessarily. But you can buy virtually anything online  —  and vehicles are no exception. But potential auto buyers still want the back-up option of doing an actual test drive and they want someone to deliver their vehicle to their home.


Let’s Get Digital

A high amount of dealers have already expanded digitally, but it has become top of mind for everyone with the ongoing pandemic. Prior to the coronavirus, 54 percent of dealers offered digital resources to shopping, according to analysts at Now? Dealer Inspire had a 250 percent increase in dealer inquiries for its Online Shopper.


With auto shoppers increasingly turning to digital to compare models and prices, the auto industry has had to step up the number of deals and the number of ways they promote them. 

This fierce competition has created a consumer’s market, as they’re being courted with 0 percent annual percentage rate financing and cash discounts.


And automakers are sweetening those deals even more by their willingness to help with payments via no-penalty payment deferments. For example, according to Google, Hyundai boasted the top promotion for a week in late March with its Hyundai Assurance program, covering payments for up to six months if a buyer loses their job this year due to COVID-19.


The pandemic has also taught dealers they have to enhance their online presence with video content of interior overviews, walkarounds, test drives, review videos, and AI chatbots. It has also taught automotive companies that they have to trade their traditional in-person roll-out events for fully online launches.


Another Hyundai example is using live streams to unveil its 2021 Elantra in early March: The initial tease video, the live stream, and the walk-around clip brought in nearly 800,000 combined views.


Trends in Vehicle Insurance

Millennials and Generation Z will very shortly become the driving force as the majority of auto insurance buyers over the baby boomers and Generation X. Existing auto insurance companies have been taking note and trying to adapt to the new generations’ purchasing philosophy. 


They are also trying to head off the new auto insurance companies gaining speed in their rearview mirrors.


Most of these efforts result in potential savings of both time and money for us all.


Lightening the Mood and Playing the Field

Insurance companies are stodgy? Not anymore. The 120-plus-year-old auto insurance industry has changed and expanded its advertising tactics to great success.


The auto insurance industry messaging has gone multi-channel in an attempt to cover all the bases where the next-gen potential auto insurance buyers go. For example, in addition to TV and out-of-home advertising, Farmers also promotes itself on top social media platforms such as YouTube.


Companies are also changing up their ad campaigns. For example, Geico has gone eclectic with a lineup of ads including the Gecko, the Caveman, Kash, and rhetorical questions.


Online Is The New Policy

Car insurance companies are not just expanding their promotion online, they are also getting down to business by providing you with quotes. It’s easier to comparison shop, and it’s typically cheaper and quicker to buy auto insurance online than through an agent.


Many car insurance companies sell policies online, with USAA, Progressive, and State Farm being the most affordable online options.


And the established carriers also have to keep up because of new competition such as Esurance. Although it is owned by Allstate, it was one of the first companies to sell directly to consumers online. Right now it’s available in 43 states.


Additionally, many auto insurance-related services you used to have to call an agent for can be done digitally, from accessing auto insurance ID cards to viewing policies.


It also greatly helps when you are in an accident: Access a car accident checklist, file claims, upload photos and documents for claims, get roadside assistance, find repair shops, and track the status of claims all online.


One-Size-Doesn’t-Fit-All Coverage

Insurance companies are also using tech to customize their coverage. Connected devices and other data sources are enabling underwriting and pricing based on mileage, location, and driving behavior.


This is telematics auto insurance, also known as usage-based insurance (UBI), pay-per-mile insurance, or pay-as-you-go insurance.


Whatever you call it, the concept is spreading quickly: Nearly a dozen insurers have mentioned telematics or their specific programs in corporate earnings calls since 2018, indicating driving apps are becoming a bigger strategic priority. In fact, an Allstate representative recently declared usage-based auto insurance will be the norm in the auto insurance industry within the next 10 years.


For safe drivers, why pay the same rate as more reckless drivers? For low-mileage drivers, why be included in a standard set premium if you don’t drive as much as the average driver? If you drive under 10,000 miles annually and at off-peak times with a clean driving record, you could save a lot of money.


So by way of a mobile app or a plug-in device, you could discount your insurance by 5 percent at the lowest up to 40 percent at the highest.


There are many programs from which to choose: Drive Safe and Save (State Farm), DriveEasy (Geico), Snapshot (Progressive), DriveWise and MileWise (Allstate), SafePilot (USAA), RightTrack and ByMile (Liberty Mutual), Signal (Farmers), SmartRide and SmartMiles (Nationwide), IntelliDrive (Travelers), Pay Per Mile (Esurance), and KnowYourDrive (American Family).


But since many of these usage-based programs aren’t available from coast to coast, check with your current insurance carrier or comparison shop to see what’s available in your area. 


There are even companies that do this exclusively, like Metromile. Right now, it’s available in Arizona, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.


And Root Insurance, mentioned above regarding Tesla owners using autopilot, is the U.S.’s first and only car insurance company that can be entirely mobile/app-based. It only ensures safe drivers, and it’s available in all but 13 states, including six states coming soon.


Now that you have a better idea of what’s trending regarding autos, you’ll be on the right track to find out more if you have time on your hands as a bittersweet benefit of the coronavirus.

Tags: Auto Insurance Autonomous Vehicles Electric Vehicles Flying auto Trending auto features

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