In terms of product development and technology, the year 2017 has already ended for motor vehicle manufacturers. The money has been used up and already the production pipeline is full of queued up models. Regardless of the amount of disruption it may cause, the Trump administration is unlikely to have much of an effect on what will be offered to consumers during the current year. Naturally, what happens in 2018 and beyond is up in the air. However, it is needless to dwell on that now because there is a lot of interesting stuff to look out for in 2017. Here are some important technologies and products that are likely to make headlines in the next one year:
An important year for the Chevrolet Bolt
This will probably be the most closely monitored car this year. It won the Car of the Year on Motor Trend magazine and was a contender for the North American Car of the Year Award. The petite hatchback boasts of a battery with a range of 238 miles, which outperforms a few versions of the popular Tesla Model S. It is the first in a line of battery-operated non-luxury electric cars with a range of over 200 miles that are headed for the market. Next is the 2nd generation Nissan Leaf that is expected to be on show towards the end of the year and be on sale next year. The Bolt costs about $30,000 in the majority of states after taking into account tax rebates and it started to be sold at the end of December. But its actual demand levels may only be known in spring.
Even though the Bolt is not directly competing with Tesla’s electric cars, it will test the willingness of the American market to purchase a mass production battery-powered car from a major car maker at a time when gasoline has become cheap. And there will be other such vehicles. This week, in Las Vegas, Ford is expected to announce a competitor to the Bolt during the CES (previously known as the Consumer Electronics Show)
Jeep Wrangler redesigned
Expect the re-engineered Jeep Wrangler to draw a lot of attention this year. A big money maker for Fiat Chrysler, the car is getting a total overhaul for the first time in eleven years. This time round, its exterior body panels will be built using aluminum so as to save weight, and this is sure to improve the car’s wretched fuel economy. Aerodynamics will be addressed, but not in such a drastic way as to change the car’s iconic looks. A diesel-powered engine, coming along with a robust turbocharged four-cylinder may be in the works. We will get to view the new Wrangler in autumn before it gets on the market as a 2018 model.
The legends re-emerge
There are two other historic SUVs that may also emerge in 2017, probably captured by spy photos or early previews.The development of the new Land Rover Defender, among the original SUVs together with the ancestor of the Jeep Wrangler, is so far along that it is already undergoing tests in England. It is strongly anticipated that it will join the car maker’s North American stable in late 2018.Expect it to be powered by Land Rover’s newly-developed Ingenium diesel-powered engine.
The Ford Bronco could also make its official return. It will probably be based on Ford Ranger’s body-on-frame design and it is likely to be manufactured in Ford’s assembly plant located in Wayne, Michigan.
This will certainly not be the end of activities in the dynamic world of crossovers and SUVs. It is rumored that GMC is developing a Wrangler fighter. Its concept version may show up at the Detroit show in the coming week.
Eye tracking systems enhanced
When it comes to technology in 2017, be on the lookout for the debut of the Super Cruise system by Cadillac on its CT6 sedan flagship. It is a semi-autonomous vehicle system that gives a car the ability to drive on the highway by itself. But it is not a first-Tesla, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and several other brands are equipped with similar systems. The difference is that Super Cruise has an eye tracking system to enhance security. According to Jeremy Carlson, an analyst with IHS, the eye tracking system will be a vital component of driver monitoring. When it is on, it will detect when drivers are not paying attention and signal them to keep alert.
Advances in augmented reality for vehicles
IHS analyst and car technology expert Mark Boyadjis notes that Augmented Reality (AR) is another thing to watch for. Think of a car with HUD (Head-up display).You will read the normal traffic signs and speed information, but AR takes it further by projecting images of objects like arrows on the surface of the road that direct you where to turn if the route is plotted in your car’s navigation system. Based on several sources, IHS reports that AR will be incorporated in a production car in 2017 in the U.S.
2017 will be the year of the first electric car superchargers. These are powered using electric systems that carry 48-volts. Audi has plans to debut this performance-enhancing device in a few of its SUVs. Mercedes plans to introduce such systems in its power hybrid cars.
The fuel-cell collaboration between GM and Honda will ensure that the next generation of the fuel cell technology powertrain will be ready for production by 2020.It will come with costs close to those of an internal combustion engine.
Without a doubt, this year will post record sales for hydrogen fuel cell cars. Already, 30 hydrogen cell filling stations are operational in California. Three car makers-Honda, Hyundai and Toyota-have vehicles that are available for lease or sale.
The effort by Chevrolet to woo the diesel buyers abandoned by VW begins in the first quarter of the year. This will be when the newly-developed 1.6 liter that uses what has been dubbed 'whisper diesel' is made optional in the Cruze hatchback and sedan. The designers of the Cruze have decided to buck the trend by having a passenger vehicle that uses diesel and by having a manual, six-speed gearbox. The 1.6 liter diesel engine will also be used in the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox that enters the market in summer.
Mainstreaming of advanced technology
According to Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, the most notable technological trend in 2017 will be the continuation of the 'democratization' of features like connectivity and advanced safety. This means that stuff that was previously only found in high-end vehicles will enter the mainstream. A very good example of this is the Star Safety System made by Toyota. This is a suite of 6 vehicle safety systems that are installed in every model, from the economy class Yaris to the more expensive Lexus. The system incorporates traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, car stability control, electronic brake distribution and Smart Stop vehicle Technology.
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