As technologists and automakers are scrambling to build the next generation of cars, auto parts makers are facing an uncertain future. While relatively stable in some aspects of design, the next generation of cars (which will almost certainly be Internet-enabled and possibly able to drive themselves) may be looking at some very new outfitting on both in the inside and the outside.
CD players are already going the way of the tape deck, as automakers are already looking to drop features that "no one is using." Active redesigns to lower the weight — and thus make it possible for these driving electrical marvels remain compliant with efficiency regulations — has also seen the removal of things once considered necessary standards like the spare tire (Prius 2015) or the reconfiguring of other standards like the windshield wiper fluid systems.
Volvo's new XC90 uses Robert Bosch GmbH’s new jet wiper, which has nozzles that spray only when the blade is rising. This allows the reservoir size to be 30 percent smaller (with no noted change in usefulness). That change cuts the fluid dropping 2.4 pounds from the weight of the car.
“I don’t think a lot of people would miss having the nozzles on the hood of their cars,” said Daniel Konrad, a Bosch wiper systems manager, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The changes, however, could get more fundamental. For example, highly niche markets like mirror makers are now imperiled by camera technology that does a mirror's job better — and with less weight.
Gentex has been making mirrors for three decades. To prevent themselves from being rendered obsolete in an automotive world that no longer needs them, the firm has developed a Full Display Mirror, which transforms from a traditional reflector to a video screen at the flip of a switch.
“If mirrors are not going to be required on cars, one day we could find ourselves in a position where our products no longer have any value,” said Motokazu Kaneko, a manager at Ichikoh Industries Ltd., which supplies mirrors and lamps. The Japanese company developed a monitoring system for heavier trucks that increases rear visibility by attaching cameras outside the car in a way that mimics traditional mirror layout.
At risk for being pushed out of the market, especially if self driving cars actually catch on?
Steering systems, since driverless cars don't really need steering wheels, or all the complex engineering that makes them possible.
“It was clear at first sight that there was no steering wheel in the car,” an executive at Japanese steering system supplier Jtekt Corp. noted upon his first view of the Google Self Driving car. This, he noted, was a sure sign it was time to rethink their line of work.
“Regardless of what customers want, we have to be prepared to offer relevant technologies that suit their needs,” noted Jtekt President Tetsuo Agata.