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From the editor's desk: Electric and autonomous vehicles driving full-speed ahead

28 October 2020 News

I still can’t stop myself from doing a double-take when I hear that Tesla is rolling out a software update to add some sort of new functionality to its cars. Some of those updates are pointless show-off features while some are more functional, but my, hasn’t vehicular transport changed since the days of the Model T Ford?

I know it shouldn’t surprise me, since over-the-air updates like Tesla’s are one of the selling points for the Internet of Things, but it makes me think of that saying, “there’s an app for that.” The latest feature the company is rolling out is a beta version of ‘Full Self-Driving’, and will only be available to “a small number of people who are expert and careful drivers,” according to Elon Musk.


Brett van den Bosch.

Now, ‘Full Self-Driving’ is not the same as fully autonomous driving, but it will propel the ADAS (advanced driving assistance systems) market from Level 2+ autonomy (‘hands off’) to at least Level 4 autonomy (‘mind off’), which is getting very close to true Level 5 (‘steering wheel optional’) autonomy.

While not inextricably intertwined with one another, ADAS and electric vehicle (EV) technologies are advancing hand in hand, and the global market for EVs is set to explode in the coming years, with some countries around the world having committed to banning the sale of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles in the coming decade(s).

Both the issues of limited range and speed of charging are advancing quickly, however, with new battery chemistries coming to market and an ever increasing amount of investment and number of companies looking at new solid-state battery alternatives to the currently most popular lithium-ion technologies.

In one study done by Verified Market Research in August this year, it was estimated that the EV battery market will be worth $133,46 billion, globally, by 2027 – amounting to a compound annual growth rate of 18,05 percent. The transport sector has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, so that’s a pretty impressive growth rate considering the research was performed during the pandemic as recently as just a couple of months ago.

The transition to fully electric vehicles will most likely take much longer to take root in South Africa, for various reasons, but there are a number of local companies developing EVs (of the four- and two-wheel varieties, as well as possibly others). Unfortunately, apart from their higher up-front cost, there are practical reasons limiting the adoption of EVs in this country, not least of all their limited range and the paucity of charging points – oh, and the fact that there’s a good chance there will be load shedding in the exact area and at the precise time that you’re most desperately in need of a recharge.

Now if only there was an app for making minibus taxi drivers follow the rules of the road…


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