2019 top auto trends, according to GM

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GENERAL Motors (GM) International said it collaborated with Richard Watson, founder of the NowAndNext Website and author of Digital vs. Human, in a study meant to determine trends in the automotive industry in 2019. The projections, specific to Asia Pacific, will not all be evident in the region this year, GM said. But it added “one can expect to see them emerge very soon.”

“In 2019, Asia Pacific will still be the growth region, manifested in its overall sense of optimism about the future compared to the general sense of disillusionment in the rest of the world,” the GM study said regarding overall market conditions that influence vehicle sales.

Here are the predictions:

Self-driving cars will continue rapid development
Expect to see further development of autonomous transportation, including cars, trains, buses, trucks and, eventually, planes.

Decline of driving licenses held by younger people, especially in cities
Citing research by Schroders, GM said the proportion of young people who have a driving license or own a vehicle has fallen in recent years. The rise of car sharing services, such as Grab and Lyft, is a contributing factor.

Impacts of aging populace on car design and use
While the median age of people in Southeast Asia is under 30, other countries around the world have a much older populace — the median age in Japan is nearly 50, according to GM. Increasingly, the vehicle of choice for this older generation is turning out to be midsize crossovers, which allow for easy entry and exit. The introduction of autonomous driving systems and ride-hailing services will further aid older customers.

Polarizations between large/small, expensive/cheap, and green/non-green cars
While automakers continue to invest in EVs, they are also responding to popular demand for pickup trucks and SUVs — vehicle segments which GM said would be transformed by advances in electrification and alternative fuels in the coming years.

Trend toward smaller, lighter vehicles (and growth in advanced nano materials)
Stringent government regulations needed to meet fuel emission standards and advancements in technologies and materials have made “light-weighting” a major focus of global car makers. Examples of weight-reduction technologies given by GM include the use of carbon-fiber body panels and carbon-nano composite underbody components.

Growth of connected cars and integrated city transport solutions
Connected cars, enabled by vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications, will likely play an essential role in improving traffic safety and efficiency when widely deployed. GM said it demonstrated its V2I capability on public roads in Shanghai in 2017, and that it had participated late last year in the first multi-industry demonstration of C-V2X, or cellular connected car communications.

3D printing of car components and perhaps whole cars (extending to 4D materials)
GM said automakers have been using 3D printers to fabricate prototypes for vehicle development, and that the practice will grow in scale within five years as the technology improves. The company speculated that the use of shape-shifting transformable 4D-printed materials would follow next.

Death of the manual gearbox
Advances in the fuel efficiency and performance of automatic transmissions have all but eliminated demand for stick-shift cars. GM said the use of paddle shifters is also just a “passing fad.” In a 2017 report, GM said that 62% of drivers used their paddle shifters less than two times per year.