How Modern Automobiles are Driving Engineering Innovation

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Researchers from Mercedes-Benz R&D centerImage Source

The automobile industry has been a driving force in many areas of industrial innovation for the past 100 years. Modern car manufacturers are continually innovating and designing, so what innovative engineering solutions have been the result of modern automobile manufacturing?
Transportation vehicles are at the core of our everyday lives, behind the products we buy, and likely even sustain the places where we work. Without the modern automobile, life would look quite different, and so would engineering.

At the forefront of automotive innovation as of recent, there has been the push for autonomous vehicles. These vehicles need to not only think  for themselves, but also communicate with other cars on the road, even communicate with human passengers. Looking first at the push for autonomous, automotive engineers, or engineers directly involved with automotive advancement, have simultaneously been pushing forward our knowledge in the realm of wireless connectivity, artificial intelligence, and energy production.

When you think about it, a car is essentially every technical aspect of society minus food production. Cars need to generate power, cool spaces, transport passengers, and occasionally even manage waste. It’s no wonder then that the automotive field is at the cutting edge of so many industries.

For many years, car designers focused solely on mechanics and engines. After all, cars have been just that for most of their lives – machines. Modern advancements have transformed cars into computerized machines. With this addition of computer electronics in cars comes programming, a field that could arguably be linked to every single area of modern technology. It was at the point that cars became more than just mechanical parts that the automotive industry started driving innovation outside of its respective industry.

Engineers developing autonomous driving systems may specifically be working on a project for transportation, but the knowledge gained therein is proving highly used to those in other autonomous or AI industries. A technology commonly referred to as the internet of things (IoT) has now taken utmost importance in automotive research. To develop smarter and smarter cars, automotive engineers are constantly researching how a wireless computer in a car can interface with virtually every aspect of modern infrastructure. Stoplights, coffee shops, smartphones, airports, you name it and there is likely an engineer in the automotive industry researching it.

From a monetary aspect, car manufacturing companies have a proportionately large about our disposable income designated for researching new technologies. Right now, the race is on to develop the first consumer level fully autonomous vehicle. There are certainly manufacturers ahead of others, but all are devoting a lot of money to research and development applications. This is how much of the world’s technological innovation happens. Researching AI is great, but if there is no practical application for the technology, then there is a limited base of investors. While there are other fields where AI is useful, having a large facet of modern industry, automobiles, focused on AI technologies or those of like means that there is a large pool of money for research engineers to draw from.

Whether you are a lover of cars or if you just drive one to commute to work, the industry that created those machines is indirectly and directly responsible for many of the other machines and technology around you in every area of your life.

Profile photo of Trevor English
Trevor is a civil engineer by trade and an accomplished internet blogger with a passion for inspiring everyone with new and exciting technologies. He is also a published children’s book author whose most recent book, ZOOM Go the Vehicles, is aimed at inspiring young kids to have an interest in engineering.

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