3 car tech trends to watch in 2020


Traffic jams. Air pollution. Gas guzzlers. Range anxiety.

Modern-day driving challenges are fueling a shift in car-buyer demands. Gone are the days when drivers simply wanted a good-looking, reliable vehicle. Now they also expect advanced safety features, smoother rides and personalized in-cabin technology.

Innovations are deepening our connections with cars. Carmakers aren't just providing hardware and software - they're providing experiences.

Here are three ways tech is delivering what car buyers want - and need - from the vehicle of the future:

All-electric future edges closer

As governments worldwide set standards for reduced emissions - and drivers demand more power-hungry functions from their vehicles - a step-change in automotive architecture is being created.

"A lot of exciting developments are happening with the move toward an energy-efficient, emission-friendly standard for vehicles," said Matt Watson, who leads our company's C2000™ microcontrollers business. "As cars become more electrified and efficient, the challenge is to increase power efficiency for better range, charging, speed and vehicle dynamics. How do we get more out of the power electronics? The 12-volt battery is maxed out for the level of electric load in the vehicle, and new power technologies are emerging."

The 48-volt system is considered a key for moving toward zero-emissions transportation, but it won't replace the 12-V system for the foreseeable future. The addition of a 48-V system can help carmakers quickly reduce emissions from the combustion engine while minimizing fuel consumption and improving performance.

As vehicles edge closer toward an all-electric future, adding power-dense silicon carbide and gallium nitride technologies will unlock the potential for reducing vehicle weight to improve efficiency and extend the range on a single charge.

"Every efficiency gain reduces emissions," said Karl-Heinz Steinmetz, who leads our automotive powertrain business. "The gains add up to a number that matters for the customer. Going from 99% efficiency to 99.5% efficiency can mean driving 50 kilometers more on a single charge."

Connectivity improves the driver experience

Connecting your smartphone to your car opens more possibilities for personalization.

"With Bluetooth connectivity in every smartphone on the planet, widespread adoption of using your phone as a key is possible and enhancements to the user experience are limitless," said Mattias Lange, who leads our connectivity business. "Before you even enter your vehicle, you can adjust your seat, set the temperature to your liking and even select your favorite tunes for the road, all from the palm of your hand."

In the future, wireless connectivity technologies may replace heavy cables within vehicles to manage battery systems, which would improve range, performance and maintenance - and enhance the overall driving experience.

"The more sophisticated these vehicles become, the more reliant they are on battery technology, and the more vital it is to have a robust communication network to distribute power where it's needed most," Mattias said. "As more intelligence is added to vehicles, cohesive distribution of electronics is very important. Down the road, who knows what role wireless connectivity may have beyond the battery management subsystem and even into more robust communications among the powertrain subsystems?"

Advanced safety features become standard

Imagine if your vehicle could alert you about a stalled car or other obstructions on the road ahead to help you avoid a collision. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are the eyes and ears of the car, using multi-camera vision and radar systems for pedestrian detection, blind-spot detection, and intelligent in-cabin sensing.

More vehicles on the road will be equipped with capabilities to sense, process and act on real-time data to reduce accidents and save lives.

"ADAS technology today is what infotainment and in-cabin technology used to be," said Sameer Wasson, who leads our processors business. "Consumers are beginning to expect these safety features in newer vehicles, and they've become a real deciding factor for making a purchase. In many ways, the sensing technology outside of the vehicle can be used to improve the in-cabin experience."

As power level capabilities within vehicles continue to increase, they unlock possibilities for more electronic content to curate an exceptional experience for drivers.

"The driving experience is evolving in many ways, from merging your digital life with your car to up-leveling safety featues," Karl-Heinz said. "It's creating a more seamless experience."