KhodroCar - even if the vision for the future is vague, car companies are shifting toward it. From General Motors announcing an electrified fleet by 2023 to Waymo deploying fully-autonomous cars to Tesla releasing the Model 3, some of the biggest stories of the year stemmed from the sudden onslaught of announcements about electric and autonomous vehicles.
There’s been plenty of notable letdowns this year, too. But all told, it’s a wild, precarious time for an industry that’s rapidly working to change itself.
How do you divvy up the best and worst of an industry in flux? It’s hard to pick out only a handful of each, but let’s take a shot at it.
Everyone Getting On Board With The Electric Revolution
Electric cars can be a bit of a turn-off for enthusiasts, but there’s innumerable reasons why the electrification buy-in from automakers is a Very Good Thing. The more gas guzzlers removed from the street, for one thing, the cleaner our air quality will be.
Countries across the world recognized as much—Britain and France alone want to ban the sale of gas cars by 2040—and the state of California wants to follow suit. Toyota joined in late with plans for more than 10 models by the early 2020s, Ford with 13 of its own around the same time, and Volkswagen wants to drop $82 billion on electric cars.
The only way the public might buy into electric cars is if more options are available.
Waymo Deploys A Fleet Of Actually Driverless Cars
To be sure, for now, it’s restrained to limited circumstances, but seeing Google’s self-driving car project Waymo send truly autonomous cars out into the world is a wild damn thing.
It’s the beginning stages of what automakers and tech developers envision for the future—truly driverless cars shuttling people around without any hiccups. Waymo says this winter that participants selected for a pilot program will first test the cars to get around town for work or to run errands. Journalists had a taste of the experience, but it was only in a controlled setting. So it’ll be worth watching in 2018 if there’s an opportunity for non-pre-selected folks to get a shot to experience a ride in the back seat of these cars.
Still, it’s a giant leap forward: The robots! Driving around town!
Electric Semi Plans Shape Up
If there’s one aspect of the transportation industry that’s ripe for the kind of change that can be delivered by electric powertrains, it’s trucking. With enough charging infrastructure in place, and trucks that can pack enough battery power to withstand long-hauls, the benefits of electrification seem obvious.
This year, a slate of competitors trotted out their first such ventures: Tesla’s semi, which on the higher-end can carry a 500 mile range, stole the show in November. But at the same time, Daimler introduced a tractor with a 217 mile range. Bosch has a similarly ambitious project in the pipeline. And Cummins says there should be an offering by 2019 that can hold up to 300 miles of range. Whether trucking companies buy into electrification remains to be seen.
The Tesla Model 3 Is Here, Sort Of
What’s your definition of "best”? I’m putting Tesla’s Model 3 here because, quite frankly, it’s hard to believe a company as unusual as Tesla has gotten as far as it has. Tesla—lead by a guy who spends his nights engorging on social media—attracted enough attention to receive a half-million reservations for an all-electric sedan. And by many early indicators, the Model 3 is going to be an impressive vehicle when it finally hits full production devoid of the missteps that have hobbled it early on.
If it’s successful, it has the opportunity to turn generations of people onto electric cars. Now, the story of 2018 will be how well they’re received. Tesla was one of the most controversial, notable stories to watch. It’s hard to ignore that.