Auto trends include self-driving vehicles

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Increased vehicle safety and self-driving automobiles are just two of the trends predicted for the automotive industry, according to one expert.

Leaders from all tiers of the automotive industry provided the most up-to-date automotive forecasts and trends, during the 16th West Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium March 5, hosted by the Van Andel Global Trade Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. The theme for the symposium was “North American Manufacturing Fueling Growth.”

Ed Wulbrecht, vice president of Quality Control for Subaru of Indiana Automotive, said trends for the auto industry include a push for safer vehicles, recall prevention, fuel economy improvements and self-driving automobiles.

“I don’t think people realize how close we are to having cars on the road that are self driven. We are almost there,” said Wulbrecht. “One of the main reasons for it is safety. If you’re in an autonomous vehicle you’re not likely to have an accident and you’re not going to have an accident with another one.”

Wulbrecht said self-driving vehicles offer mobility for everyone — the visually impaired or those with a disability — and offers more time for passengers to do work or take care of business via computer or iPhone. He said there will be a gradual increase in the capability of existing cars like adaptive cruise control, auto steering, auto brakes and auto lane change.

Mike Wall, director of Automotive Analysis at IHS Automotive, told attendees the outlook for the North American and Asian markets is quite strong, while the markets in Japan, Korea and Russia will decline. “We expect the sales growth in North America to moderate in the near term, but we expect the market to surpass the pre-crash peak in 2017,” he said. “With an improving economy and expanding population, we will see a transition from those who need to buy to those who want to buy.”

Roberto Soto Montes, director of Purchasing for Renault-Nissan of North America, said his company’s goals for 2015 include powering its own brand to make it stronger, reducing emissions, increasing safety and upgrading and expanding the lineup of electrical vehicles.