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What’s Picking Up Speed in 2024? Autonomous Driving, Vehicle-to-Grid, and More

Written By: Hwee Yng Yeo, Automotive Solutions Lead, Keysight Technologies


This is the time of year when analysts look at economic and geopolitical data trends to see where things are headed. But one good way to identify key tech trends is to follow the money.

Here are some views on the Top 4 automotive innovation trends that will pick up investment speed in 2024.

Trend 1: Vehicle-to-Grid Implementation

One of the biggest areas of investment by both the public and private sectors is in distributed energy resources. In October 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy announced USD $3.5 billion in grants to expand capacity for wind and solar power, harden power lines against extreme weather, integrate batteries and electric vehicles (EV), and build out microgrids that can keep the lights on during power outages. This is part of the USD $10.5 billion available to expand transmission lines, improve grid resiliency and deploy ​“smart-grid” technologies in the U.S.

Behind these big numbers, the integration of batteries and EVs entails rigorous research and development and extensive testing, to turn the EV into what the industry calls a vehicle-to-grid (V2G)-enabled EV. This essentially turns the vehicle into a battery pack on wheels, where instead of just taking energy from the grid, the EV’s battery is now capable of bidirectional power flow and can discharge a portion of the stored electricity back to the grid, to help balance the grid.

In a V2G-enabled ecosystem, the vehicle and charging infrastructure must operate seamlessly across all power and communication interfaces.

Interoperability and Safety Are Crucial

It is critical to ensure interoperability and safety, not just to the vehicle, but the charging infrastructure and the power grid – to ensure ‘clean’ electricity for grid efficiency. The concept (Figure 1) sounds simple, but the devil is in the details, as there are many potential liabilities from the high-power energy exchange that must be mitigated, since the output from the EV can be anywhere from 300 – 400 VDC.

Distributed energy resource manufacturers for EV and EVSE must comply with multiple standards and certification processes before they can go to market as V2G-compliant. Test houses will likely see more requests for V2G standards conformance testing, while both automakers and charging infrastructure companies continue to invest in emulation technology that can help them accelerate their product development cycle with pre-compliance testing.

Trend 2: Solid-state EV batteries Are No Longer “What If” but “When”

In the computing world, it took solid-state drives (SSD) almost 30 years to become really pervasive. In the case of solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, work started just over a decade ago, but has been accelerating in recent years. So, it is no longer a question of “what if we try to use a solid-state architecture” but how to finetune the design.

Why SSD Is a Panacea

Here are three reasons why solid-state batteries may be the panacea for automakers:

  • Lighter. Solid-state batteries are, as the description suggests, denser. In electric vehicles, the battery pack can make up 25% of the overall vehicle’s weight. Increasing battery density means the battery can output more electricity per unit of weight or volume. This translates to more compact and lighter batteries, and longer driving range since the vehicle now travels lighter.
  • More stable. In conventional Li-ion batteries, there is a remote possibility of the liquid electrolytes experiencing a “thermal runaway” due to a short circuit. This causes rapid meltdown of the electrolytes, creating a lot of heat and possibly, explosion. Solid-state batteries use solid electrolytes, typically made of ceramics or polymers. These are more stable and secure, and generate much less heat than their liquid counterpart.
  • Faster, more durable. Research by automakers and their battery-making counterparts shows that solid-state batteries can reach 80% in 15 minutes. They are also more durable: A lithium-ion battery begins to degrade after 1,000 cycles, while a solid-state battery maintains 90% of its capacity after 5,000 charges.

As with all new technology, there are still issues to be addressed, such as cost, access to Lithium, and figuring out the best cell chemistry and fabrication methods to counter dendrites, which can also cause shorts as the battery ages.

Research in solid-state batteries will intensify, with market growth led by Asia Pacific followed by Europe and America. South Korea announced it is investing over USD $15 billion to commercialize solid-state batteries by 2030. Pushing an even more aggressive timeline is China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group, which says it will roll out all-solid-state batteries in vehicles by 2026.

Trend 3: Autonomous Driving Is Crossing the Chasms

In November 2023, BMW joined Mercedes to offer SAE Level 3 conditionally autonomous driving. In some territories, drivers can now legally take their hands off the steering wheel “in certain conditions”, but are expected to resume control when prompted, failing which the car will guide itself to a safe stopping place.

Automakers will continue to work on refining Level 3 self-driving capabilities to make them more broadly available in personal sedans. Concurrently, the progress towards commercializing Level 4 self-driving continues—which is when the driver is not required to drive, except “in some conditions,” as per the SAE autonomous driving definitions.

To minimise the risks and liabilities of such commercialised self-driving features, numerous iterations of design validation and testing must be done for the sensors and algorithms that are essentially taking over the human driver’s cognitive and response functions.

Take automotive radar sensors as an example. They have become a staple of modern vehicles to enable advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicle (AV) applications for Level 3 self-driving and beyond.

Addressing a Big Challenge

One of the biggest challenges to date, is how to train the algorithms behind these ADAS and AV sensors to handle real-world traffic scenarios, from slow country-road traffic to bustling peak-hour city traffic and relatively rare contingencies like a wild animal crossing the road.

ADAS and AV system developers are turning to new automated technology, such as radar scene emulation, to create different realistic scenarios in the lab against which the radar sensors and the traffic detection algorithms behind them can be trained. In-lab testing has the benefit of repeatability, so the design and test iterations can be repeated and parameters fine-tuned, something that is not possible on real roadways when the system is still in the earlier development phases prior to real road tests.

While radar scene emulators can help with advancing automotive radar, which is a line-of-sight technology, the modern connected car’s reliance on wireless communication and navigation systems will need extended testing for non-line-of-sight applications, such as vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). Such technology can allow vehicles to share sensor data with each other and with roadside units, as well as remotely pinpoint and direct vehicles.

Since automakers cannot use real-life telecommunication systems to test their ADAS and AV innovations during the R&D phases, they have to rely on autonomous drive emulation technology to generate and analyze these wireless signals across a myriad of real-world scenarios in the lab.

According to a recent report by Straits Research, the V2X market is expected to reach USD $36.43 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 36.5% between 2022 and 2030.  Already, vehicle connectivity consortium 5GAA is showcasing numerous “ready-to-deploy applications” and it will be exciting to see these in action on the roads.

Trend 4: Building on Automotive Cybersecurity

Remember a time when ransomware rendered many helpless in front of their computers? In more recent years, smartphone scams have been hogging the headlines. It’s pretty obvious scammers and cybercriminals are following the data trail to where the money is—and up next is the data mine on wheels.

With the connected car, the modern vehicle is a supercomputer. While connectivity offers numerous advantages, it also opens up points of vulnerability that must be fortified against cyberattacks.

An automotive cybersecurity report by Upstream revealed as connected vehicles become more prevalent on the road, cyber-hacking tools have become more advanced. Vehicle security teams are challenged with mitigating threats that go beyond direct attacks against vehicles, targeting

fleets, mobility applications and services, and even EV charging infrastructure.

The good news is that since 2020, the United Nations’ World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, known as WP.29 for short, has introduced an automotive cybersecurity regulatory framework for automakers. For example, UN Regulation 155 mandates rigorous cybersecurity management system audits for automakers and their suppliers. It also requires automakers to obtain “vehicle type approval”, which involves auditors conducting tests on vehicle products sharing the same electrical architecture.

Automakers, their supply chain, and cybersecurity partners are investing over USD $10 billion from 2023 to 2032 to step up automotive cybersecurity measures throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle, from design to production and maintenance. This includes rigorous testing of the vehicle, from physical layers such as onboard in-vehicle networks, communications, and EV charging ports, to securing application layer protocols.

Road to Future Mobility

The road to future mobility is filled with opportunities and challenges, as automakers and their supply chain juggle multiple goals: closing the gaps to meet climate goals by 2050, crossing the chasms towards higher-level autonomous driving, and countering cyberattacks. I Inspired action from innovative ideas will solve these challenges, and help balance market forces as we roll into 2024.