The Car of 2030: An Extension of the Connected Home

When thinking about what cars will look and be like in 2030, there’s a lot to get excited about, according to findings of Molex’s recently released “The Future of Automotive” survey. Topping the list, we can expect the majority of these vehicles to be electric and safer while offering a full menu of connectivity options and customized experiences.

The survey, which gathered input from 230 qualified decision makers working at automobile companies with at least 1,000 employees, captured a lot of hard data on the future of the automotive industry. The results also reinforced the increasingly vital role Molex plays in this market, especially in addressing demand for flawless interconnectivity of mobile devices and data services.

This survey gives us confidence that our focus on electronics is the right place to be. For nearly 30 years, Molex has maintained a steady pace of investments and technological advancements in the automotive industry. In that time, we have supplied more than 95% of engine control and powertrain connectivity solutions for a major automotive OEM. Our heritage in high-speed networking also affirms Molex’s ability to support the growth of electrification and connectivity—cited by survey respondents as the two most important areas of innovation.

It’s All About the Experience

Over the decades, we’ve seen the landscape change dramatically for automotive OEMs as they envision the future of the connected car. Let’s face it: nobody goes to an auto showroom to ask about horsepower. They are more likely to ask about the number of charging ports or size of the vehicle’s display screen. Content drives everything–including tomorrow’s vehicles. That’s why automakers want to be the next Apple or Google in the car, so they can deliver the best consumer driver experience.

As evidence, many of the top 10 features that respondents predicted would be standard in cars by 2030 support this always-connected, personalization priority:

  • High-speed WiFi
  • Wireless charging
  • Car-to-car communications
  • Car-to-mobile device integration
  • Built-in home speaker capabilities (i.e., Alexa, Google Home)
  • Highly customizable passenger environment (noise cancelling, humidity, temperature, etc.)
  • Fully voice-operated
  • Biometric security or personalization features
  • Zero theft
  • Driver monitoring (health, attention intoxication, etc.)

Overcoming the Autonomy Challenge

While more than six in 10 respondents think cars of 2030 will be fully electric, they don’t expect them to operate autonomously—at least not yet. Those finding ring true, as drivers remain reluctant to relinquish control of the wheel. (I’m married to a native Californian who has made it clear that she is not ready to get in a car that drives itself.)

Still, I remember three years ago at CES, when everything was about autonomous vehicles. While I believe the day will come, I don’t see it occurring by 2030. There are too many technical challenges. To illustrate this complexity, an F-35 fighter jet requires 30 million lines of code while a Ford F-150 pickup requires five times more. Why the huge difference? When you’re up in the air, you don’t have to worry about a child racing into the street to collect his errant football. Expect the first autonomous vehicles to be purpose-built, such as shuttle buses, FedEx and UPS delivery trucks or perhaps Zoox, which aims to become Amazon’s first autonomous ride-hailing service.

Driving Down Cost through Innovation

All this new functionality and capability doesn’t come cheap. Because of all the complexity, respondents said they expected the price tags of 2030 cars to be higher than comparable cars today. Survey respondents cited several innovations across the overall ecosystem that will have the most impact on bringing down car prices.

Ranked first, battery costs are expected to drop dramatically over the next decade. In fact, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF) predicts that by 2030, batteries will fall to $58 per kilowatt hour, especially as solid-state batteries become stable enough to go mainstream and end up in vehicles. According to our poll, software integration and manufacturing process improvements round out the top three cost-saving areas.

Still, there will be challenges. As consumers embrace green electric cars in larger numbers, will there be sufficient charging infrastructure to support them? Are there enough natural resources to meet lithium and battery material requirements? Do we have the know-how to recycle batteries responsibly? Our industry must tackle and resolve these questions.

As electronics become a bigger player in 2030 vehicles, Molex will continue to focus on accelerating innovation where it’s needed most: enabling connectivity. Our global footprint and longstanding reputation for excellence extends across the entire automotive ecosystem, spanning electrification, Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), automotive high-speed networking, vehicle antenna systems, connected mobility solutions and vehicle-to-everything communications (V2X).

For an industry that’s 130 years old, the pace of recent automotive innovation is just mind blowing. It’s one reason I left the West Coast for Detroit almost 20 years ago: The car industry is full of surprises and groundbreaking advancements. I can’t wait to see how the collective ingenuity from the automotive and electronics industries come together to redefine and transform driving experiences for everyone.

Senior Vice President & President, Transportation & Industrial Solutions, Molex