The vehicles examined here are maximum technology vehicles; that is, they combine a wide range of new advanced technologies in one vehicle. This is distinctly not in the mold of historic vehicle innovation, which has tended to be more incremental in nature.
Generally, new technologies have been introduced singly, in limited-edition (often luxury) vehicles to test their readiness for the mass market in a way that limits risks to the automaker.
Only after a few years of such “testing” are new technologies moved into the heart of an automaker’s fleet. Thus, if the future is like the past, the vehicles examined here may be unrealistic in their capability to model real world events. The existence of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV), however, which is attempting to develop such a maximum technology vehicle.
The technology forcing nature of California’s zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandates, and the potential for future fuel economy regulations may make such vehicles more likely in the future. Uncertainty in Technology Forecasting There is now considerable literature evaluating the prospects for substantial advances in automotive technology.
Unfortunately, a reading of this literature leaves the reader with a wide– and confusing–range of views about the likely timing, cost, and performance of advanced vehicles and vehicle technologies. It is useful for the reader to recognize that the history of technology forecasting, and forecasting in the automotive arena, is rife with failure, particularly when forecasts are aimed at technologies that are clear departures from those in use at the time of the forecast.
Many technologies that were forecast to be commercialized and to have made extensive inroads in market share have dropped from the menu of technology options by the target date of the projection. Others have been added to the menu despite widespread pessimism about their chances for commercialization or intensive penetration into the fleet. Reasons for incorrect technology forecasts include:
- The possibility that the market rejected the technology because of its expense or perceived disadvantages (high rates of failure, adverse effect on noise or ride quality, and so forth), and/or market preferences may have changed after the forecast was made;
- Other technologies that are lower cost or have lower operating expenses may do a better job;