Electric Cars Are Here To Stay
Automotive technology is advancing—and transforming the marketplace.
“Electrification is coming. There is no doubt about it,” says Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering for AAA. “Mass-market electric vehicles that appeal to the American market are already available.”
When asked about the factors prompting the popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), Brannon points to their improving range and consumers’ growing willingness to embrace them.
Case in point: EV registrations increased by 60% in the first quarter of 2022.
AAA has added EVs to its roadside assistance program’s fleet in several states for tasks that don’t require heavy-duty trucks, such as battery charges or providing help with changing tires. Another sign of the times: AAA is also piloting mobile electric charging in several cities, including Orlando, Florida; Denver, Colorado; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Nashville, Tennessee. Many branch locations are also installing charging stations.
Autonomous (or Self Driving) and Semi-Autonomous Vehicles
When it comes to fully automated vehicles, Brannon remains skeptical. “All of the predictions made a few years ago about how quickly we would get to full driving automation have been proven wrong,” he says, “because it has been shown that it is much, much more difficult to do than initially anticipated.”
While fully automated vehicles may still be far in the future, semi-autonomous safety features, known as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), are already gaining wide application.
For instance, most automakers voluntarily implemented an agreement that, as of Sept. 1, 2022, their new vehicles would come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), which brakes the vehicle when it senses a collision is imminent and the driver hasn’t braked quickly enough.
If all automakers were to install AEB, the system could prevent 42,000 crashes and 20,000 injuries by 2025.
Safety Features and Electric Cars
AAA clubs are also involved with testing ADAS to make sure that these safety features perform as intended. Much of this testing takes place at GoMentum Station in Concord, California, the country’s largest secure testing facility for connected and automated technology, owned and operated by AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah.
Some of the other ADAS that are currently available for vehicles include:
- Rear automatic emergency braking, which brakes to prevent a crash when you’re driving your car in reverse.
- Lane-keeping or lane-centering assistance, which monitors your vehicle to help you keep it from drifting into other lanes.
- Adaptive cruise control, which slows your vehicle down so that it matches the speed of the car in front of you, maintaining a preset following distance.
If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, Brannon offers this piece of advice: “Buy one with all the safety features that you can afford, and then drive it like they’re not there,” he says. “They’ll be a backstop in case you find yourself in a situation where you didn’t predict something.”