British Motor Museum Volunteers

British Motor Museum Volunteers

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The British motor industry: what is the road ahead?

A Volunteers view

On 25 March, several volunteers attended a new Museum initiative, a one day series of lectures, open to the public, devoted to the future of the British Motor Industry.  Five well-respected and industry-leading professionals gave an overview of where the British car industry is today, how it got there and how they expected it to evolve over the coming years. Volunteer Ian Hicks played a significant role in organising the event as he described in our previous blog. Here he now gives his scenario on what that future might look like in 40 years time:

Spring 2057
Stephen gets into his L segment personal transport, ready for his drive into work. The journey will take him around 30 minutes each way, apparently, the same amount of time people used to commute to work 100 years ago. Whilst he prepares to drive off, he reflects that the 1990’s phenomenon of telecommuting and virtual offices never really materialised. People still needed to travel to their places of work, they still needed to interact with people and things.

His personal transport, the latest Changhong model, built in Coventry, is a single seater. Despite its battery and electric drives, it weighs in at a mere 150 kg and has a range of 150 miles before it needs recharging. This is perfect, since 98% of his journeys are 50 miles or less. On the occasions Stephen wants to take the family out for weekend trips or holidays, he contacts Changhong from his “connected car” and they arrange a family size electric vehicle as part of his “servicisation” package. There’s no longer the need to purchase or contract hire the largest vehicle to suit all needs.

Checking the controls of his personal transport, he selects the FOHOBO controller for his commute. This is a recent innovation, where he can select “Feet-Off” where the car controls speed and braking only; or “Hands-Off” where the car controls position and direction or “Brain-Off” where the car operates in fully autonomous mode.

On his way to the Motor Museum, where he is curator, the speed of his car is controlled by smart loops set into the road, relaying speed information to the car’s controller. Despite more autonomy in controlling cars, there are still strict speed limits in place, mainly to protect pedestrians, cyclists and those drivers still not using fully autonomous cars. Even though cars have been in use in Britain for over 150 years, there’s only been one four-year period, 1930 to 1934 when drivers and their cars have not had to comply with speed limits.  

Stephen contemplates his latest acquisitions for the Museum’s collection; it’s a 2025 Jaguar G type, a fully-electric vehicle and the last model ever produced at Castle Bromwich. The car is in lovely condition, and the crew at the museum will be able to maintain the mechanical components and even the electric drives.  However, the software controllers for the FOHOBO and environment connectivity are no longer made and with over 10 million lines of software are beyond the skills of his support crew and challenge even the most dedicated software developers, who are a dying breed these days.

Stephen Laing (Curator) far left and the panel of leading industry experts

Tata were one of the winners in the so-called Brexit impacts when UK distanced itself from the European car market.  The Brexit negotiations resulted in high tariffs imposed on UK produced cars being sold in Europe but strong demand in the other regions of the globe meant that the Jaguar brand was able to sustain its market position. It was a pity about Europe, but in common with other manufacturers, Tata needed to produce vehicles that complied with global specifications, producing cars with regional variations meeting local specifications wasn’t good business. The success of Tata and others with UK manufacture was to be applauded, but UK was still only the 13th largest producer in the world…. Exactly the same position as it occupied in 2017.

As he arrived at the Museum, he thought back to something he’d read recently in the Museum archives. Back in March 2017, a British MP, Sir Greg Knight had advised Museum attendees that now’s the time to buy and own a classic. How prophetic Sir Greg was. Since then legislation, environmental concerns and the wholesale replacement of petrol stations with supermarket charging points meant that internal combustion cars were no longer viable, even on the shortest journeys. Of the 500 cars in the collection, this meant that over 350 were genuinely just museum pieces……. But that didn’t seem to stop the public being really interested in this transport of yesteryear.