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Automotive News, October 2018

With Brexit, impending and many companies in limbo about the future, Bentley Motors leads the way, recruiting a new intake of apprentices as the business takes a strong stance toward UK manufacturing. As the company prepares to celebrate its centenary year, Bentley Motors has recruited a new intake of apprentices, undergraduates and graduates to its 4,000-strong workforce.

Covering areas such as sales and marketing, communications, digital, finance and purchasing, and of course, engineering and manufacturing departments. Out of the 83 new recruits, 40 apprentices will start training at the company’s headquarters in Crewe, bringing the current number of apprentices to nearly 140.

This latest intake of apprentices, graduates and undergraduates from Bentley, comes after a recent poll highlighted the views on manufacturing by the wider public. These held huge misconceptions about the pay and opportunities a career in manufacturing offers, and that while the public views manufacturing as critical to the future of the UK economy, less than 20% of parents would encourage their children to work in the sector. More positively though, almost three quarters of people (70%) agree that the UK cannot tackle future problems without a strong manufacturing sector, and 88% think it is important for the UK to have a strong industry.

Things are shifting though. Cars, buses, ships and planes are now becoming electric, autonomous and part of intelligent, connected operations. Present transport systems are no longer part of a forward thinking future, as we move toward a smarter, greener and autonomously led approach.

Connecting things together enables entire operations to be more effective, and as connectivity becomes increasingly important in all aspects of our lives; shopping, mobile phones, internet banking, it is also becoming synonymous with the future of transport. Autonomous cars have stolen the AV limelight for the past few years, and this buzz is set to continue, as even companies like electric appliance manufacturer Dyson, is investing and getting its foot in the autonomous car door, so to speak.

One of the biggest benefits of introducing any autonomous vehicle is improved safety, connected sensors should be able to scan surrounding environments and react accordingly, with of course no human error. However, there have been incidents where that has not happened.

There is a lot of work to be done; it needs to be proved that AVs are safer than their human counterparts are. However, autonomous vehicles could enable quicker reactions to changes in traffic or surrounding environment movements, in theory enabling a safer and seamless transport system. They can reduce risk, improve efficiency and decrease workload.

Coventry-based manufacturer Aurrigo even played the largest role in the world’s first ever multiconnected and autonomous vehicle demonstration earlier this week, showing how vehicles can apply autonomous technology as a complete solution.

The introduction of 5G is further propelling the case for autonomous vehicles. Earlier this month, researchers set a 5G communications speed record for AVs, this being nearly 40 times faster than current fixed line broadband speeds.  Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) managed to hit 2.867 gigabits per second in over-the-air transmissions.

This is quick enough, to send a high definition blockbuster film in less than 10 seconds. The fast wireless communications technology could allow autonomous vehicles to rapidly share large quantities of important data with each other and with traffic management systems.

There is a lot of research and development surrounding autonomous vehicles, intelligent systems and integrating 5G to be undertaken. However, the potential benefits AVs could offer to society are enormous, and the introduction of the technology into everyday life is looking to be inevitable.

Connected and autonomous systems could be the future of all transport systems, and why not. If it is safer, improves efficiency, reduces risk and decreases workload. Is more manufacturers look to invest and adapt their products and processes – whether that is cars, ship components or more general production.

As carmakers gathered earlier this month at the Paris Motor Show, the road ahead is cluttered. Slowing sales, the rising costs of meeting new regulations, trade risks and the need to invest in technology are putting their global operations under increasing strain. While some of the immediate challenges have in part evaporated, others loom larger.

 All of the major manufacturers will launch a variety of electric and hybrid cars in the coming years, in part to hit the EU’s CO2 rules in 2020, which require a fleet average of 95 grammes of CO2 per kilometre down from 130g/km in 2015. However, the 2030 requirements are far more stringent, requiring widespread sale of electric cars by manufacturers, threatening existing engine-based supply chains and past investments into technologies such as diesel now frowned upon by regulators.

The push is compounded by the spiralling decline for engines that run on diesel, a technology that was once embraced across Europe because it emits a fifth less CO2 than petrol. Even if carmakers have battery vehicles on the market, stepping up their output is challenging because the parts  in that go into them batteries containing lithium, cobalt and other rare materials are in high demand.