This report provides an update on work completed by Synthesis Partners, LLC (“Synthesis”) for the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) under contract number DE-DT0006388, during fiscal years (FY) 2016 and 2017.
Synthesis performs targeted research to help inform VTO research and development (R&D) decision-making about critical technology bottlenecks, gaps or constraints in the US industrial base and supply chains. This report is the public outcome of a global, data-driven approach – employing hundreds of primary sources and thousands of secondary sources – to assess and characterize potential R&D gap topic areas that are relevant to the VTO’s mission of energy affordability, efficiency and resiliency, and that can provide a path toward transitioning VTO R&D work into US-based jobs.
This review covers targeted research on R&D gaps regarding technologies and capabilities in vehicle electric traction drive, autonomous and connected vehicle systems and sectors. Two separate inquiries were pursued in FY16 and FY17. Research during FY 2016 focused on identification and prioritization of research and development (R&D) fields in the automotive sector that have a strong chance to grow in the USA because of unique US-based capabilities and strengths. Research work during FY 2017 focused on identification and prioritization of gaps in R&D that point to promising, hardware-oriented research directions in autonomous and connected vehicle fields. Primary sources and English-language (and targeted foreign language) secondary sources, as well as proprietary and commercial databases, were accessed during the period of this work.
A high priority has been placed on R&D fields that are among the highest-value (based on share of US exports and revenue growth rates), and that are relevant over five-plus year planning horizons for VTO decision-makers seeking significant energy efficiency and core technology cost reductions. The gap intelligence work in FY16 and FY17 is ultimately intended to identify high potential targets for US autonomous vehicle R&D development and high-value job creation.
Overview of FY16 and FY17 Tasking
Details on the tasking and deliverable produced over the FY16 and FY17 period are available from VTO. This report provides a summary review of the public key findings and recommendations produced.
During FY16 Synthesis assessed US export sectors relevant to electrical engineering in the automotive industry, in terms of relative size (by sales) and growth rates, in order to identify high strength or competitive US sectors. The top-ranked sectors identified are home to some of the most highly competitive and innovative US-based firms. These sectors were then reviewed to identify and assess potential new R&D areas, defined as technical areas in which the VTO has not previously engaged and where R&D investments could address a gap. Such new R&D areas represent a complex set of technical needs that are generally beyond the ability of any individual company to address, and which are included under Synthesis’ interpretation of the VTO mission.
During FY17, Synthesis identified, characterized and prioritized key gaps in current research activities, in order to highlight promising R&D possibilities in the fields of:
- Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR);
- Sensor system development; and
- Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) or vehicle-to-anywhere connectivity (V2X).
Promising research in the FY17 work is defined as R&D activities pertaining to a gap in autonomous and connected vehicle technology that is also:
- US-based, or has the potential to be US-based;
- Could reach commercial vehicle markets in 5-10 years; and
- Has the capability to reduce costs, ideally by a significant (>50%) amount.
Statistics on Sources Accessed in FY17
Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Report (2016-2018)