Cars now more than just way to go from A to B
Technology firms tackling the challenge of autonomous driving are focusing on the user experience of vehicles that are increasingly becoming an extension of people’s digital life.
Carmakers and tech firms are refining the systems for selfdriving navigation and safety.
But with full autonomy still likely years away, there is a growing interest in making cars a place to live, work, communicate and enjoy the ride.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, exhibitors were showcasing technology for comfort, safety, entertainment and personalisation.
Byton, the China-based electric carmaker expected to launch its first vehicles late in 2019, showed its sedan with a 48-inch (122cm) display panel, covering the width of the dash, where riders can watch movies, check messages and get other information – although the full array of services will not be offered while someone is driving.
The Byton car will use facial recognition to customise the experience for drivers and passengers, with personalised music and recommendations.
The car will know who is inside and how long they have been travelling, and in one example cited, make recommendations for restaurants along a particular route.
“The car could become the most important device in your digital life,” Carsten Breitfeld, co-founder and CEO of Byton, said.
Byton will offer the potential for partial autonomy, allowing riders to focus on other things such as watching movies, shopping with a voice assistant or browsing the web.
The vehicle will work through voice, touch, gestures or facial recognition.
“It’s all about the customer experience,” Carsten said at the show, noting that more of the enhanced features will be used when the car is in autonomous
The car will know who is inside and how long they have been travelling
mode or stationary.
Gawain Morrison, cofounder of the British-based artificial intelligence startup Sensum, said the human factor was becoming more important in the vehicle sector.
“A lot of the technology has been about moving from point A to point B,” he said.
“The next generation is about how to interact with the humans. They need an understanding about the human state at any point.”
Sensum and its auto-supplier partner Valeo showed what it called “empathic mobility tech” which can measure occupants’ emotional state and physiological comfort, and adjust its environmental settings accordingly.
The South Korean carmaker Kia dubbed its system “Realtime Emotion Adaptive Driving,” or READ with an emotional AI-based cabin which analyses a driver’s emotional state by monitoring facial expressions, heart rate and electrodermal activity.
“The system enables continuous communication between driver and vehicle through the unspoken language of ‘feeling’, thereby providing an optimal, human sense-oriented space for the driver in real-time,” Albert Biermann, president and head of research for Kia parent Hyundai, said.
German motor equipment maker Continental was showing its monitoring system which can detect if a driver is distracted or drowsy, in line with recommendations from the European Union.
“You may get a visual warning, or the seat will vibrate, or the steering wheel will vibrate,” Continental executive Heinz Abel said.
“This is part of an effort to guide your attention back to the road.”
Several equipment makers were showcasing what they called the cockpit of the future which could be available for conventional vehicles and adapted for autonomous mode.
Visteon displayed its electronic control unit which integrates the driving and manages other systems such as information and entertainment.
Upton Bowden, the head of new technology for Visteon, said equipment makers would be offering a “transitional cockpit” which helps people understand what is happening in autonomous mode.
He said these systems could be especially useful for autonomous rideshare vehicles, allowing personalisation of the experience through cloudbased technology.