Science fiction films will have us believe that the future holds self-driving cars that can fly through the air while we sleep, text or watch television. However, the reality is much more prosaic than this. The future of motoring is less likely to be about flying cars and much more about automated systems to deal with the boring parts of driving.
We look at the forthcoming developments in car technology and why your next car could be smarter than you.
Advanced driver assistance systems set to take over the boring parts of driving
The recent GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California highlighted many of the new technologies that you can expect to see in cars in the next few years. One of the most important is ‘advanced driver assistance systems’ (ADAS) which are designed to automate the mundane parts of driving such as driving in traffic or parking.
One such system under investigation is the European Commission’s “Safe Road Trains for the Environment” (SARTRE) project. Here, cars would platoon behind a professional driver piloting an 18-wheeler, for example and their cars would semi-autonomously bunch up behind the truck in a tight convoy. This allows the drivers of the cars to engage in otherwise illegal activities such as testing or talking on their mobile phones.
However, before cars even become partly self-driving, ADAS-enabled vehicles are set to provide you with road and traffic information, help you park, assist in changing lanes, and help you refocus on the road should your attention wander from the task at hand.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can improve safety and how can we avoid accidents in urban areas,” said Mario Tippelhofer of his team at the Volkswagen Group of America Electronics Research Laboratory in Belmont, California.
“Our approach was to help the driver to be less stressed, more focused, going into those urban areas in a more relaxed manner,” he said. “We’re trying to paint a vision of what urban mobility can look like for our Audi customers in the near future.”
Cars that are personalized to you
Mr Tipperary also believes that ADAS systems should be personalized for each individual driver. “Right now,” he said, “your car is mostly generic, for a generic driver. But if this car would be really tailored to your needs, it would know about your needs, it could assist you in a much better way.”
The Register reports that ‘this personalization includes not only what the driver is doing and focused on in real time, but also what his driving patterns and history are.’
Cars will also be able to use predictive modelling to learn your normal route to a frequent destination, predict traffic congestion on that route at a specific time and without you having to use your navigation system reroute you when the congestion is bad enough that avoiding it would be more efficient than driving through it.
In addition, cars in the future are likely to feature multiple in-car cameras. These will keep an eye on you and make sure that you are focused on the road. They will also direct your attention back to the road when necessary.
“This needs to be done in a positive human-machine interface,” Tippelhofer said, “because we don’t want to distract the driver even more if we detect that he’s not paying attention.”