David Belo, John Dales, and Camilo Pardo on driver­less tech

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - NEWS - BY DRAKE BEN­NETT


At MCLAREN GROUP, DAVID BELO says, au­to­mated sys­tems will al­low driv­ers to push the lim­its of their ve­hi­cles.

Q: MCLAREN’S HERITAGE IS IN RAC­ING—IT’S HARD TO IMAG­INE THAT WITH­OUT DRIV­ERS. A: Yeah, the driver is the big part of the show, and in many re­spects it’s what peo­ple go to see races for. On the other hand, it’s also the tech­ni­cal chal­lenge—one of the big­gest you could as­pire to solve as an en­gi­neer. The spec­ta­cle is just as much about the fierce­ness of com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the driv­ers as it is about the marvel of what teams are com­ing out with this year. I think there is a lot of ex­cite­ment for au­ton­o­mous driv­ing within For­mula One com­pa­nies for the same rea­son. Some­thing that has been tra­di­tion­ally such a hard prob­lem—driv­ing—is now within our reach with these in­ter­est­ing and com­plex al­go­rithms. At the same time, we don’t de­sign with­out the hu­man in the loop. Q: WHAT OTHER AD­VAN­TAGES ARE

THERE TO DO­ING THAT? A: Whether it’s Tesla or GM or Porsche or a rac­ing com­pany, you have to take into ac­count that you’re de­sign­ing this ma­chine for a hu­man to ex­ploit it. I think what makes us and some of the other com­pa­nies work­ing in this field in­ter­est­ing is we’re start­ing to use ve­hi­cle sim­u­la­tors to un­der­stand how the brain is in­ter­pret­ing a lot of the sig­nals the driver needs to in­ter­pret in or­der to re­act to what’s hap­pen­ing in the car and change the con­trol of the car. That work is just as im­por­tant as de­vel­op­ing the en­gine to pro­duce three more horse­power. The work in­ter­acts to achieve a lap time that’s lower or to get a pas­sen­ger car from point A to point B with a higher like­li­hood of no ac­ci­dents.


Driver­less could mean more road con­ges­tion and new pat­terns for pedes­tri­ans, says JOHN DALES of con­sult­ing firm Ur­ban Move­ment.

Q: HOW MIGHT DRIVER­LESS CARS CHANGE THE DE­SIGN OF CITIES? A: One of the ob­vi­ous i ssues i s, as­sum­ing the cars are pro­grammed not to hit what they rec­og­nize as a hu­man be­ing, there is a dan­ger that in busy ar­eas cars would never get through at all— they’d con­stantly be stop­ping. Con­ges­tion prob­lems could ac­tu­ally get worse if pedes­tri­ans were able to as­sert much more pri­or­ity. Most city au­thor­i­ties re­al­ize that what you want is pedes­trian pri­or­ity in the cen­ter of cities, which are the most com­plex busy places. But to en­sure that ve­hi­cles can travel smoothly, we will have to con­trol pedes­trian cross­ing move­ments in a way we don’t at the moment. Q: WHAT ARE THE OTHER PO­TEN­TIAL UN­IN­TENDED CON­SE­QUENCES? A: Well, if I’m in my driver­less ve­hi­cle and I can’t find a park­ing space, I could jump out and just get it to cir­cu­late un­til I’m ready for it. Which would add to con­ges­tion. Or I could drive to work in the morn­ing, send the car home, and get it to come back for me in the evening, and then go back in it, so then you’ve got four jour­neys in­stead of two. There’s the po­ten­tial to cre­ate more ve­hi­cle move­ments.


Car de­sign will be a sec­ondary con­sid­er­a­tion, says CAMILO PARDO, chief de­signer of the 2005-06 Ford GT.

Q: WILL AU­TON­O­MOUS CARS BE DE­SIGNED MORE CRE­ATIVELY? A: Once a ve­hi­cle is on the street, I think federal laws are go­ing to have a hard time waiv­ing any­thing. Even i f the au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles have safer driv­ers, you’re go­ing to have ’60s cars on the street for years to come, ’80s cars. They’re not go­ing to j ust dis­ap­pear. A l ot of other fac­tors are go­ing to im­pact what these au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles look like. Vis­i­bil­ity from the inside out is not a pri­or­ity, es­pe­cially if peo­ple aren’t even fac­ing the wind­shield; they could be fac­ing each other. Q: STILL, IT’S NICE TO SEE OUT

OF THE CAR. A: But it could be op­tional. You could tog­gle it off or on, or you could be more se­lec­tive. … Also, if the cars are go­ing to be elec­tric, then the front of the car may not need so much air com­ing in. This big grill that a lot of ve­hi­cles use as an iden­tity would be elim­i­nated. … If the ve­hi­cle is driv­ing it­self and doesn’t need head­lamps, all it needs is marker lamps so other peo­ple can see it.

A lot of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will fall i nto the fleet cat­e­gory: a cab com­pany or Uber, who will get rid of driv­ers. They don’t care what it looks like; they care what it costs. No one’s go­ing to have any pas­sion­ate at­tach­ment to the damn thing. It could be more phone- booth- l i ke, j ust so i t goes. And they’ll have ad­ver­tise­ments on the side. I think the ap­pear­ance is go­ing to go south.

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