Mobiles ‘n’ motors: Cars of the future take drivers from behind a wheel to behind a device
The convergence of communication technology, big data, and Cloud services with automobiles will totally reshape our ‘mobile’ lives. Who will rule in the new era? And what role will Taiwan play?
Auto-piloted vehicles and the Internet of Vehicles are among the hottest topics and most important trends of 2015. At the Las Vegas show and the Shanghai Consumer Electronics Show in late May, the world’s top 10 automakers pulled out all the stops, stealing the thunder from smart phones and wearable devices.
Be it a BMW galloping down the Autobahn on autopilot or the array of dazzling automotive technologies and services shown at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Shanghai, a portrait of the future of automobile life is being sketched out.
This new world will see a paradigm shift in the century-old automobile industry, attracting all sorts of industries to climb aboard. But more than that, it will completely change the face of our mobile lives, making driving and riding in vehicles both safer and more convenient.
What will this world look like, and how will it transform our motoring lives? Let’s take a moment to paint a picture of a day in this not-too-far-away future:
In the morning, before going to work or an appointment, you share your calendar from your mobile phone with your car. The car’s computer proceeds to map out the best route according to the latest traffic conditions.
Before getting in your car, you start the engine and open the door via your mobile phone. During winter you can warm up the engine, and in the hot summer months you can run the air conditioner getting in.
En route, if there is an accident or congestion, the car’s computer provides an alternate route. If you still end up stuck in traffic and the computer determines you’ll be late, you can turn over driving duties to the car’s autopilot system while you use the visual information system to contact your colleagues and take care of urgent business or even conduct a meeting.
Before arriving at your destination, the car’s computer gives you the location of an available parking space. You alight at the entrance, input a command on your mobile phone, and the car automatically parks itself in the space, after which it reports the location to you via your phone. When you want to resume your rounds, you use your mobile phone to summon your car, which automatically drives to from the parking space to meet you.
On the way home from work, if you want to make dinner reservations or book tickets to a show,
off before you can use the Internet to do so. And if any of the car’s parts are worn out, broken, or need regular maintenance, the car’s computer alerts you via your mobile phone and makes an appointment with the auto shop for you.
All of your interactions with the car and commands to its computer are transmitted via voice so you can concentrate on driving. In other words, the car of the future will become your mobile phone, driver, traffic update broadcast, secretary, office, and valet... all the while keeping everyone’s on-line life connected on the road.
“My online experience gets cut off as soon as I get into the car, which makes no sense,” says Yeeming Chang, chief strategy officer of the PakLee Foundation, a longtime observer of the disruptive innovation of Internet technology. “In the future cars will have to fill this void,” he adds.
Driving Is Like Using a Phone
Automobiles will be able to do these things in the future because such information communication technologies as the Internet, sensors, artificial intelligence, big data analysis, and Cloud services are ready now.
The central research campus of global electrical engineering and information communication systems leader Siemens, with a research staff of over 1,000 people, is located in Munich, Germany. In one corner, as inconspicuous as a garage laboratory, a research project is being conducted that could completely reshape the way automobiles are designed and operated in the future.
Subsidized by the German government and launched last year, Project RACE (Robust and Reliable Automotive Computing Environment for Future eCars) is being conducted to develop a standardized automobile computer architecture for future automobiles to replace the mechanical power transmission structure used today.
Dr. Cornel Klein, director of the project, explains that current vehicle operation is based on a mechanical gear structure assisted by electrical motors. In the future, signals will be transmitted by the car’s central processing unit through electrical wires to motors built into the car’s four wheels to control steering, acceleration, and braking. Driving a car in the future will be simple and take little effort, not even requiring the driver to turn the steering wheel.
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This May 13, 2014, file photo shows a Google self-driving Lexus outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.