The tech­nol­ogy for cloud-pow­ered cars has ar­rived — but the mar­ket has not

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

With no phys­i­cal gears con­nect­ing the steer­ing wheel and tires, the cock­pit can be cus­tom­ized, per­mit­ting op­er­a­tion from ei­ther the left or right side ac­cord­ing to pref­er­ence.

But will los­ing the “feel” of driv­ing we know to­day take the fun out of be­ing be­hind the wheel?

Klein says not to worry. Since ev­ery­thing is con­trolled by com­puter, you can choose Sports Car or Sedan modes to get the “feel” of driv­ing, and you can also down­load any driv­ing func­tion you need to the car, just as we do with apps for our smartphones to­day.

In other words, the com­puter ar­chi­tec­ture is like Ap­ple’s iOS or Google’s An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem for your car, mak­ing it adapt- able enough to suit the de­mands of dif­fer­ent car brands, driv­ers or mar­kets, and en­abling the devel­op­ment of new cars with­out ne­ces­si­tat­ing a to­tal re­design.

“Driv­ing a car in the fu­ture will be as fun as play­ing com­puter games,” ob­serves Klein, adding, “and new car de­sign will be like designing a new mo­bile phone.”

Let Ro­bots Learn from

Hu­man Strengths

In­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sen­sors will play an in­stru­men­tal role in the blue­print of fu­ture au­to­mo­biles.

The self-pi­loted BMW we rode in re­lies on cam­eras in the front and rear wind­shields to de­tect ve­hi­cles to all sides as well as such sig­nals and in­di­ca­tors as road mark­ings and speed lim­its. It uses over a dozen radars all around it to de­tect the rel­a­tive speed and dis­tance of other cars.

Mean­while, a su­per- pre­cise elec­tronic nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem ac­cu­rate to within a cen­time­ter or two guides the ve­hi­cle on its route.

Traf­fic and road con­di­tions per­mit­ting, the car ac­cel­er­ates to the speed limit. If a car cuts in front, it au­to­mat­i­cally slows down, and if there is no car in the next lane, it au­to­mat­i­cally changes lanes be­fore ac­cel­er­at­ing again.

Th­ese sen­sors are like eyes and ears, col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion on con­di­tions at all times.

Us­ing on­board net­work com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems, the au­to­mo­bile will re­ceive sta­tus re­ports col­lected by the Cloud Con­trol Cen­ter from other ve­hi­cles. Anal­y­sis and de­ci­sion-mak­ing via AI com­puter can an­tic­i­pate sit­u­a­tions up ahead and take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.

An on­board ve­hi­cle In­ter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem links the car to in­fra­struc­ture and life­style and en­ter­tain­ment re­tail­ers for all sorts of ser­vices.

Across from BMW’s Mu­nich head­quar­ters, the hour­glassshaped BMW Welt — the com­pany’s Cus­tomer Ex­pe­ri­ence and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­ter, at­tracts the largest crowd of cu­ri­ous view­ers. They are here not to see the lat­est model BMWs, but the par­a­digm-shat­ter­ing de­signs of the i3 and i8.

The fully elec­tric ur­ban (i3) and sports car (i8) mod­els have been avail­able since 2013. In ad­di­tion to semi-au­topi­lot and semi-on­line func­tions, the driver can re­motely con­trol au­to­matic park­ing via mo­bile phone or smart­watch. The user can also down­load as­sorted ap­pli­ca­tions to add to the on­board con­trol sys­tem via BMW’s own app store.

Mid-range mod­els from popular au­tomak­ers like Ford and Volvo now also fea­ture au­to­matic road­side park­ing, au­to­matic brak­ing, col­li­sion avoid­ance, and rear blind spot warn­ings, as well as voice con­trol op­er­a­tion, plus on-board in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems that can be synced with mo­bile phone units.

“Ma­chines never sleep, so they can al­ways pay 100 per­cent at­ten­tion to ev­ery­thing around them. We’re fully con­fi­dent that au­topi­lot sys­tems will re­duce traf­fic ac­ci­dents,” as­serts Dr. Werner Hu­ber, head of Driver As­sis­tance and Per­cep­tion, BMW Group Re­search and Tech­nol­ogy. “Greater safety, com­fort and con­ve­nience are the ob­jec­tives for the cars of the fu­ture.”

While a won­der­ful fu­ture is in store for the world of au­to­mo­biles, nu­mer­ous ob­sta­cles must first be over­come to reach it. “The tech­nol­ogy is ready, but the mar­ket is not ready yet,” ob­serves Eckart Mayer, pres­i­dent and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Tai­wan.

The mar­ket not be­ing ready in­cludes such is­sues as how traf­fic rules and laws should be ad­justed for a world in which cars are driven by com­put­ers. When an ac­ci­dent oc­curs, should the driver or the com­puter be held accountable?

To pro­vide as­sorted on-de­mand ser­vices, cars of the fu­ture will con­stantly col­lect driver and travel in­for­ma­tion. How can and should this per­sonal in­for­ma­tion be pro­tected? Which in­for­ma­tion can be shared with ser­vice providers, and which will be off lim­its? Th­ese ques­tions must be clar­i­fied legally.

An­other is­sue is how well a city’s en­tire in­fra­struc­ture can ac­com­mo­date th­ese tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments and de­mands.

Tech­nol­ogy can bring us bet­ter lives, as well as present new chal­lenges, “The point is, are we ready? This is some­thing the en­tire so­ci­ety must con­sider to­gether,” stresses Hu­ber. Trans­lated from the Chi­nese by David To­man, Ad­di­tional read­ing se­lec­tions can be found at http://

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