The technology for cloud-powered cars has arrived — but the market has not
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
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:// english.cw.com.tw