Talk­ing cars key to fu­ture

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Classifieds -

PUT a lot of peo­ple to­gether and the re­sult is of­ten chaos and con­fu­sion, but it will be dif­fer­ent when cars are able to whis­per among them­selves. The time is com­ing when your car will be able to take you to a va­cant on­street park­ing space be­cause another car told yours about the empty spot.

Swarm in­tel­li­gence is Audi’s name for what be­comes pos­si­ble when cars can com­mu­ni­cate in close to real time. “Car-to-X” tech­nol­ogy, which al­lows cars to swiftly share data via the cel­lu­lar phone net­work, is the ad­vance that makes swarm in­tel­li­gence pos­si­ble, the car maker says. This means use­ful data col­lected by one car can be stored on a server where it’s avail­able to many oth­ers.

The Ger­man brand has al­ready de­vel­oped soft­ware to de­liver sim­ple swarm in­tel­li­gence func­tions. It will be­gin to of­fer them in Europe later this year, in A4, A5 and Q7 mod­els equipped with Audi Con­nect. At the heart of this sys­tem is an e-SIM (em­bed­ded SIM) in the car.

Audi aims to keep it sim­ple at first, us­ing swarm in­tel­li­gence to de­liver timely warn­ings to driv­ers about traf­fic haz­ards and changes to road signs. But the pos­si­bil­i­ties don’t stop there.

The com­pany be­lieves swarm in­tel­li­gence is one es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent needed to cre­ate the au­ton­o­mous Audi of the fu­ture. The other is more ac­cu­rate maps, and they’re work­ing on that, too.

Along with BMW and Daim­ler, the par­ent com­pany of Mercedes-Benz, Audi bought dig­i­tal map­ping com­pany Here from the Fin­nish mo­bile phone maker Nokia late in 2015. Here al­ready sup­plies most of the maps used by sat­nav sys­tems, but is work­ing on some­thing much bet­ter.

Where cur­rent sat­nav maps are able to place a car to within one or two me­tres, ac­cord­ing to Audi’s ex­perts, new High Def­i­ni­tion maps Here is de­vel­op­ing will be 10 times sharper, with a res­o­lu­tion of about 10 cen­time­tres.

This kind of ac­cu­racy is needed to make au­ton­o­mous driv­ing pos­si­ble, Audi en­gi­neers say. Swarm in­tel­li­gence will add real power to pre­ci­sion dig­i­tal map­ping. Data col­lected and trans­mit­ted by cars in the swarm will be cru­cial to keep­ing the maps up to date, for one thing.

Audi’s Paul Laeche­lin, who’s work­ing on the tech­nol­ogy, can’t re­veal when Here’s first HD maps will be in­stalled in one of their new mod­els.

“We al­ready test this map in spe­cial mar­kets, so the tech­nol­ogy is there,” he says.

Ac­cord­ing to Laeche­lin, Here will con­cen­trate on pro­vid­ing HD maps to its big­gest cus­tomers first.

While Audi’s fo­cus is Europe and North Amer­ica, he guesses other com­pa­nies buy­ing Here maps, like Toy­ota and GM, will want China and other ma­jor Asian mar­kets cov­ered.

Aus­tralia, with its rel­a­tively small car mar­ket, is sure to be well down Here’s to-do list, so au­ton­o­mous driv­ing will be fur­ther off for us.

Laeche­lin says HD maps will make driv­ers feel com­fort­able with au­ton­o­mous driv­ing.

“It’s re­ally leav­ing the hands off and trust­ing the car that it not only drives with its own sen­sors, but it knows what comes ahead,” he says.

“And then I see many uses com­ing be­hind,” Laeche­lin con­tin­ues.

“For ex­am­ple park­ing. I live in Mu­nich. Park­ing is hor­ri­ble. It’s ter­ri­ble. And I can see a world where next year my Audi tells me where to park … where there’s a high con­fi­dence, a high prob­a­bil­ity of free park­ing spots around me.”

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