Heated steer­ing wheel

Evo India - - CONNECTIVI­TY -

UN­LESS YOU’RE A HARD­CORE racing gamer, the first few laps on any new racing sim are likely to fea­ture a twist­ing, dashed line, snaking its way around the cir­cuit in front of you. Once you’re up to pace, you’ll prob­a­bly turn it off – but, while you’re learn­ing, its brak­ing points and ac­cel­er­a­tion zones help you master even the tough­est of cir­cuits.

Could sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy be used in cars to im­prove our driv­ing skills both on the road and on track? The con­cept of aug­mented re­al­ity wind­screens has been ex­plored since 2011 by au­to­mo­tive glass re­pair and re­place­ment firm Au­to­glass. ‘2020 Vi­sion’ pro­posed a wind­screen that dis­played both es­sen­tial ve­hi­cle data and aug­mented nav­i­ga­tion fea­tures such as di­rec­tions and in­for­ma­tion on nearby shops and restau­rants.

The com­pany’s work is more the­o­ret­i­cal than prac­ti­cal – de­vel­op­ment is left up to the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers – as it tries to keep abreast of de­vel­op­ments and pre­dict changes in the mar­ket to en­sure it’s ready for the lat­est tech­nol­ogy when it ar­rives.

Dr Chris Davies, head of tech­ni­cal re­search and de­vel­op­ment at Au­to­glass, com­mented that aug­mented re­al­ity wind­screens would re­quire a ‘bold step’ from man­u­fac­tur­ers, but pro­duc­tion sys­tems could eas­ily be on road ve­hi­cles be­fore 2020. Dr Davies ex­pects that, as with many au­to­mo­tive tech­nolo­gies, it will fil­ter down from high-end ve­hi­cles, but there are al­ready cost-ef­fec­tive ways of im­ple­ment­ing the tech­nol­ogy.

Some form of dashboard-based pro­jec­tor is most likely, he said, while an or­ganic light-emit­ting diode (OLED) film within the glass it­self would be an­other op­tion. The third he de­scribes as a ‘vi­sor’ worn by the driver them­selves – a lit­tle like Google Glass. Whichever route the man­u­fac­tur­ers take, some form of eye-track­ing tech­nol­ogy would be em­ployed to en­sure that what the user sees lines up squarely with the view through the wind­screen.

But what about dis­trac­tion? That›s a risk, says Davies: man­u­fac­tur­ers need to find a bal­ance be­tween dis­play­ing use­ful in­for­ma­tion such as nav­i­ga­tion aids and speed data, and fill­ing the screen to such a de­gree that driv­ers feel they’re in an ac­tual videogame – some­thing he de­scribes as a ‘vir­tual co­coon’.

For driver train­ing, though – both on the road and the race­track – Davies de­scribes aug­mented re­al­ity as a ‘re­ally ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity’.

Dr Wolf­gang Ep­ple, di­rec­tor of re­search and tech­nol­ogy at Jaguar Land Rover, agrees. The firm showed off its own take on aug­mented re­al­ity screens in 2014, pro­ject­ing driv­ing lines and ‘ghost ve­hi­cles’, as well as speed and en­gine data, onto the wind­screen of a Jaguar F-type.

‘Show­ing vir­tual images that al­low the driver to ac­cu­rately judge speed and dis­tance will en­able bet­ter de­ci­sion-mak­ing and of­fer real ben­e­fits for ev­ery-day driv­ing on the road, or the track,’ says Dr Ep­ple.

With tech­nol­ogy con­nected to the car’s cen­tral com­puter, track driv­ing re­ally could be­come like a videogame, with brak­ing points, gearchange points and racing lines all mapped out with per­fect ac­cu­racy. ALL MON­I­TORED FUNC­TIONS ARE work­ing cor­rectly. We’re not sure whether any Austin Mae­stro owner ever heard such a sen­tence – be­cause, well, they owned a Mae­stro – but the phrase was among sev­eral clearly enun­ci­ated by ac­tress Ni­co­lette MacKenzie for the car’s un­usu­ally high-tech talk­ing dashboard.

Such tech­nol­ogy caused quite a stir in the mid-80s, if you could ig­nore the dreary BL sur­round­ings, though Chrysler and Re­nault also of­fered sim­i­lar sys­tems.

To­day’s equiv­a­lent is ar­guably au­to­matic speech recog­ni­tion, though in fact it has been around in non-au­to­mo­tive ap­pli­ca­tions since 1952. Those early sys­tems recog­nised only sin­gle dig­its – you could spell a word, but not speak it.

Im­ple­ment­ing such tech­nol­ogy in cars is dif­fi­cult, thanks to the po­ten­tially com­plex com­mands re­quired to change nav­i­ga­tion set­tings or phone a col­league hands-free, and also in­ter­fer­ing back­ground noise from wind, tyres and en­gines.

In 2003, Honda turned to IBM – an early pioneer of the tech – to de­velop a sat­is­fac­tory sys­tem for Acura and Honda mod­els in the US, one of the first use­able, com­plex ap­pli­ca­tions. The tech has cer­tainly ad­vanced – Ford Sync recog­nises 10,000 com­mands and 17 lan­guages. On, for sure. ‘I’m not a big fan of in-car tech, but I’ll make an ex­cep­tion for heated wheels – mine has made such a dif­fer­ence on the re­cent cold morn­ings.’

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