Jan Stojaspal reports on how carmakers exhibiting at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas are imagining the future of the connected car.
The carmaker presence at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is so strong – a record nine are reportedly exhibiting – and focus on connected driving so relentless that Lisa Johnston, writing for 2014 International CES Daily on Tuesday, quipped that the “C” in CES could well stand for “car.”
We took day two of the CES to examine exactly how some of these carmakers are imaging the future of the connected car. What we found was a diverse range of concepts and solutions – from FV2, the far-fetched future mobility concept from Toyota, to simple things like Mazda trying to reimagine a simple calendar app. But what we also found was that, underneath all the diversity, more and more carmakers are thinking in terms of not only how to perfect the various component pieces but also how to bring them together in a more seamless, holistic way.
Toyota's FV2 “Future Mobility Concept” was a definite showstopper. The low-to-the-ground, pod-like vehicle for one person connects with the driver both physically and emotionally, responding to subtle shifts of the driver’s body to change directions, using voice and image recognition to gauge the driver’s mood and sophisticated V2X technology to ensures the driver’s safety.
“It’s certainly something in the future,” said Jason Schulz, manager, 21st century business partnerships, Toyota. “There is a lot of work to do to get to that point. But what we are trying to do is look at mobility in terms of alternate forms of different modalities. At the end of the day, the equation of I need to go from point A to point B is not going to change so much. … But how we are going to go from point A to point B, we think, is going to go through some change.”
The FV2 is also a glimpse of how Toyota sees the driver and the vehicle becoming more closely entwined, Schulz said. “The FV2 concept is more about who you are as a person, it’s in sync with your heart rate, your mood, these sorts of things,” he said. “It understands your biorhythms, your daily habits to deliver a better driving experience and actually bring fun back in.”
The CES is the first time the FV2 is shown in the United States. It debuted last November at the Tokyo Motor Show.
For Ford, one of the big things on display was the next iteration of AppLink, which will introduce a great deal more openness and will be launching in Europe next month. According to Julius Marchwicki, global product manager for AppLink, Ford Motor Company, third-party developers will soon be able to use the AppLink platform to access more than 20 unique pieces of vehicle data, including odometer, fuel consumption, fuel level, tire pressure and status of doors, and use those in constructing applications and value-added services for Ford.
Also new is that Ford will open up the microphone inside the vehicle to allow app developers to get voice off-board, where they can do things like voice transcription. “The vision for us it to continue to allow developers to access the resources that are available inside of our cars to get the type of experience that they are looking for, as well as provide developers with a kind of value-added platform to create new features and services,” Marchwicki said.
Another big thing for Ford at this year’s CES was a live demonstration of its V2V safety concept. We went along on a test drive, which demonstrated half a dozen potential conflict situations and found the results surprisingly effective. The visual, audible and haptic feedback was unambiguous and provided enough warning for the driver to react. The demonstrated conflict situations included a couple of blind spot scenarios; an unseen harsh-braking vehicle several vehicles ahead; a slow vehicle trying to merge on a freeway; an obstructed, stopped vehicle and a couple of intersection crash scenarios – a driver with an obstructed view trying to get into traffic and a driver with the right of way at an intersection being alerted to a distracted driver running a red light or a stop sign.
Ford, along with other OEMs and the U.S. Department of Transportation, has been working on V2V since 2002. The technology uses wireless communication over DSRC to broadcast a standard status message, which includes vehicle speed, brake switch, turn signals and automotive-grade GPS information, to surrounding vehicles, 10 times per second. When a conflict situation is detected, the driver is alerted, in Ford’s case, via LEDs embedded in side view mirrors and above the driver’s instrument cluster. In more severe scenarios, the warnings escalate to include audible and haptic feedback.
Last year, the technology was extensively trialed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a decision is expected shortly on a roadmap for how to move from research into actual production. Although many of the conflict situations demonstrated at the CES are today addressed by radar sensors, V2V promises to be cheaper. And it also deals with unseen obstacles, something radar cannot do.
“It’s really why the OEMs have been working on this for 10 years, it’s those scenarios where you can’t see the threat, and even though you might be a very defensive driver, you still will need the help,” said Farid Ahmed-Zaid, technical expert, global drive assistance, active safety department, Ford, during the demonstration. “Radar and vision certainly do a lot of things very well, and they are in production. But they can’t see around buildings, they can’t see around trucks, they can’t see around obstructions. [V2V] being Wi-Fi-based can go through buildings, with some attenuation, can go through cars, again with some attenuation, but enough that you can give a warning to the driver and avoid those t-bone crashes, which are very deadly.”
Mercedes, for its part, advanced the connected car conversation with a couple of integrations of wearables (Pebble smartwatch and Google Glass). And it showcased a predictive user experience that is expected to go into production in a year or two.
On the wearables front, the German carmaker showed an integration of the Pebble smartwatch, which it sees as an extension of the embedded in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system’s user interface. All the driver needs to do is install the Digital DriveStyle App and program the Pebble’s three buttons to act as shortcuts that activate things like the traffic map in the head unit, Siri or Facebook newsfeed. By vibrating, the Pebble is also able to relay vehicle alerts, such as low tire pressure or V2V warnings. And when away from the vehicle, a driver can use the Pebble to remotely check things like fuel level, tire pressure or location of the car.
For Google Glass, Mercedes envisions a use case where navigation instructions are pushed to the wearable the moment a driver leaves his car and starts walking to his final destination.
On the predictable user experience front, Mercedes uses a statistical model to build a database of destinations, driver and passenger preferences, and multimedia likes and dislikes, with the intention of using the information to suggest things like destination, climate settings or media sources. “You don’t to set up a profile,” said a Mercedes representative. “It’s learning in the background what you do, where you are going and, based on this data, it creates meaningful predictions to the application you might want to use.”
The KIA booth showed a range of near- to long-term projects, including an upcoming app store, currently absent from KIA’s connected product portfolio but likely to launch within a year with half a dozen apps; eye-tracking technology; and technology for capturing gestures. Henry Bzeih, head of connected car / CTO, Kia Motors America, said his company was closer to implementing eye-tracking – it sees eye-tracking as an important enabler of safety features monitoring how alert the driver is, for example – than gesture control. “If I am replacing a knob for volume control with gesture, it has to work better than a knob does, right?” Bzeih said.
Finally, Mazda showed an attempt at reimagining a simple calendar app. Called KODO Chronograph, the concept gives the driver a quick sense of how busy his day is going to be from a digital rendition of an analogue clock face that uses red to highlight all the times taken up by appointments. If a detailed run-down of appointments is needed, the driver can have them read out loud. He can also request current weather conditions or choose a function called “This day in history,” which will inform him of historical events that happened on the same date.
“We thought about a morning commuter situation, or you are driving to a meeting location ... there would be a situation that you are going to meet with people for the first time, and that meeting would be important,” said Hideki Okano, staff manager, electrical & electronics development department, vehicle development division, Mazda Motor Corporation. “So you can have some kind of a meeting opener, a couple of topics to start a conversation.”
Jan Stojaspal is the executive editor of Telematics Update.
For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, and V2X and Auto Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan.
For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013, The Automotive HMI Report 2013, Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.