i3 | March 03, 2018

Car Tech Innovation at CES 2018

Robert E. Calem
Car tech

Automakers and their technology partners debuted a wide range of innovations at CES 2018, but altogether highlighted four overarching themes set to converge in the years ahead: artificial intelligence (AI), user experiences (UX) and human-machine interfaces (HMI), self-driving cars, and electrification. These were evident in both concept cars and actual production vehicles as well as in traditional display form, scattered throughout exhibits inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, at outdoor lots surrounding it, and at other venues.

Keynote presentations by the CEOs of Intel Corp. and Ford Motor Co. — Brian Krzanich and Jim Hackett — captured it all in broad terms while also revealing company-specific developments.

“People have been writing about artificial intelligence since the 1950s,” said Intel’s Krzanich. “But what we’re seeing emerge today is a rush of breakthroughs using data and AI,” including self-driving vehicles, he said. “We’re just beginning to push the envelope.” Particularly in the realm of self-driving cars, he declared, “it’s not an exaggeration to say that the rise of autonomous cars will be the most ambitious data project of our lifetime,” adding that its significance extends to its societal impact by preventing fatal car accidents, saving commuters’ time and lowering fuel expenses.

Ford’s Hackett said in his keynote, “Now, with the power of AI and the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles, for the first time in a century, we have mobility technology that won’t just incrementally improve the old system, but can completely disrupt it. The systems design challenge we have today is to take the passion that exists in our vehicles, feather in the new and ever-evolving technology, and interpret that technology in a human-centered way.”

Cars See Better, Get Smarter

Among the CES exhibitors that presented self-driving car technologies were Mobileye (a maker of self-driving hardware and software systems that Intel acquired last year), Leddartech and Bosch.

Mobileye announced a new self-driving car computing architecture built around two instances of its forthcoming EyeQ5 system-on-a-chip (SOC), and an Intel Atom processor mated to proprietary software, which works with cameras, LiDARs and radars to enable semi- and fully-autonomous (Levels 3, 4 and 5) vehicles. It will be installed in 100 test cars this year, and is expected to be integrated in BMW’s upcoming iNext car in 2021.

The company also announced partnerships with Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan and Chinese automaker SAIC to develop HD maps this year by crowdsourcing road data from Level 2 and Level 3 cloud-connected production vehicles sold worldwide. Cumulatively, there’ll be two million vehicles harvesting this data by the end of 2018, and in 2019 Nissan will offer the first self-driving vehicle incorporating an HD map built from the data, a Mobileye spokesman says. Also, Volkswagen is working with Mobileye to crowdsource “dynamic data” that’s ever-changing, such as information about road closures, weather conditions and parking availability, the spokesman says.

Leddartech debuted the world’s first 3D solid state LiDAR integrated circuit (IC) chip, dubbed the LCA2. Priced at $100, it is expected to be built into production vehicles beginning in 2020, says Charles Boulanger, Leddartech’s CEO. The LCA2 is designed for rear-facing LiDARs. Leddartech also displayed the LCA3 SOC, which is intended for front-facing LiDARs, and is priced at $150. Samples of the LCA3 are expected to be available to automakers and their suppliers by the end of this year, and it’s expected to be built into production vehicles by 2021, Boulanger says.

Bosch presented its automated valet parking concept, which lets drivers leave the car at a parking garage entrance and command it, via a smartphone app, to park itself in an available space. This is predicated on smart parking garage infrastructure that communicates with the vehicle’s on-board software, Bosch says.

Bosch also announced Community-Based Parking, an initiative in 20 U.S. cities including Boston, Los Angeles and Miami to enable vehicles with cloud-connected vision to report on the availability of parking spaces as they drive past them, making realtime parking information available to other drivers through their vehicles’ built-in navigation system screens. Which vehicles — whether they’ll be privately-owned cars or those belonging to the cities’ fleets, and which models from which automakers — remains to be determined, says Kay Stepper, head of driver assistance and automated driving for North America at Robert Bosch LLC, based in Plymouth, MI. The majority of these “model deployments” will take place the beginning of the next decade, but some will take place sooner, Stepper says.

More Occupant-Friendly Interiors

Bosch introduced its “next-generation cockpit” boasting new ways for cars to interact with the people inside a vehicle. The most significant of these is a voice assistant similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, which responds to natural language queries but does not need to be connected online to do so, and can “think ahead,” the company explains. For instance, using AI, the Bosch voice assistant can anticipate that the driver will want to listen to a news channel in the morning when he asks to switch on the radio.

Further, unlike Siri or Alexa, the assistant will respond to any name the user assigns to it, although Bosch is giving it the initial identity of a woman named Casey. Besides the voice assistant, Bosch demonstrated digital displays with haptics that make onscreen buttons feel like physical ones and provide sensory feedback to drivers while using controls. The idea is to reduce driver distraction by allowing functions to be controlled by feel, without taking eyes off the road ahead, the company says. Plus, a camera and voice recognition software identify the driver, whose personal settings — seat, mirror, audio playlists and the like — are then preloaded. And a “central cockpit computer” introduced by Bosch at CES consolidates vehicle control of all displays, infotainment and the voice assistant in a single central processor, replacing as many as 15 separate electronic control units (ECUs) used by automakers today. For occupants, Bosch says the new computer will lead to greater choices in how infotainment and other features can be used from any seat in the vehicle.

Qualcomm demonstrated a concept interior that included a dashboard composed entirely of displays, with driver information running securely separated from passenger infotainment options. But, “as we think about UI (user interface), voice control is hugely important,” says Derek Brown, director of product management at Qualcomm Inc., in San Diego, CA. So the concept has four distinct acoustic zones for each of three passengers and the driver, whose voice commands will still rise above the din and be heard by the vehicle, Brown says. And machine learning plays a role in the future HMI, too. Thus, Brown suggests, the car could anticipate how far it may travel on any given day, and therefore be able to tell the driver whether refueling is necessary immediately or can be done at a later date.

Meanwhile, automotive interior supplier Faurecia unveiled its own “cockpit of the future” based on the concept of “smart life on board,” with innovations such as seats specially designed for self-driving cars; they have the seatbelt retractors and airbags built in, can be reclined and swiveled to face the rear, and will automatically return to the safest position when the vehicle anticipates a crash. A “health and wellness occupant monitoring” system named Active Wellness 2.0 employs seat-based sensors and dashboard cameras to detect occupants’ comfort and stress level and respond appropriately — for example, stimulating the driver to be more alert when necessary. Voice-activated controls based on Amazon Alexa are used for navigation, infotainment and seat massage settings.

Valeo showed off an assortment of technologies aimed at boosting occupants’ well-being. One was Oxy’zen, a system that detects air pollution inside and outside the car, informs the occupants, and actively cleans the cabin air to guarantee it’s healthy. But the company’s intent is to go further, crowdsourcing data from Oxy’zen-equipped vehicles and integrating it with other cloud-based data to formulate more benefits, like triggering the navigation system to route the car around a polluted area. To that end, Valeo is already working with data from another CES exhibitor, BreezoMeter, which separately has teamed up with automotive supplier Hella on a similar pollution mitigating system for car interiors, and with Faurecia on a similar vehicle crowdsourcing system for smart cities.

More Innovation

Another Valeo invention, Smart Cocoon, detects the number of people in the vehicle along with their genders, ages, heart and respiratory rates, and how they’re dressed, then automatically adjusts the cabin temperature in their different seating zones. But heating is approached differently, with radiant heat emerging from the door panels rather than from air vents — an energy-saving measure that could be important for an electric car.

Gentex, a major supplier of rearview and sideview mirrors, and maker of the HomeLink system that lets people remotely control garage doors from their cars, demonstrated more ways to personalize a car. These included a new biometric rearview mirror that incorporates an iris scanner to identify the driver and configure their personal vehicle settings, and a new HomeLink Connect feature that enables control of smart home devices via the dashboard screen.

Both technologies were demonstrated in a Land Rover Velar concept SUV. Gentex also announced at CES that Jaguar Land Rover will be the first to offer HomeLink Connect for any of its vehicles equipped with JLR’s InControl Apps feature.

Chipmaker Renesas Electronics displayed its own “Connected Cockpit” concept featuring biometric facial recognition, video screens replacing the traditional rearview and sideview mirrors, a software defined radio (rather than a traditional antenna-based radio), multimedia streaming, and cloud connectivity. It also featured wo displays — a 12.5-inch 3D digital instrument cluster for the driver and a 17-inch full HD center screen to show navigation and entertainment functions (securely separated behind the scenes).

Hyundai exhibited its “Intelligent Personal Cockpit,” which is capable of multiple command voice recognition (for instance, a bundle of “tell me tomorrow’s weather and turn off the living room lights at home”). The concept also ties biosensors in the seat and steering wheel to connectivity, and Hyundai imagines it could be used to visually connect a stressed-out driver to his doctor for a consultation.

Nissan highlighted “Brain-to-Vehicle” or B2V technology, which interprets the driver’s brainwaves (gleaned from a headset he wears) to detect and evaluate discomfort, and to predict driving intent. For example, the technology can anticipate when a driver may want to steer or brake, and would prompt the vehicle to take this action sooner, thus enhancing his driving behavior. Or, in automated driving mode, it can alter the vehicle’s driving style to affect the passenger’s mood.

March/April 2018 i3 Cover Issue

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