Are you “connected”? Or should I say is your car “connected”? This is a key topic at the Los Angeles Auto Show which opened to the media on November 18th.
There were a number of programs dealing with the future of the “Connected Car”. This is not the future in, ten years, but next year. One speaker likened this to the “period of the muscle cars”. He stated that if you missed that era you will not want to miss this one. Miss it? I do not think any car owner will be able to miss it.
So what does “Connected Car” technology entail? Smartphone integration, voice activated systems, your car receiving software updates from the manufacturer (Tesla), automotive apps, and autonomous drive to name a few. Only time will tell if all of these will last the test of time or prove their safety. Two of the manufacturers that presented their products were Audi and Volvo.
Audi has taken the centrally mounted CRT and moved it into the instrument cluster. In collaboration with nVidia they have developed what Audi calls “the virtual cockpit”. A concept very similar to the “glass cockpits” found in all modern airliners and many newer private aircraft. According to Mark Dahncke of Audi this will only be available as a standard feature on the 2015 Audi TT models. At this time, it is unlikely that it will be an option on other models.
|Audi / nVidia Virtual Cockpit components. Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images|
The feeling is that since this is driver oriented it may not be appropriate in a larger sedan where the passengers may want to have control over systems. In the virtual cockpit the driver will have control over all common functions via the centrally mounted MMI controller with displays being easily viewed within the instrument cluster. Future models may incorporate both the virtual cockpit as well as a centrally mounted CRT to allow for passenger interaction.
|Instrument cluster set to Sport Mode. Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images|
What this author found interesting was the Google Maps mode which places a graphic map within the cluster showing current location and route. Turning the MMI knob zoomed the picture in or out with instantaneous resolution correction. The system will also show active traffic alerts and is voice programmable.
|Instrument cluster set to Google Maps. Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images|
|Close-up of the Google map viewed from the driving position. Note the presence of the tachometer and speedometer. Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images|
On the other end of the spectrum Volvo, for a number of years, has been working on the autonomous self driving car. Eric Coelingh was kind enough to speak with me about the benefits of this type of vehicle. These cars a conventional in all aspects, i.e. they have brake and accelerator pedals and a steering wheel. Like “cruise control” there is a button on the steering wheel that activates the self driving mode. If you are on a road and you want to drive, go ahead. But when the traffic is a mess, push the button and sit back.
|the 2017 Volvo V60 Drive Me/Self-Drive. Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images|
The idea is that in this day of technology where more individuals are involved in accidents due to inattention (cell phones, messaging, eating) that a self driving automobile may be the answer to these safety concerns. Also, traffic has become an increasing issue all over the world. More cars generally necessitate larger highways. With our current fixed lane size, the only way to increase road size is to physically expand it. One concept that Volvo has is that with a self driving car lane size can actually be decreased possibly allowing for an additional lane without expanding the highway.
|Eric Coelingh and the Self Driving Volvo V60. Image Credit: Brandon O’Brien / Motor Driven Images|