What will the AVs of the future really look like?…Smart Cone Challenge tops the bill at MotorWorld Sydney…Next-Gen GPS heading in the right direction?…Some quirky ideas for making up for the past with a present…

Autonomous vehicles will revolutionise automotive transport. Yes, there are some serious moral issues to overcome, but it will certainly mean a much safer and radically different form of transport. Mike Antich, editor and associate publisher of the US Automotive Fleet Magazine, takes a stab at how AVs might develop in the future.

My fleet-specific thought is to identify how a Level 5 autonomous vehicle (AV), which operates independent of human control or interaction, will change overall vehicle design. As background, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has defined five different levels of autonomous driving ranging from Levels 1 through 3 semi-autonomous operations to fully autonomous Levels 4 and 5.

Specifically, my hypothesis for this thought experiment is that AVs will create a paradigm shift in vehicle design, whereby interior design will become the primary brand differentiator in the future. What will drive this paradigm shift is that future AV design will focus primarily on the passenger and not the driver. In fact, in Level 5 AVs there will no longer be any driver focus. Designers will not be constrained by functional driver requirements, such as a steering wheel, visual-based instrument panels, accelerator/brake pedals, mirrors, backup cameras, turning indicators, column shifters, emergency brake switches, etc, etc.

The vehicle interior will become a blank canvas that will empower designers to focus on the passenger’s user experience (UX) and push the design envelope exploring more intuitive approaches to the human-machine interface (HMI). Although there may be no HMI to vehicle operation, there will be with a host of other vehicle amenities and componentry.

One early application of autonomous vehicles will be Uber-like vehicle-on-demand services. Ask yourself, when a taxi or Uber car arrives at your home, or business, do you care about the exterior design of the vehicle? For most of us, the answer is maybe. But I think we would all agree that of greater importance is the interior, in particular, the available luggage space, seating for multiple passengers and overall cleanliness.

AVs, especially those engaged in vehicle-on-demand services and fleet applications, will be the catalyst triggering a renaissance in ergonomic interior design, opening a cornucopia of innovation resulting in application-specific interiors. I can envision a new era of up-fitting that expands to modular changeability of vehicle interior packages, as an adjunct to their current add-on auxiliary equipment business.

A key focus in designing AVs will be to create an optimised mobile platform conducive to passenger comfort, entertainment, productivity, and connectivity. From a fleet perspective, the ’office on wheels’ will finally arrive, designed around maximising in-vehicle productivity and creating a portal to an expanding suite of soon-to-be-developed connected services. I envision elegant workstation environments sculpted into vehicle interiors, similar, but more elaborate, to the workstation seating found in first/business class sections of aircraft, with fully reclining seats that convert into beds. These amenities will facilitate-and radicalise-the concept of long-distance commuting.

I envision AVs and along with semi-autonomous vehicles being designed as technology platforms facilitating a ‘bring-your-own device’ environment, as we are already glimpsing with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This trend will expand, especially as wearable computers start to play an increased role in controlling interior compartment amenities. There will be seamless interactive data sharing between wearable technology on passengers and the vehicle itself.

For instance, wearable technology will be synched to control interior climate control settings and seating ventilation based on skin temperature of the passenger, or, if a wearable device detects that the passenger’s pupils contracting, it will automatically trigger degrees of tinting to windows, minimising sun glare. Similarly, there will be continuous micro-fine-tuning of seat contours, governed by wearables, to produce minimal muscle tension to a passenger’s back, hips, legs, and posterior.

AVs will lend themselves to a total ‘rewrite’ of vehicle design, from both an interior and exterior perspective. This design philosophy to AVs will stimulate a ‘clean sheet’ approach to future product development. I’m convinced that every traditional automotive concept we view today, as a truism will be challenged during the product development cycle. Do occupants, for instance, really need to sit in forward-facing seats? Without the need to face forward, a vehicle can be designed to offer a radically different occupant package.

With fuel efficiency optimised by an AV’s steady driving and elimination of idling, will wind tunnel aerodynamics and coefficient of drag exert a lesser influence in vehicle design, liberating designers to experiment with more novel vehicle dimensions? I similarly envision dual use of traditional structures, such as the windshield, which can easily evolve into a fully functioning screen, with heads-up displays that can project an overlay of information, or entertainment, onto its surface.

My hypothesis is that a fundamental recalibration in consumer and fleet preferences in the emerging era of AVs will make interior design more important than exterior design. Is this to say, exterior design will become irrelevant? I don’t think so. But I do think that interior design will emerge to be a higher consideration than exterior styling. Also, there is a symbiotic relationship between interior and exterior design, where one or the other defines the dimensional reference points.
As radically new interior packages emerge, they will determine the reference points for the vehicle’s overall exterior dimensions, creating the opportunity for innovative and non-traditional exterior designs. These developments will create a tectonic shift in vehicle design and product development, with unpredictable ramifications and permutations that will take decades to fully play out. Much how early automobiles had more in common with horse-drawn carriages than the vehicles of today; so too will AVs as they evolve over the decades causing them to become increasingly unrecognisable when compared to the vehicles of today.

 

Smart Cone Challenge heads the bill at MotorWorld Sydney

JAGUAR IS TO PUT an F-Type and XE through their paces around a computer-controlled course that will challenge driving skills and reflexes at this year’s MotorWorld Sydney. Billed as the Smart Cone Challenge, visitors will be able to see vehicles being driven around 11 sets of cones that incorporate computer controlled LED lights. The aim of the game is to leave the starting gate and drive between the green lights, ignoring the blue lights, through to the finish gate in the fastest possible time. Sounds easy, especially for a professional driver? Not really, as the computer can throw up nearly a million different combination of green and blue lights.

Other Jaguar attractions will be the Ice Cube, where visitors can use an ‘All Surface Progress Control’ to tackle a slippery steep incline in Jag SUV, and the Twin Terrapod, where guests can take control of Land Rover models and experience their hill climbing and descent capabilities.

The primary focus of MotorWorld Sydney, to be held at Sydney Motorsport Park, Eastern Creek from 1-4 December,
is to provide car buyers and enthusiasts opportunities to learn about and test drive the different makes and models. The festival is designed to enable all sectors of the Australian motoring industry to interact with, entertain and educate those who have an interest in the automotive world.

 

Next-Gen GPS heading in the right direction?

GPS can be really handy to get you where you’re going, although almost everyone has a story, or two, about a GPS sending them either slightly, or incredibly, the wrong way. As always, it pays to keep your eyes on the road and your brain in a forward gear rather than relying 100% on the system. Poor map data can be part of the issue, but equally problematic can be the quality of the triangulation with the existing GPS system.

GPS relies on a constellation of satellites orbiting the planet. A fix from four or more will produce a result that works most of the time within a small margin of error. It’s worse when there is less of a line of sight to the sky, which is why inner-city navigation in Australian cities can often be a bit dicey. It’s certainly not accurate enough for a variety of wholly autonomous navigation duties, such as the promise of self-driving cars.

So, scientists at the University of California are developing a new system to supplement and possibly supplant GPS. There are already existing GPS competitors, but the new system wouldn’t rely on looking to the skies as the sole source of positional data. It will, instead, use triangulation from fixed ground wireless points to determine your location. Things like radio towers, known Wi-Fi hotspots and signals from satellites that aren’t navigation specific can be used in the same way.

It’s already somewhat in effect for a lot of smartphone GPS systems, under a technology usually called A-GPS, or Assisted GPS. This uses the same kinds of secondary triangulation points to determine location based on publicly available signal data. The new system, using what it calls ‘Signals Of Opportunity’ (SOP takes that kind of thinking as the basis of location, rather than just a supplemental aid.

If the system can be brought into mass production, it would change both the use and politics of satellite navigation systems. The GPS system was put into place by the US military and for many years they deliberately degraded the civilian signal. It was only when that was abandoned that GPS applications for consumers became truly useful.

A system that doesn’t rely on one world power or another for triangulation has the potential to be much more robust, because instead of relying on, say, a trio of satellites that can be weakly seen, it could use dozens of public signals to pinpoint a location, with little worry if a single data point went offline. At that time, it should be feasible to get GPS lock-on at very close and precise ranges. That won’t completely solve the issues of navigation systems that suddenly decide it’s faster to drive the wrong way down a one-way street, but again, that’s a matter of using a human brain to decipher the information.

 

Some quirky ideas for making up for the past with a present

It’s creeping up to that time of the year when you have to make some of the most important decisions in your life. And what could they be? The dreaded Christmas present pantomime, that’s what! Socks, slippers and another pet rabbit, may not cut the mustard this time around. But all is not lost according to Sydney ‘Mediaologist’ Joe Hughes who has come up with a few quirky suggestions.

THE GIFT OF WATER – If Christmas is all about goodwill then the gift of clean water is a lay down mesre. The Water Works Program is a gift where families will build an emergency water filtration unit that is actually given to an African family. When floods occur on some parts of that continent, the water table rises and cross contaminates water sources and pit latrines, usually leading to an outbreak of cholera. The emergency water filtration kits can be hung on a door, or from a tree, to allow communities to clean their water. The Water Works Program $350  www.waterworksprogram.com.au

 KIDS FIRST PET – Dogs, cats and the aforementioned rabbit are great gifts, but by Boxing Day they become the responsibility of adults. On the other hand, the Krabooz is something that almost any little angel can look after. What’s a Krabooz? A hermit crab, of course, and is the perfect first pet for any child. According to Joe, these particular hermit crabs are a unique way to teach children about anti-bullying, responsibility, kindness, self-confidence, healthy living and the environment. What’s more, they’re very easy to look after, create minimal mess and don’t make smells! The Krabooz $79.95  www.petbarn.com.au (Australia wide)

 

KEEPIN’ IT COOL ON THE ROAD – Christmas is the time when lots of people get very hot under the collar, especially when stuck in a traffic jam with screaming kids and with at least 1500ks left to travel. So what can you do? Well, you could use your mobile phone to control the temperature of this 95-litre fridge that happens to be sitting in the back of the car. Then just reach over and replace a cold drink with one of the kids! Waeco CFX-95DZ2 Dual Zone Portable Fridge Freezer $1569 www.mygenerator.com.au

 

A 1964 ASTON MARTIN DB5 has become the first classic car sale completed through social media. The vehicle sold for £825,000 by international auctioneers Coys on the next-generation platform Vero and was the largest known transaction through Apple Pay.

A highly sought-after right hand drive silver birch model with red leather trim, the vehicle had undergone a full restoration including engine rebuild, suspension and gearbox overhaul. For the past 20 years, the car has been in dry storage and not driven.

Coys had announced at the Paris Motor Show that customers would be able to purchase a selection of historic cars through Vero, including the iconic DB5, which was featured on the company’s exhibition stand. The buyer bought the DB5 after seeing it at the show.

According to the auctioneer’s Chris Routledge, the buyer was keen to quickly get in front of the queue, so a few days later he hit the but now button on Vero to guarantee the purchase, leaving two other collectors disappointed in his wake.
“This signals a new era for classic car sales. The ‘buy now’ feature on Vero will give informed and savvy collectors a crucial head start in a highly competitive market place. Collectors worldwide fight fiercely amongst themselves to obtain the best machines and we certainly feel that Coys presence on Vero will give our clients that essential edge.”

Other historic cars currently listed and available for instant purchase on Coys’ Vero profile include a $642,000 Ferrari Dino 246, once owned by Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, a $1.3m Ferrari Daytona and a $473,000 Bentley Continental S2.

LOTUS HAS COMPLETED a trilogy of 50th celebration editions with the release of the Exige 350 Special Edition. Based on the Sport 350 but weighing less, the new special edition has a supercharged 345hp, V6 3.5 litre engine that gives acceleration from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds. According to the company’s Jean-Marc Gales, this makes it the quickest point-to-point sports car on the road: “It’s lightweight, responsive and exceedingly fast, with the purity expected of a Lotus. It is a real beast that needs taming, but it won’t bite back.”

Only 50 units will be built with a choice of four colours and black leather or Alcantara upholstery. There’s a louvered tailgate panel, a lighter battery, lightweight engine mounts and a lightweight centre console featuring an exposed gearshift mechanism and a six-speed manual gearbox. Bright red brake calipers are offset with black forged alloy wheels with the front splitter, rear wing, front access panel, roof panel, wing mirrors and rear transom finished in matt black.

 

QUARKESe, an eSIM solutions and niche application provider for the Internet of Things (IoT), has launched what is said to be the first eSIM enabled electric car in the world. The supercar, with the eSIM download and its activation process, was on display last week at a techno exhibition in Dubai. eSIM is predicted to gradually replace the classic physical SIM card enabling a quicker and easier activation process for a much wider array of devices such as wearables, smart metering, smart city elements, vehicles, mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

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