The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show is clearly the new launching point for automotive technology, proven once again by the introduction of multiple autonomous vehicle concepts by numerous automakers. Here is a roundup of key self-driving car technology introductions and other related news going on at 2015 CES:
The Mercedes-Benz F-015 “Luxury In Motion” electronic concept vehicle was introduced by Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche, who stated “Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society. The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space.” The F-015 incorporates an evolved version of a lounge-type interior that will surely stimulate thought and debate over how people can better leverage their time and attention in the new world of vehicle autonomy. The concept vehicle, designed at the Mercedes Benz Silicon Valley R&D center, uses no interior buttons or knobs; high-resolution monitors integrate with passengers via touch, gesture or eye movement control to navigate or see outside of the vehicle.
Along with new connectivity options in its Connected Drive infotainment system, BMW is demonstrating its new Remote Valet Parking Assistant that the company intends on including in upcoming versions of the i3 electronic compact. Four lasers are used to search around the vehicle at all times, and preprogrammed maps of parking structures work with GPS and empty space locator software to seek out and drive to empty parking spaces. Once parked, the i3 locks itself and alerts the owner by smartphone or smartwatch. Upon demand, the owner can summon the vehicle by voice control over a smartwatch, and the vehicle drives itself over accordingly.
“Parking your car we all know can be such a waste of time, so we think there’s a very real use for a vehicle that you exit and send on its way,” says Werner Huber, head of driver assistance at BMW Research. BMW is also demonstrating a gesture control concept which uses a camera embedded in the headliner between driver and passenger, capturing gestures and translating them into commands for the vehicle’s infotainment system.
CES attendees might remember Audi’s autonomous vehicle demonstrations from 2014, driving around Las Vegas at relatively low speed. This year, Audi undertook a two-day, 550-mile road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Las Vegas using an A7 embedded with self-driving technology called Piloted Driving. The car is fitted with front and rear radar along with forward-looking lasers to detect other cars around the A7, while a windshield-mounted camera monitors lane lines. A video monitor on the instrument cluster shows a graphical composite of the surrounding traffic for the driver. Unlike Google’s latest-generation autonomous vehicle, Audi managed to discretely hide all of the external sensors or at least work them into the body design.
In his keynote address to a packed CES crowd, Ford CEO Mark Fields explained his company’s Smart Mobility Initiative and described Ford’s strategy to achieve the development of fully autonomous vehicles by increasing “semi-autonomous features” in upcoming models. This relatively conservative approach to self-driving car development places more emphasis on multimodal transportation solutions, including car sharing programs that Ford has recently embraced. A welcome promise to respect user data was delivered by Fields, focusing on opt-in options for consumers and possibly the offering of data analytics for consumers that generate the massive amounts of data from their telematics systems.
With years of experience in delivering automotive intelligence as a Tier One supplier, it is no surprise that Delphi would be demonstrating autonomous vehicle technology at CES. A 2015 Audi SQ45 is being used as the platform vehicle for the demonstration, which the vehicle reportedly has 20 sensors including 360-degree LIDAR, 360-degree RADAR, GPS, collision detection and more. The processing power behind this system is provided by NVIDIA’s Tegra K-1 supercomputing system, which will likely give the system the ability to “learn” as it interacts with a human driver. “The real challenge is with artificial intelligence and having the car act and react like a human,” said John Absmeier, Director of Delphi Labs in Silicon Valley. Judging from the opinions of those who rode in Delphi’s Audi at CES, the challenge is being met.