| Thomas Geiger |
Berlin (dpa) – You jump in your car and the air conditioner selects the temperature you prefer.
When the engine starts, the audio system comes on and plays your favourite song.
Then you set off and the navigation system reports a stoppage on the way to work and recommends a detour. Because it’ll take longer to get there, the car delays another pending appointment for you. Today this is still just a vision of the future among car developers.
But the idea the predictive car is getting closer. Manufacturers are working hard on smart cars that will closely observe occupants and their preferences and routines so the cars can serve them better.
A “predictive user interface” is what Kal Mos, senior engineering director with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America in California, calls it. He describes the system as like an attentive butler who fulfills your wishes before you’ve even expressed them.
Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) in Britain call the concept the “Self Learning Car”.
Based on routines and smartphone access, the car will try to figure out likely destinations and the best routes to get to them.
The car will monitor traffic flow and manage upcoming appointments, depending on the expected time of arrival. It will even change from playing pop music to the news after the driver has dropped the kids off at school.
The Self Learning Car also knows when the driver likes it a little warmer on the way to the gym, and a little cooler on the way home.
And it can learn that every Friday, you phone and meet a chum, and can suggest an interesting bar or restaurant.
It can even remember a briefcase forgotten in the trunk. If every other morning a driver opens the trunk in the car-park before walking upstairs to the office, the dash display will say: “Haven’t you forgotten something?” the day he neglects to do this.
But the developers aren’t concerned only with comfort.
“We want to make sure the driver can concentrate fully on the road,” says JLR research director Wolfgang Epple. “He must meet his schedule, not worry about scrolling through telephone lists and fiddling with air-conditioning settings.”
Quite close to reality is a project from German seats supplier Recaro.
The company has been working on a smartphone app to adjust them and save settings so the driver always enjoys the ideal seat shape.
Many vehicles already save the positions of seats and mirrors based on a code in the personal car-key being used. And BMW’s electric cars, the i3 and the i8, use a route-time prediction routine to estimate the current range of the batteries.
The new approach goes further, says Mos of Mercedes: “This technology brings us into an era of context-awareness, in which the vehicle is increasingly aware of its environment and the facts of the situation.”
How far this can go was shown by a concept from the Chinese car maker Qoros showcased at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Its personal assistant Q can detect “irrational actions” by a driver and quickly switch to automated driving in the interests of safety, the company said.
The manufacturers know that that kind of thing wouldn’t appeal to certain drivers, who are likely to feel bossed around rather than protected. So the Daimler and JLR developers both promise one menu function in predictive controls that won’t be going away: An off switch.