Where it is now generally accepted that connectivity is the future in automobile technology applications, automakers chose the Las Vegas event to highlight technologies and partnerships with specialists
The battle for virtual assistants has begun as more and more automakers are teaming up with specialists in automation technology applications. Hyundai has announced that it has teamed up with Google to allow users of Google Home to lock their cars remotely, among other features. At least four leading automotive brands announced deals with three tech giants to add virtual assistants to new cars.
Microsoft’s Cortana netted two of the deals, the others went to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Nissan and BMW have opted to work with Microsoft to bring Cortana to selected vehicles in the near future. Ford said it will work with Amazon for the Alexa driving assistant app which will feature in some of its cars. Hyundai and Daimler have said they will make their cars partly voice-operable with Google Assistant. Apple’s Siri assistant is already available in certain cars as well – via the firm’s CarPlay software. Many brands – including BMW, Nissan, Hyundai and Ford – have produced models that support it. BMW discussed a handful of ways drivers might use its digital platform, BMW Connected, and Cortana in future cars – including booking restaurant tables.
Car-makers are interested in bringing such functionality to their vehicles as a means of making them easier to interact with – and to connect home appliances to drivers while they are on the road. Toyota also announced a futuristic concept car at CES, the Concept-i. It features its own digital assistant, named Yui.
Besides the deals with tech giants, carmakers also had some interesting concepts to talk about. Here, we present a few of the headline making ideas.
NeuV concept: Honda predicts a future where self-driving cars will communicate with each other and infrastructure to mitigate traffic congestion and eliminate traffic fatalities, while increasing the productivity of road users and delivering new types of in-vehicle entertainment experiences. With the NeuV concept, Honda’s theme of its presence is something it calls the Cooperative Mobility Ecosystem, where via artificial intelligence, robotics and big data the various aspects of one’s life are combined in order to foster safer, more productive use of time.
Essentially, the NeuV concept is a self-driving two-seat commuter car for urban environments. Power comes from an electric drive system and there is also a new type of interface called the Emotion Engine. Honda says this interface uses artificial intelligence to enable new ways for people to interact with cars.
The Emotion Engine learns from the driver by detecting the emotions behind the driver’s judgments and then, based on the driver’s past decisions, makes new choices and recommendations. The system can check on the driver’s emotional well-being, make music recommendations based on mood, and support the owner’s daily driving routine.
Riding Assist concept: Honda’s robotics technology and features a self-balancing system for motorcycles designed to reduce the possibility of falling over while the motorcycle is at rest or traveling at low speeds. Honda’s Riding Assist concept uses technology originally developed for the company’s ASIMO robot, where balance is achieved from shifting weight. Rather than relying on gyroscopes, which can be heavy and alter the riding experience, the motorcycle’s front fork also automatically adjusts from a standard geometry position to one more aggressively angled, like on a cruiser, to further aid balance.
The South Korean automotive giant demonstrated a huge variety of innovations that join mobility services with connected homes and even healthcare. Hyundai’s vision of the future isn’t necessarily to turn its vehicles into self-driving living rooms but to integrate its cars with actual living rooms. Its Smart House concept uses connected car technologies to bridge living and working spaces.
So in theory it will be possible for an owner to communicate via voice with Google Home and tell the Hyundai Blue Link service to start the vehicle in the garage and send a destination address to its navigation system. Also, Hyundai showed a concept that literally integrates the home with the car by docking the vehicle through its driver-door portal—like a space station. Then the car and home share things like air conditioning, seating and sound systems until the owner needs the vehicle to act like a vehicle and drives away in it.
IONIQ Scooter: Hyundai’s IONIQ Scooter is another innovation from Hyundai Motor’s long-term research and development program, Project IONIQ. The concept is a compact electric powered scooter that can be charged while it’s stored inside the front door of the IONIQ Electric, rather than the trunk.
Mobility Cockpit Concept: Hyundai also set a demonstration of its vision for autonomous vehicles. The cockpit concept will “cultivate the well-being of drivers when commuting or traveling” through use of biometric sensors that can detect driver posture, respiratory rate, breathing depth, heart-rate variability and use eye tracking and facial feature recognition to gauge how alert a driver is—as well as his or her emotional state, according to the company.
In fact, the cockpit will offer “mood bursts” to attempt to raise alertness or induce calmness by adjusting the seat or activating its massage function—or even putting a whiff of a pleasing scent into the air.