“Phew, it’s hot.” Car: “What temperature should I set the air conditioner to?” Discussions like these, between driver and car, will soon be a part of everyday life. Carmakers such as Audi are working on the future of mobility: The Ingolstadt-based company has teamed up with the digital agency Valtech in a joint venture on the networked vehicle with Valtech Mobility. The machine will anticipate a driver’s every wish.
With smartphones, it’s already happening. House and car will soon join the club. The partners want to create a seamless ecosystem in which the car forms an integral part of the digital world. Audi’s new business partner, Valtech Mobility, also supports customers such as Lufthansa or Telekom with the digital transformation. The agency helps shape user journeys and selects suitable technologies for the purpose. Where implementation is concerned, it relies on end-to-end processes. Which means: instead of dividing up design and realization across multiple partners, they come from a single source. From user interaction to vehicle integration.
Comfort, efficiency and safety
To help ensure that the user is not overwhelmed with the technology of the future, the smart Audi car builds on users’ existing cellphone habits. This is meant as a way of integrating the vehicle into the digital world of the consumer. With a small division of labor: the smartphone controls lighting in the home and provides people with a way to connect with their friends. The car meets needs on the road and navigates through traffic. If the driver grows tired or feels ill, the car recommends a suitable rest stop: passengers’ favorite places are taken into account. All the way to the destination, the vehicle keeps the driver awake with music, lighting, seat position, or with massages.
If the driver begins to get drowsy, active assistance systems such as the proactive braking or lane-keeping assistant are there to help. Swarm services that provide information gleaned when vehicles communicate with each other notify the car of risks faster and more accurately than ever before. Drivers can drive safely but economically thanks to “Traffic Light Information:” this concept, which networks cars and infrastructure, already exists in twelve US cities. Audi drivers have a countdown timer that counts down the time to the next green light. Drivers can reach the next traffic light at the speed that’s best for current conditions. Features such as the Congestion Assistant in the Audi A8 make semi-autonomous driving possible. But things don’t run all by themselves.
Autonomous driving: Much of the work has already been done
In addition to big data, electromobility or networked platforms, autonomous driving is a core theme for the software manufactory. This poses a challenge for carmakers. “Driving in moving traffic is not a problem,” says Andreas Peters, Managing Director of Valtech Germany. “But recognizing all the exceptional situations and then handing them over to people – that’s the main problem.”
Considerations such as whether to run over the old lady or the school-age child are still on the table – and when it comes to liability, policy-makers’ input is needed. In Peters’ view, the legal and technological gaps that remain are fewer in number than those that have already been closed. This will take time, however. Like the classic Pareto principle: “The final 20 percent of the result consumes 80 percent of the effort.”
The bottom line
Even if self-driving cars are still a thing of the future, and even if moral and ethical questions remain: Carmakers such as Audi have already taken a large step toward reaching their mobility goals. Dangerous situations such as drowsiness and illness can be avoided. Stops and starts ahead of traffic lights are avoided, thanks to intelligent networking of car and infrastructure. Small steps – but this is a good thing, too: Carmakers should do their job thoroughly, rather than try to close the final technological gaps too quickly.