Eric Volkman explores the best mobility bets for carmakers.

These are exciting times for ADAS and autonomous driving solutions but they are by no means easy ones for the manufacturers involved.

That’s because the assisted/automated driving categories, even in these relatively early days, are vast and broad. Parking assist is an ADAS technology, as is adaptive cruise control, driver health monitoring, blind spot detection… and those are only a few of the many help-the-occupant features packed into contemporary auto models.

So it’s a challenge for any vehicle maker or solutions provider to determine which features the public are going to want and need – and will happily pay good money to buy. Many involved in the ADAS and autonomous space have opinions on the matter and these can differ radically.

Some believe that the demand for, and the popularity of, these solutions are far from universal. “We see a broad and differentiated offering of mobility in the future, in different business and usage models tailor-made in different countries and markets,” says BMW Group’s Dr Dirk Wisselmann.

Exacerbating that challenge, it can even be difficult to gauge what type of advanced driving solutions customers are hungry for; those promising safety, or those supplying comfort. “We clearly see a growing demand for more and more advanced driver assistance systems as people become more and more aware of the [life]-saving potential they have,” says Daimler’s head of active safety Christoph von Hugo. “At the same time, the attractiveness of more comfort… clearly draws the customers’ attention.”

Yet this ambiguity could mean opportunity for determined auto makers and/or solutions providers – von Hugo says that Daimler has an eye on both safety and comfort features. He cites deep learning – a cutting-edge set of routines that allow a machine to adjust to and improve from its environment – as a hot trend that is being applied to the former. After all, a safer car, better able to adapt to changing situations, is more attractive to customers. It can theoretically command a higher price as well.

As the industry drives towards full autonomy, humans will have less of a need to stay alert behind the wheel and von Hugo sees this as a chance for the company to draw revenue. “Being stuck in traffic on your daily commute to work is just not enjoyable – even in the best car,” he says. “If the driver would be allowed to make better use of the time he or she is spending on the road, this is something we believe a significant amount of people will be willing to open their wallets for.”

Porsche is a luxury manufacturer, so it’s not particularly surprising that they also see potential in the comfort sphere, at least in the mid- to long-term. “As more intelligent assistance systems become available, drivers will have more time available for additional tasks while driving,” the company says. “We can add value for our customers by offering business- and entertainment-related services along with the technology.”

Along the way, manufacturers and solutions providers can reap rewards by effectively taking care of more basic needs on the safety spectrum. Today, believes Porsche, “ADAS development is undergoing a shift from electronic co-pilots to automated pilots in specific circumstances. Everyday situations like parking and traffic jams are the first areas where automated driving and parking functions can solve pain points for the driver.”

The carmaker’s InnoDrive adaptive cruise control system eases several of these ‘pain points.’ In addition to typical ACC functionality, InnoDrive takes control of the braking and acceleration when the car approaches a curve of at least some sharpness. The system also has a traffic jam assist feature that keeps the vehicle in lane and regulates distance between it and other automobiles, among other functionalities.

Other players in the ADAS/autonomous game believe that there’s money to be made in a car’s closer integration with the lives of its drivers and occupants. In a recent press release detailing what they’d be showing at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Hyundai Motors emphasised the machine-human connection. “The Smart House concept shown at CES seamlessly integrates the car into the daily lives of users, blurring the line between mobility and customer’s living and working spaces,” the company wrote, adding that its concept “sees customers living, without interruption, while on the move as the comfort, convenience and connectivity features of the car and the home are combined into ‘one space’.”

Further, Hyundai presented its ‘health + mobility concept.’ This means adapting the in-car environment to enhance stress relief, and “allowing drivers to intentionally shift modes for increased personal productivity or relaxation”. On top of that, sensors in the vehicle’s interior constantly monitor various health indicators of its passengers.

So the car of the near future will be able to track your level of fitness, negotiate a challenging curve, take the drudgery out of traffic jams, and keep passengers stuck in traffic entertained to name just a few helpful technologies. Of this plethora, some features will be more profitable than others and the cleverer providers will benefit more financially from them. Just now it’s anyone’s market – we’ll soon see who will most effectively profit from the opportunities.

[Mob.Volkman.2017.01.09] 

TU-Automotive Detroit 2017

07 Jun 2017 - 08 Jun 2017, NOVI, USA

The Undisputed Home of the Connected, Autonomous Car. With 150 speakers, 200 booths and 3000 attendees it's the world's biggest conference & exhibition dedicated to automotive tech. innovation.