Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Japan update: ADAS, wearables, integrated cockpits, and autonomous cars

Yoshiki Chubachi
Yoshiki Chubachi
Will the joy of driving be a design criterion for tomorrow’s vehicles? It had better be.

A couple of weeks ago, QNX Software Systems sponsored Telematics Japan in Tokyo. This event offers a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues from automotive companies, discuss technology and business trends, and showcase the latest technology demos. Speaking of which, here’s a photo of me with a Japan-localized demo of the QNX CAR Platform. You can also see a QNX-based digital instrument cluster in the lower-left corner — this was developed by Three D, one of our local technology partners:

While at the event, I spoke on the panel, “Evolving ecosystems for future HMI, OS, and telematics platform development.” During the discussion, we conducted a real-time poll and asked the audience three questions:

1) Do you think having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will augment a vehicle brand?
2) Do you expect wearable technologies to be integrated into cars?
3) If your rental car were hacked, who would you complain to?

For question 1, 32% of the audience said CarPlay and Android Auto will improve a brand; 68% didn't think so. In my opinion, this result indicates that smartphone connectivity in cars is now an expected feature. For question 2, 76% answered that they expect to see wearables integrated into cars. This response gives us a new perspective — people are looking at wearables as a possible addition to go with ADAS systems. For example, a wearable device could help prevent accidents by monitoring the driver for drowsiness and other dangerous signs. For question 3, 68% said they would complain to the rental company. Mind you, this raises the question: if your own car were hacked, who would you complain to?

Integrated cockpits
There is growing concern around safety and security as companies attempt to grow more business by leveraging connectivity in cars. The trend is apparent if you look at the number of safety- and security-related demos at various automotive shows.

Case in point: I recently attended a private automotive event hosted by Renesas, where many ADAS and integrated cockpit demos were on display. And last month, CEATEC Japan (aka the CES of Japan) featured integrated cockpit demos from companies like Fujitsu, Pioneer, Mitsubishi, Kyocera, and NTT Docomo.

For the joy of it
Things are so different from when I first started developing in-car navigation systems 20 years ago. Infotainment systems are now turning into integrated cockpits. In Japan, the automotive industry is looking at early 2020s as the time when commercially available autonomous cars will be on the road. In the coming years, the in-car environment, including infotainment, cameras and other systems, will change immensely — I’m not exactly sure what cars in the year 2020 will look like, but I know it will be something I could never have imagined 20 years ago.

A panel participant at Telematics Japan said to me, “If autonomous cars become reality and my car is not going to let me drive anymore, I am not sure what the point of having a car is.” This is true. As we continue to develop for future cars, we may want to remind ourselves of the “joy of driving” factor.

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