Some premium auto manufacturers are filtering out functions that provide little or no real-world benefits. That doesn’t mean an electronics plateau has been reached. New applications are being considered that would be a true benefit. One of these is the ability of the car to assess its environment and to communicate the findings. The so-called intelligent car.
Germany looks to be ahead. Sensor-packed research cars on the streets of Munich are streaming back data to give local traffic managers an instant and intimate picture of road conditions.
About 150km away in Ulm, other test cars are passing electronic messages to each other.
The objective is to forewarn. A car that has to brake hard in an emergency could, for example, instantaneously inform cars behind it of the problem.
That would cause those cars to tense their brakes for the same emergency. At the same moment, a message could be sent to other connected cars and traffic managers so they could advise about alternative routes.
Car-to-car and car-to-central control communication – how’s that for intelligence?
It may be some years before the intelligent car is a showroom reality. But the technology exists. It is built on the telematics that have given us the many infotainment options we enjoy.
But this is more important than infotainment. This is a layer of technology that can promote safe, free-flowing traffic.
Major European carmakers already are working together with suppliers to make the intelligent car a reality. The systems will appear first in premium brands, but they must filter down-market quickly. No carmaker can afford to miss this opportunity.
Together with non-carbon fuel, intelligent-car technology is the next big thing. It also is the motor industry’s best answer to critics who say carmakers’ products are a safety threat and cause congestion.
The intelligent car is too important to be held back by traditional competitive instincts. The technology must be standard throughout the industry, supported by national governments, priced affordably and introduced through a timed and orchestrated program to a public that has been primed to want it.