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Post-Pandemic Scenarios – XXXVI – Reinventing the car 5

Head Up Display showing the distance from the vehicle ahead, the path leading to the overtaking and information on the road. More advanced HUD can display the full path, showing when the overtake will be completed and the car can loreturn back to the original lane. Image credit: WardsAuto

Cars generate more and more data, process them and derive meaning. Additionally, they are going to receive more and more data from the environment (including data from other cars). This deluge of data need to be translated into information that is helpful. In turns, this requires the information to be meaningful, timely and most important “digestible”. One of the big issue, already confronting the design of interfaces for pilots in modern airplane is not the lack of information rather its abundance and the cognitive load all this information is creating.

Consider the image of a HUD -Head Up Display-. HUDs can display a variety of information on the windshield (assisted driving) to increase the driver awareness and help in taking decision. One of the problem is the different reaction time of humans and computers. A computer can evaluate changing parameters and -basically- instantaneously change the information displayed. A continuous change cannot be managed by a human, part of the changes will just go unnoticed, part will create confusion. Hence, the software needs to take into account the cognitive load and the human reaction time when displaying information.

The use of augmented reality, as in the case of part of the info being displayed through a HUD, like the path of the car, clearly helps in reducing the cognitive load and in part the reaction time. However, the software has to become smarter and smarter to avoid confusing information (the car path is clearly visible in the image because the colour used stands out, but what if for some reason the road pavement happened to be greenish? What if there is some glaring from an external light or from sun’s rays interfering with the displayed path? The software has to adapt the visualisation to the context, something that requires a higher level of intelligence, not available today). Panasonic announced, earlier this year, an advanced HUD, based on AI, that may become part of new models starting in 2024 (watch the clip).

As more information and more intelligence become available in the car, our perception of what it means to travel as drivers and passengers will change. Digital Twins (already taking shape in top of the line car models that can offer personalisation to the driver and passengers of several car features (like the setting of the seats, the temperature, the entertainment system, …) will become the interface with the ambient, including the car experience.

Augmented Reality and more in general the possibility to access and contextualise/personalise information will also be exploited for advanced entertainment services, as outlined in the FTI’s report. In turns, this will expand the transportation ecosystem, further changing the perception of value and of what it means to travel in a car. Expect significant disruption in the whole automotive market, from the supply chain to the fruition experience. Just yesterday I was talking with a sales director of a company producing components for the powertrain and he told me they are very concerned because they see a major portion of their demand fading away as the automotive industry shifts towards electric cars and these looks more like washing machines from the powertrain perspective, no longer needing the rich set of components required today.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.