Experiencing Self-Driving Vehicles at CES
Above: Hyundai expects autonomous vehicles will rely on cameras and video displays, among other intelligent technological features, rather than on mirrors.
Reclining and daydreaming in the driver’s seat in the middle of deadlock traffic on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles? It’s still years away because security and consumer trust issues are currently being addressed, the connectivity and intelligent road infrastructure are not available yet, and automakers and tech companies are continuing to develop the technology. But automakers still have a clear vision of personal transportation and autonomous vehicles of the future, including South Korea’s Hyundai. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, Hyundai nor any other automaker showcasing would predict a date for the release of an autonomous vehicle, which Hyundai said may be more than a decade away. Hyundai did, however, share its vision of self-driving cars with a virtual demonstration.
What might your ride of the future be like? Well, start by laying back.
During the demonstration at CES, attendees were invited to sit in a simulator that consisted of two plush leather-upholstered front seats; a sleek, fully-automated and buttonless dashboard with multiple screens; a steering wheel; a windshield; and a large TV mounted where the hood would be. As highway footage from South Korea played on the screen, the seats reclined, an automated female voice informed the passengers of an incoming phone call and the car’s computer shared other information on the dashboard screens. While not part of the Hyundai demonstration, tech companies like Yazaki demonstrated at CES “wide field of view head up display” technology that projects vehicle information on the windshield, warning you of safety issues, among other things.
Much like cruise control, autonomous driving will likely be practical – at least initially – only on open roads with fewer hazards and people to worry about. During the demonstration, as the TV displayed a highway with few cars, the seats reclined, enabling the passengers to watch a skiing video on a small screen where a rearview mirror would normally be placed. Autonomous cars would not rely on mirrors, but instead on externally-mounted cameras connected to display screens on the far left of the dashboard and on the far right near the glovebox, as well at the top center of the windshield.
As the car moved onto busier roads during the demonstration, the automated voice informed the driver that autonomous driving mode would disengage. At this point, the seats returned to an upright position and the whole dashboard lowered to reveal a wide digital display just below the windshield, enabling the driver to takeover. Driving of the future would not fully eliminate the driver (or the fun), but it should minimize the most mundane aspects of driving.
Autonomous driving looks likely to become a reality in the years ahead as automakers and tech companies invest in research and development, and lawmakers enact legislation to both facilitate and regulate self-driving. But as we wait for autonomous vehicles to hit the consumer market, we can always tryout what automakers and tech companies have in store, and recline and daydream. Just don’t do it while driving – yet.