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Industry touts benefits of connected tech to consumers

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The ITS World Congress ended two weeks ago, but the intelligent transportation technology demonstrated in Detroit’s Cobo Center over the four-day conference will continue to be discussed and implemented in the months and years to come.

Photo Credit: Valeo

The conference hosted thousands of attendees from 65 countries and featured more than 300 square feet of exhibition space with everyone from car makers and software firms to data analytics companies and application development companies touting their wares. The event also boasted more than 30 interactive demonstrations of autonomous and connected vehicles, smart infrastructure and robotics. Mobile capabilities have benefitted the automotive and transportation industries and the two will continue to introduce new products and services as the technology develops.

This industry has already seen progress in GPS and navigational systems that can alert authorities of an accident and traffic signal optimization that helps to decrease traffic. But on the horizon is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, where cars and trucks will “talk” to each other, as well as lane control systems and cars that take over some of the driving – or parking – for you.

There are, and will be, many options for the consumer to consider when purchasing his or her next vehicle. Without the consumer, it’s all just cool technology. With the user in place, this technology can increase safety, ease congestion and utilize existing infrastructure. However, acceptance doesn’t always come easy – but that’s exactly what the industry needs to consider in marketing it to consumers.

In her keynote speech during the World Congress opening ceremonies, Mary Barra, General Motors chief executive officer, announced that the company would debut V2V technology in its Cadillac CTS model in a little more than two years. GM will also release “super cruise” technology, which controls a vehicle’s acceleration, braking and steering on the highway.

“I’m listening to customers for insights. And whether you listen to people in Los Angeles… or London… or Beijing… what they want from the auto industry is clear. They want unfettered personal mobility,” she said in her speech, adding, “More specifically, they expect us to help mitigate… if not eliminate… the congestion… pollution… and traffic accidents that are the downsides of automobiles.”

In his keynote speech on the event’s second day, Bill Ford noted that not all consumers will embrace the new technologies and may want the ability to opt out. In the CTO Plenary titled, Visions of ITS in 2025, held later that day, the panel from GM, Honda, Toyota, Ford, Texas Instruments, Visteon Corporation and Continental Automotive, discussed the challenges of implementing some of this technology. In addition to cost, standards and cross-industry collaboration — was customer approval, cited by Kristen Tabar, vice president – Technical Administration Planning Office, Toyota Technical Center. She added that customers will drive this technology.

The question is, how do they get them to? The answer lies in ensuring they know the benefits – namely safety, ease of use and time savings.

Honda displays its intelligent transportation systems.

As Dr. Jim Lansford, Fellow, Global Standards at CSR, a supplier of connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GNSS solutions, says, making sure the consumer trusts the technology they are using is key. “Giving the driver warnings about blind spots and lane departure is one thing, but allowing the ITS systems to take over partial or full control of steering, throttle and braking requires a much higher level of trust. This will take time, and it’s certainly possible there will be growing pains as the technology evolves.”  One area of trust for the consumer is what will be done with all the data that is collected by some of these systems. The plenary panel noted that users must be the owners of this data to maintain user privacy and ensure continued buy-in of the technology. Another area is knowing the technology brings increased safety as well as other personal benefits.

Amine Taleb, Comfort and Driving Assistance R&D project manager, ADAS at Valeo, explains that freeing up a person’s time is one of the main goals behind his company’s Connected Automated Valet Parking. The technology works with sensors, cameras and a laser scanner and allows the car to park itself – it drops users off at their locations and finds a parking spot nearby. The car’s technology “communicates” to the parking infrastructure to find a parking space, remaining there. The spot is then relayed to the user through a smartphone application. When the car is needed, it can be summoned via the smartphone app, which brings the car back to the owner.

People spend a lot of time trying to find a parking space, especially in major cities, Taleb says. “We are saving a lot of time. We free up your time so you can do something more important than trying to park.” The technology also uses its sensors to park the car safely — looking out for vehicles, people and other obstacles. “This car has the ability to more accurately park than us humans,” Taleb explains. “It can park in a tighter space versus what we can do. With these benefits, I think it’s going to be really exciting for the consumer. That they will embrace it right away… It’s bringing what we call “value added” to the consumer. It’s not making it difficult, it’s making it much easier.”

Barra also thinks consumers will embrace the technology. “I’m convinced customers will embrace V2V and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: they are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved,” she said in her speech.

Lansford agreed that consumers do want more ease in driving as well as safety on the road. “I think many customers find the idea of a vehicle that makes their driving experience easier and safer is compelling. As we move toward autonomous vehicles, who wouldn’t want a car that you just tell it where you want to go and it takes you there? As the customer learns to trust the vehicle’s ITS system, it will be easier for him/her to give up some of all of the control of the car.”

Amanda Gutshall is the technology editor at SmartBrief. She attended this year’s ITS World Congress in Detroit.

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