(Photos by New England Motor Press Association) – Throughout the history of the automotive industry there have been benchmarks to measure one car against another. Ways to tell what vehicle was better for either the needs or the wants of the potential buyer. It’s been a very mechanical process. Suspension developments, more horsepower, more efficient engines, drivetrain components, and even things like wheels and tires. All of these elements have made cars into what they are today and amazingly they are starting to take a back seat to the things that are taking place inside the car.
Recently, top experts from the largest OEM manufacturers in the world converged onto the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to speak at the annual NEMPA Technology Conference. Unlike years past where breakthroughs in the engineering of engines and hard parts have been a leading topic of discussion, this year’s conference concentrated on how OEM manufacturers are evolving the way that people interact with their cars and how their cars interact with their lives.
Companies like Hyundai for example are working on cloud-based systems that are not only handy and easy to use in the car, but can actively “talk” to other users like family members. Systems like this can alter scheduled appointments, can even perform “smart home” functions while on the road, further integrating the car into the way that modern people live their lives. The machine is not just about getting around in anymore, it is an immersive experience and one that manufacturers know needs to be tied into all of the varying aspects of our lives as that’s what customer’s are asking for.
Maged Zaki from Qualcomm was on hand to talk about the upcoming third generation of the company’s Snapdragon automotive platform. The company will be bringing new features to bear with this third generation product and from what Zaki told the assembled group, the company’s goal is to continue to meld a driver’s experience with technology inside the car into a seamless one. Rather than needed to look at, touch, or activate multiple devices, the future will be one where the car IS the device and you interact directly with it, not having to create safety hazards or further complications of operating multiple pieces of technology. The system is also getting better and better at integrating all of the sensor channels on new cars and the next effect there is more and better driver assistance and safety. It’s brave new world, kids!
The keynote speaker for the conference was Jon Coleman who serves as the director of City Solutions, Ford Smart Mobility. Coleman is an expert on mobility and in his role he works with officials in cities and growing areas to implement the smartest plans to keep urban mobility and accessibility high as these areas expand and rising populations change them as well.
Coleman’s speech was interesting because it highlighted some of the comprehensive issues that will continue to need to be addressed as we advance into the future. Cities that were laid out and designed long before there was ever an automobile to consider, properly integrating the right types of transportation to meet the needs to sections of the population, and ultimately employing as much technology as possible in automobiles to make that happen.
The inside of a car has always been about the interior quality, look, color, and comfort level, right? Until this period in automotive history the answer was yes. While those elements will still be important in the years to come, the growing questions about who will best create the human/car interface, who will best integrate technology that will improve the lives of the owner/operator, and frankly who can do it at the most financially modest level and bring it to the masses quickly.
Every car company in the world is working on the challenges and pressing themselves to create, execute, and promote their brand of technological advancement. It was great to have representatives from so many at the NEMPA Technology Conference 2019 to lend insight and a glimpse into the future of what’s to come for drivers.