Intelligent Vehicles are Tomorrow’s Connected Devices

The cars of the future are being developed today with capabilities and experiences that inform, connect, entertain and assist the driver and passengers like never before. To find out more about intelligent vehicles of the future, we caught up with two experts from Intel Labs who focus on the automotive sector: Tim Plowman, the embedded experience architect within the Design Solutions Lab, and Xingang Guo, a senior principal engineer from the Integrated Computing Lab. Below is the first of a two-part interview on intelligent vehicles.

What type of research is Intel Labs doing in the automotive space?

Tim Plowman: Our automotive research really falls into two buckets. One is purely technical research where we are trying to develop technologies that have application in the automotive and transportation context. The other is experiential research where we explore and try to anticipate the experiences that go along with those technologies in the transportation space.

Xingang Guo: It probably helps to think about why Intel is interested in automotive. Intel does not make engines, or brakes, and we don’t design a lot of the suspensions. I think the reason Intel became interested in automotive is because of what happened in the past decade: increasingly, information computing has become an essential part of automotive. The ownership experience and driving experience are being defined by information, by connectivity, and by computing. As automotive, consumer electronics, and IT worlds intersect, Intel sees an opportunity to use our experience in these spaces. In some ways you can think of a car as an environment, just like a building or shopping mall. It must interact with its surroundings, including mobile devices, the cloud, and the broader transportation infrastructure.

Can you share a little about the methodologies you’re employing and why you’re looking in those certain areas?

Plowman: I think one good example is some of the collaborative work that we’ve been doing lately across the lab. In this foundational research we ask very fundamental questions about the intersection among technology, human behavior, and automobiles. We fielded a very large international study that looked at these issues in different countries around the world. The insights from that research informed our approach to technical and experiential prototyping. Another example is that we’re developing, in collaboration with Xingang’s team, an extensible prototyping environment for a variety of experiences and technologies that focus on the connected, personal vehicle experience.

Guo: You can use three words to describe a methodology. One is “holistic,” and what we would deliver to automakers. The second key word is “iterative,” meaning nobody knows what the next big apps are so there are a lot of iterations along the way. The third word is “collaborative.” This collaboration not only happens within Intel Labs but also with the industry. So we collaborate a lot with the automakers and their research arms, their advanced development arms, and their suppliers.

What is one of the more interesting research projects that you’ve done in the automotive space?

Guo: To take a driver’s point of view it’s very important to get a pulse of what consumers really want. And that need varies depending on age group, gender, and geographical location. One of the reasons Intel is interested in automotive is because the car has become a computing device, and computing technologies are bringing new value to in-vehicle experiences. One example of research that addresses the driver’s point of view involves headlights. Sometimes if you are driving at night you can see a lot of reflection from the rain and it can really blind your vision. In our research, we embedded a camera into the headlight to turn it into a smart headlight so it can determine how light hits the raindrops. What’s the benefit? If I can compute a trajectory of a snowflake or raindrop I will know when my next ray of light will hit the raindrop. If it hits, I’ll turn off this light. So in essence, if you have a smart headlight then you do not see any raindrops at all because it will avoid illuminating individual drops of rain. The light will only reflect from the objects you need to see like a deer or pedestrian on the road.

The automotive research Tim and Xingang are doing at Intel Labs is compelling…. Be on the lookout for Part 2 of their interview!

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