Defining Tomorrow’s Intelligent Vehicles

In the time it takes an automaker to design and produce a car, a consumer electronics company has most likely introduced several generations of its technology. How can the two match up and serve the consumer? To find out, 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 second of our two-part interview on intelligent vehicles.

In Part I of this interview, we talked about research.  After you do research and obtain your findings, how do you feed those into the customer engagements and the product development efforts?

Tim Plowman: Xingang and I have been working in the automotive space for years. When we work with automakers or Tier One suppliers, our goal is to advance our thinking about what the future of automobility could be. So we have specific areas and key research vectors that we’ve identified as priorities. These come from an analysis that looks at the challenges, both technical and experiential in a particular research vector, in addition to the business factors.

When you’re meeting with academics and car OEMs, what is the direction of the thinking today with technology and intelligent cars?

Plowman: Automakers are dealing with very long product cycles due to rigorous quality and reliability requirements compared to extremely short consumer electronic product cycles. OEMs are trying to keep pace and offer new in-vehicle features, services, and applications that will differentiate their solution to potential car buyers. My perspective is that the car OEMs are struggling to find a foothold in the technology tsunami that’s swamping most aspects of our lives. We’re in the midst of an IT revolution in the automotive space and the transportation space. The auto industry is coming to companies like Intel to help them navigate the infusion of technology into the transportation space.

What are some things that automakers should be doing and thinking about so they thrive in this landscape? What’s your advice?

Xingang Guo: By the time an automaker announces a vehicle and releases it three years later, Google would have released six generations of Android OS. By the time the vehicle hits the market, it is not only late with technology, it is behind. A car OEM needs to match the agility of the electronics industry, and separate the hardware lifecycle and management from the software innovation.  The industry has to learn a way to manage the software complexity and allow for upgradeability to keep pace with new technology innovations.

We’ve talked a lot about intelligence in cars. What about intelligent infrastructure?

Guo: I think they go hand in hand. In the Internet of Things, everything that was not connected is now connected. Then, because they’re all connected, information can flow back and forth and flow across this industry boundary, and start to provide value to different parts of a world which you never dreamed of. I’ll give you one example: a camera on a traffic light could detect a jaywalking pedestrian and turn the light red if it senses an oncoming car is not going to stop in time. This is seeing the world of automotive technology in a different way. It’s about the right intelligence in the right places—within the vehicle, at the edge, in the cloud, and throughout the infrastructure The intelligence can be fused together and in the end everybody wins.

Plowman: Think about other aspects of infrastructure, like parking.  There are estimates that put around 20 percent of automobile pollution coming from people tooling around looking for parking in densely packed urban areas. There are ways that you can make infrastructure smarter through connectivity and embedded intelligence.

This is a bit of a crystal ball question. In model year 2024, what features and capabilities do you hope to see on vehicles and why? Where do you think we’ll be?

Guo: I hope I can afford to buy a new car! I’m working on a lot of the technologies that are geared toward autonomous vehicles. I definitely want to see that capability in 2024. The car will literally go places without me having to drive it; it’s fully autonomous. And it does it in a way that fits into my mood, personality, and preference. I can say, “Go to the airport, I’m really running short on time” and it will drive a certain way. So it will not only do the functionality but it will also deliver the functionality that really creates a humanized machine.

Plowman: I think we’re always going to have a mixed heterogeneous environment when it comes to transportation. I also think the increased integration of multimodal transportation, which is certainly around now, is likely to become much more common in terms of people’s commutes. I mean, if you look at urbanization rates for the U.S. and other parts of the world, it’s an overwhelming trend. The proliferation of vehicles accompanying that increased urbanization is leading us to some potentially very big problems in terms of congestion and the fluidity of transportation. So from my perspective, in 2024 I want to see a very intelligently managed systemic and holistic approach to transportation that allows real-time computing needs to be accommodated to get people and things to different locations.

Wow, this has been interesting and insightful….thank you very much gentlemen! Have a question for Tim or Guo? Let me know! Get more information on Intel automotive solutions here.