Intelligent Safety systems are the next generation of Advanced Drivers Assistance Systems (ADAS) that Clarion and its parent company Hitachi are concentrating on as they pave the road towards autonomous driving.
As a team, Clarion and Hitachi are among the front runners in the race to automate as much of the routine driving operations as possible because they have the necessary expertise and technologies under one roof. The combined capabilities and know-how Clarion and Hitachi have to offer range from detection technologies (cameras) and control systems (such as electric steering) to analysis and decision making hardware (ECUs) all with software intensive connectivity systems. The latter (such as Clarion’s Smart Access) provide real time data access and situation analysis offering today the ability to leverage TCUs or smartphones in order to provide secure connectivity to the cloud, policy control, and V2V and V2X communications in the future. In addition, while Clarion provides the center stack and HMI systems that allow users to interface with their cars, Hitachi engineers and manufacturers a comprehensive range of components for a wide variety of vehicle applications.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Paul S. Lachner, president of Clarion USA, what will be the short-term benefits for motorists given that the fully autonomous vehicle is some way off due to a range of mostly nontechnical factors. Lachner: We see adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, forward collision warning and other features that are already contributing to a safer driving experience. With each subsequent generation of vehicles these technologies get smarter and more integrated into the driving experience. At some stage in the future, these technologies will advance to the point where they will support autonomous driving. But, there needs to be significant innovation in both the technology and the associated infrastructure before we reach that point. Just as the technological and infrastructure advancements are a continuum between where we are today and a fully autonomous experience, the benefits are also along a continuum with drivers already experiencing significant improvements in safety, efficiency and convenience. These benefits will only grow as further innovation occurs.
AI: How is the research into autonomous vehicles already benefiting OEMs and their customers? Lachner: Organically, this research is pushing the envelope on the necessary technologies like vision based detection, radar, and control theory. The luxury segment is already deploying many of the fruits of this labor. We’re seeing average transaction prices on vehicles rise as consumers recognize and are willing to pay for the available ADAS systems. Clearly this benefits the industry. On the other side of the value proposition, consumers are realizing a safer, lower stress driving experience. Inorganically, we’re seeing many new players get into the automotive industry, and the technology hub of the industry is also shifting. Bringing the best and brightest to Detroit has its challenges, not the least of which is our long winters. We’re now seeing a significant shift toward Silicon Valley as the innovation hub of such technologies. Recognition of this shift is behind Clarion’s decision to open an office there two years ago. The innovation coming from that region is certain to benefit both the OEMs and the end consumer.
AI: Has the technology reached down to entry-level vehicles, and how do you see it impacting on design at this level? Lachner: Obviously intelligent safety is in the interest of all drivers, from luxury to entry-level. However, as with most technology roll-outs, the most sophisticated (read costly) systems are rolling down from the top, but that doesn’t mean entry-level customers are going without. The less costly building blocks of the system are already being found in the entry segment. Rear vision cameras are perhaps the most prevalent example of this. Seeing this trend years ago, Clarion focused on delivering ADAS features using only the rear camera. Now in production, our system delivers blind spot, lane departure and cross traffic warnings all off the single rear camera using our intelligent detection algorithms – and it’s offered in the very competitive mid-size car segment.
AI: What should the industry be doing to accelerate the introduction of more autonomous driving technology into vehicles? Lachner: Autonomous driving presents unique implementation challenges reaching far beyond the automotive industry. Publicprivate collaboration will be a key to delivering a feature that is highly infrastructure dependent. At the same time, we need more cooperation within the industry aimed toward creating standards, particularly in the communications realm. Clarion is quite active in both these areas. In the end, it comes down to OEMs and suppliers continuing the R&D investment necessary to up-integrate and cost-down the components, which drives up feature penetration leading to revenue growth thereby allowing more investment…and the cycle continues.
AI: When will you be able to – safely – read your e-mail, catch up on the latest news and sip your coffee while your car does the driving? Lachner: Clarion is already delivering several technologies that allow for safely accessing the cloud for real-time information while driving. The key to minimizing distraction is the use of voice control. Clarion’s Intelligent VOICE™ powered by Google™ allows motorists to simply ask the system, in a natural and conversational style, to access navigation or to locate points of interests. It also allows touch-free access to Google Gmail and Google Calendar to manage e-mails and calendar updates via voice. You can hear your emails, respond to them with your voice (without the need to follow a rehearsed query or set of commands) and extract location data from your calendar events and input to the navigation system automatically. And, of course, our award-winning Smart Access cloud-connectivity system manages everything when it comes to connecting the vehicle to an elaborate always-on network where users can customize everything to their liking such as the type and frequency of the news they want to receive. Having said all this, we’re still a long way from being driven to work by an autonomous car while we type e-mails on our laptops.