DRIVING? NOT NECESSARY! The lush interior of the car that will purportedly make traffic more people-friendly and doesn't even need a driver. <1>Image: Rinspeed.
ZURICH, Switzerland - The vision of autonomous driving will soon become reality and fundamentally change the interaction of man and car, a report says. While the research centres of the automotive industry are still feverishly working on the technical solutions, progressive thinkers such as the Swiss idea factory Rinspeed are already giving concrete thought about to how automated private transport will transform the car and the man-machine system.
Apart from fundamental conceptual changes, this will also have to involve issues of ethics and society.
In the past, robots in the world's factories have merely assembled cars for people. In the new Budii concept car from Swiss automotive visionary Frank M. Rinderknecht the machine now literally reaches out to man: if the occupants of the autonomously driving electric vehicle feel like having some fun at the wheel on a twisty country road or off road, a robotic arm will hand the steering wheel to the driver or a front seat passenger, thereby transferring command.
The sensitive seven-axis unit from the Augsburg-based market leader is more than merely a steering column, however. In theory, it will make endless adjustment options possible: for example, during automated driving in the daily commute it parks the steering wheel in the centre with minimum space requirements or it serves as a table or attentive personal valet. This is made possible by the unique and multi-redundant "steer-by-wire" technology from Paravan.
For the automotive idea factory Rinspeed the robotic arm in Budii is a symbol and food for thought at the same time. Rinspeed boss Rinderknecht puts it as follows, referring to a joint study with consulting firm EY: "The autonomously driving car will require more than solving technical problems and legal issues in the next two decades. We not only have to redefine the interaction of man and machine, but must also raise questions about responsibility, tolerances and expectations."
According to Rinderknecht, autonomous driving will undoubtedly offer the opportunity to make traffic more people-friendly and reduce the number of traffic accidents worldwide. "But even the best technology will not be perfect, albeit less prone to error than humans. That is something we will have to accept," he says.
"We should not develop a blind, but rather a healthy trust in the new capabilities of the hardware and software."
"Cars will do much as we do in future - they will keep learning every day and as a result will get better and better at mastering the complex challenges of modern-day private transport."
To this end, Budii will take information from its surroundings, its own "experiences" and those of other vehicles along its route into consideration. The long-term result will be a cognitive and intuitive autopilot.
The Swiss company will demonstrate what such a "friend on wheels" could look like with the trans-urban SUV Budii at the 2015 Geneva auto show.
THE KEY TO EASY COMMUTING: The car that will help drivers to avoid crashes. Image: Rinspeed