Will Cars Become Smarter than Their Drivers?

Will Cars Become Smarter than Their Drivers?
November 12, 2017
BMW's new Connected Drive app tells you how much juice is left in your electric i3 and lets you remotely lock. Photo: Supplied

It's not enough for a new luxury or performance car to steer nicely, accelerate briskly and glide over bumps.


Buyers these days expect sooooo much more.


From connectivity and cameras to self-parking modes and sound systems crafted by top-end audio houses. It's all packed in as part of the upmarket experience aimed at keeping occupants happier.


But there's a lot more than that – and more on the way.


Staying connected


We've got apps for banking, apps for keeping us amused and apps to tell us where to go.


Now several cars have their own apps, such as BMW's Connected Drive.


As well as being able to tell you how much charge is left in your electric i3 you can remotely lock and unlock the doors and even locate the car remotely, just in case you've lost it in the airport carpark. In the latest 5-Series it can even use the 360-degree camera to send pictures of how – or what – is around your car.


With some BMWs, including the latest 5- and 7-Series, you even get a smart key, which includes a screen with touch-and-swipe functionality to access the Connected information.


In the mood


Imagine a car that could pick your mood. Or, at least, help change it.


It's almost here, with the imminent arrival of the updated Mercedes-Benz S-Class in December.


Included in the new model is Energizing Comfort Control - input your desired mood and the car aims to help you along. Pick the Comfort setting, for example, and the car might choose a soothing song from your smartphone while adjusting the ambient lighting to a soft hue.


The ventilation system will emit a fresh fragrance and adjust the airflow; you could also get a massage from the plush seats.

The HSV is offering an Enhanced Driver Interface that has pre-set tracks, including Mount Panerama. Photo: Supplied


Data driven


Australia's own HSV was one of the first to offer motorsport-inspired data logging for a production car.


It's part of the Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI) that is integrated into the central touchscreen of the V8-powered sports sedans (you'll have to hurry, because the Commodore-based HSVs will soon be gone).


Dial up one of the pre-set tracks – Mount Panorama is one of them – or map your own to learn more about what you're doing right (and wrong). As well as lap times, the car logs braking and acceleration data.

The rear view mirror in the new Nissan comes with a video screen. Photo: Nissan


Once you've had your fun, pop a thumb drive into the USB port in the glovebox and download your data for more detailed analysis on a PC.


Lights, camera…


Jaguar takes data logging to a new level by adding video to the equation.


Connect a GoPro Hero 5 to the InControl touchscreen and it interacts with the car's systems.

Jaguar lets you make your own in-car movie. Photo: Andrew Shaylor


There's also a smartphone app that allows you to record your driving thrills. Watching your replay you can overlay a speedo and tacho as well as what gear you're in and the G forces the car was experiencing.


It's a cool addition, especially for those planning on challenging themselves – and their car – on a race track.


Movies on the run


Kids and those lucky enough to have a chauffeur have long benefited from rear seat entertainment systems.

If you're a fan of random facts, enjoy Volvo's Wikilocation services that can fill you in on details of the road and location. Photo: Supplied


But Jaguar and Land Rover let the front seat passenger get in on the cinematic fun, too.


An innovative split screen allows the passenger to see a different image to the driver, ensuring they're not distracted by the humour of Police Academy 43 or the last over of the cricket.


The Dual-View system means the driver can see the sat-nav or audio displays while the passenger can settle in for a blockbuster using the same screen.


Reverse engineering


An update to the Nissan Patrol allows owners to pack luggage to the roof or fill the car with people without impacting their rear vision.


It's courtesy of an innovative mirror – unimaginatively named Intelligent Rear View Mirror – that can display images from the reversing camera, showing you exactly what's behind the car without the distraction of whatever is in it.


Lexus already offers the tech in its soon-to-arrive LS sedan, something we trialled recently in Japan.


There are certainly obvious advantages, as well as some drawbacks; you can't easily keep an eye on passengers in the back seat, for example.


At your service


As we charge towards driverless cars and increasingly rely on Google for advice it's good to know humans can still play a role in making motoring more pleasant.


Enter BMW's Concierge Services.


As the name suggests, you speak to a real human, utilising the inbuilt phone functionality and voice-operated control.


Ask for restaurant recommendations or directions to a hotel and that real person on the other end will be happy to help. They'll even beam the directions directly to your car's sat-nav, which then takes over with computer-controlled directions.


No doubt Google is playing a role somewhere in the background, but at least you're content in the knowledge that the advice being dished out has been vetted by a real brain, not a computer one.


Guided tour


Want to learn more about the picturesque road you're driving down or the trendy café strip you've stumbled on?


Volvo has the answer in the form of its WikiLocations app built into some models, including the recently arrived XC60.


Utilising the GPS data from the satellite-navigation and the onboard data connectivity the car accesses Wikipedia content relevant to your location.


Information can then be read to you, providing a guided tour that could unearth some interesting factoids.

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