Stop Trying To Swallow The Big Cactus Of Mobility (2)
The perfect car for 2025 isn’t (just) self-driving: In the second part of his column, race driver and blogger Alex Roy talks about olfactory sensors, push-to-pass technology and a privacy button.
In the first part of his column, Alex Roy explained why mobility resembles a cactus and laid out his vision for the perfect car of 2025. In the second part, he presents further must-haves to our readers.
Cars are safer with Lidar, whether they’re human driven or not. Any additional data that improves the behavior of safety automation from ADAS up is a good thing. I'm not going to be the guy who runs over the unicyclist testing his Halloween Predator suit with home-made holographic camouflage.
Machine learn that, bitches.
As for L4, ask yourself this: do you love your kids? If two different cars are government certified L4, and one has Lidar and the other doesn’t, you’re getting the one with Lidar. The current debate over whether or not Lidar is necessary for L4 is a joke. Once Lidar is commoditized, no one will be able to sell an L4+ car without it. Again, human nature.
I’ll also want long-range rear-facing radar, because I want to know about fast approaching vehicles before I make a lane change.
There should be only one option and one debate, and that’s whether we need FLIR, as in thermal imaging. I can’t believe FLIR-type systems aren’t all the rage already. They’ve been widely available on the aftermarket for years. I’ve had one on my BMW m5 since 2006.
Add the small stuff to idiot-proof the car: unless the car is in an L4 mandatory zone, seat pressure sensors and interior cameras will stop the car if someone tries to climb out of the driver’s seat. These are already available, and only a software update away from being useful.
Olfactory Sensor/Cleaning Subscription
Life finds a way. So do drunk people. If I put my car on an shared L4 platform on a weekend night, someone will throw up in it. Which means I’ll need a subscription to a cleaning service within the geofence, because I don’t want to have to do it, or drive it to someone who will. Let’s add some vomit insurance as well.
I like watching short videos on my phone and iPad. Movies? They suck on small screens, and are longer than my commute. I hate watching longform content in pieces. Spare me the big proprietary touch screen displays. When those break, we’re screwed.
AR/VR? I’ve yet to see a compelling static demonstration, let alone a mobile one. Might be cool by 2025. Need more evidence. Also, a cure for motion sickness. My military contacts have been disappointed with mobile VR.
Besides, new content formats like VR will likely require more connectivity than we are likely to get by 2025 — maybe ever — at least in the United States. Don’t believe me? Study traffic theory. Build a road, a bridge, a tunnel...whatever. Traffic always rises to meet capacity.
And then we have the in-dash hardware problem. Tesla is the only company that has come close to a decently sized infotainment system, and it’s still far from ideal. Everyone else is in the Stone Age. Even the most recent demos at CES were lame. I won’t name names.
Here’s a solution: Fully integrate my phone with infotainment. If cyber security remains a problem — and it will — AIRGAP A TOUCHSCREEN THAT MIRRORS MY PHONE, ON THE DASH. Connect the screen to the car only for power. Sound crazy? Whomever builds that car, I’ll buy one. I’m willing to sacrifice the deep sharing integration to have this.
Let’s be really specific. I want an iPad Pro mount on the dash.
A Push-To-Pass Button/Traffic Markets
If I’m inside an L4 mandatory zone, I want the option to get there faster. I want to pass. I want a push-to-pass button that instantly connects my car to a real-time traffic market. I’m willing to bid (x) for each minute saved. If anyone wants to build this platform, call me. I know exactly how to do it.
Safety: Driver Monitoring System
Repeat after me: There is no reason a car should move if the driver isn’t paying attention.
If the C.A.S.E. people really cared about safety, they’d drop the blue sky talk and push to mandate a driver monitoring system (DMS) EVEN FOR HUMAN DRIVEN CARS.
Yes, even for human driven cars. The Cadillac SuperCruise system is the best system deployed today, and ironically only functions when their semi-autonomous system is engaged. Insanity.
The C.A.S.E. people should also care more about...
Safety: Seat Belt Interlocks
Repeat after me: There is no reason a car should move unless every occupant is wearing a seatbelt. If you don’t like it, hack it. Or hire a hacker. If you don’t have the wherewithal to get it hacked, you shouldn’t be driving without a seatbelt. I’d love to have this for the times my friends get in and don’t want to put one on.
Besides, what if I’m sharing my car? I don’t want passengers getting killed. The liability.
Parallel Automation/Augmented Driving
Level 3 — also known series automation — is a dead end in terms of safety. Here’s why. But there is a fun semi-autonomous alternative in the form of parallel automation, which I call augmented driving. Who wouldn’t want an uncrashable sports car still under human control? Imagine a car you have to drive, but won’t let you kill yourself or anyone else? It’s the 911, or M3, or Mustang, or AMG I’ve always wanted.
Toyota Research Institute has already declared they’re building such a system called Guardian, which is the conceptual opposite of traditional Level 3. I describe the dream iteration of this here, and why this makes more sense than series automation here.
Parallel vs series automation is not a subtle distinction. Any automaker whose brand is rooted in the emotionality of human driving will have to offer augmented driving. If they don’t, their brands will die on the stump of commoditized transportation. Series (and eventually full) autonomy are the death bell of human driving brands.
Transition Warning System
Once again, Cadillac’s SuperCruise visual warning system is the only thing I’ve seen that comes close to being good as of today, but it isn’t GPS based. In a geofenced world, transition warning systems are mandatory, need to be tied to location, and triggered based on proximity and timed to entry and exit from L4 zones. Making these both safe and smooth will determine whose mixed-mode car I buy/lease/subscribe to.
Variable Automation Intrusion System
The only thing more annoying than safety systems that aren’t intrusive enough are those that are too intrusive. I recently tested an Autoliv system that used driver monitoring to create a variable intrusion system. At least that’s what I call it. The safety system warnings and triggers are proportional to the level of driver attentiveness. Make this happen, and I’ll be the first in line at the dealership. If they still exist. I hope they don’t.
Situational Awareness Display
Why are HUDs so primitive? Space and power consumption, for now. I want a real situational awareness display, whether a big HUD or a limited AR system. Not for consumable content, but for navigational cues and safety.
Tesla’s Model S/X dashboard is light years of everyone else today, but Autoliv (again!) had a brilliant CES demo I would pay for tomorrow. Move these awareness displays to a HUD or AR windshield, offer driving vs limited content modes, and I’m in.
Tire Swap Warnings
Tire pressure monitoring systems aren’t good enough. Every tire should have an RFID chip broadcasting data regarding tire type (Winter/Summer/All Season) and wear. That people are allowed to use summer tires — let alone all-seasons — in the winter is criminal.
Many countries mandate an onboard fire extinguisher. Not the USA. I want this, just in case I run into that guy still driving an ICE car, or the idiots who bought The Boring Company “flamethrower.”
The final luxury. I want to be able to cut off all outbound data transmission, and I will fight tooth and nail for it. If you have to ask why, you’re part of the problem.
As you can see, there are countless benefits to swallowing small pieces of the mobility cactus, all of which are beneficial while we wait for our utopian future to arrive.
What have I missed? Everything not apparent to an American who spends most of his time on our two coasts. Every culture is different, as are use cases, as was well put on this very site. Please share what I’ve missed — and what you think we might really get by 2025 — in the comments.
About our author:
Alex Roy — an angel investor, entrepreneur, Editor-at-Large for The Drive, Host of The Autonocast, co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports, author of The Driver and Founder of Noho Sound — has set numerous endurance driving records in Europe & the USA in the internal combustion, EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.