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Soon playing in an autonomous vehicle near you…

Could your trip to the supermarket become a race through Gotham city? (Photo: Intel)

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Stephan Giesler
Stephan Giesler

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Hello, automated driving community! Intel’s blockbusting partnership, Uber gets all scientific and we have a Christmas cracker in store: we bring you this week’s key stories from the world of automated driving!

We’re used to reporting on alliances, mergers and acquisitions between tech firms, suppliers, startups and OEMS – but not with movie studios and real estate companies. Well, there’s a first time for everything.

In a world premiere, Intel announced via a blog post written by CEO, Brian Krzanich, that it would be joining forces with none other than Warner Bros. to develop “in-cabin, immersive experiences in autonomous vehicle settings.”

Their proof-of-concept car aims to demonstrate how we will consume content in the future and will include in-cabin virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences. According to Krzanich, these will “render the car a literal lens to the outside world, enabling passengers to view advertising and other discovery experiences”. There, he said it: Advertising.

Advertising makes much of the content that we enjoy on the internet “free” (at least in monetary terms). Nothing new there. But what makes this interesting is that new mobility concepts - whether autonomous driving, electrification or shared mobility - are expected to make mobility more affordable anyway. Combine this with the voluntary exposure to advertising and/or online-shopping etc. and it could even result in free rides. It reminds me of the "free" (in exchange for watching ads) internet access providers at the beginning of the millennium: the ones which quickly disappeared from the scene once suitable payment models and free hotspots came along.

Meanwhile, in Boston, local autonomous driving startup, Optimus Ride has partnered with estate developer LStar Ventures to offer “the world’s first revenue generation autonomous vehicle pilot program” in 2018. Residents of Union Point neighborhood, 10 miles south of Boston, will be able to use the driverless vehicle service to connect to the closest rail station, overcoming the challenging last mile problem.

Monetization was always on the radar: that’s why Google’s automated driving project transformed into Waymo after all. Now it seems the first business cases with end users are starting to pop up. We’re witnessing (and are part of) the birth of a new industry, nothing less.

"And in the car of the future...pull over, I’m going to be sick…"

Now there’s something that autonomous cars might have to be programmed to respond to. Indeed, amidst all the excitement and musings on how they will change our lives and open up new business models, we might be overlooking something that could jeopardize it all: kinetosis, or motion sickness.

That is why the ever-bold Uber has revealed that it has filed a patent for a system designed to stimulate self-driving car passengers to eliminate motion sickness. How? Through vibrating and moving seats, light air blasts to the face, light bars and screens. Uber reckons the stimulation will provide distraction as the vehicle turns, brakes or accelerates, thus training “the sensory responses of riders to prevent kinetosis due to uncorrelated vestibular vs visual perception,”. It sounds scientific. It even appears to be backed up.

Even a broken watch is right twice a day, right? So, while Uber continues to dominate headlines with blunder after blunder, if it’s right on this one it could hold the key to realizing our distant future visions. True, such a predicament only really becomes a factor at level 5 automation – when vehicles will be specifically designed with completely different activities in mind. But given the sheer size of this task, it might be just the right time to start tackling one of the key challenges that could stand in the way.

A festive offering

This column is testament to the fact that every week brings something new in the automated driving world. While not every new development is a breakthrough, many of them are, and overall, they point to the impressive creativity unleashed when man puts his mind on a certain goal. In the words made famous by Frank Sinatra: “it was a very good year”.

So, our Christmas present to you is the best bits of 2017 wrapped up in the form of our 2025ADvent calendar! For every day in December leading up to Christmas, you can look back on AD’s highlights by opening one of the digital doors on 2025AD.com – surprising facts, stories and cool illustrations are waiting for you.

You won’t get a chocolate but you will get a daily dose of AD sweetness!

So long, drive safely (until cars are driverless), 

Stephan Giesler

Editor-in-Chief, 2025AD

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