Driver error accounts for 90 per cent of all road accidents, and self-driving cars have been bandied as the solution to accident-free mobility.
Techgoondu managed to have a look at BMW’s concept self-driving car at a media event on Friday. It was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year.
The vehicle, imagined on a BMW i8 Concept Spyder, employed a three-dimensional screen for its Head-Up Display (HUD).
Located directly behind the steering wheel and facing the driver, it displays information most pertinent to driving, such as current speed, speed limits and navigation details.
The HUD appears to flow seamlessly onto a 21-inch panorama display that has extended over almost the entire passenger side, but angled to face the driver. The displays present differing content depending on the vehicle’s mode of operation.
Different drive modes with varied controls and information
In Pure Drive mode, the panorama display shows fewer details, minimising distraction to the driver so he or she may focus on the traffic.
Sliding the drive mode selector switch, located on the middle-left of the steering wheel, to the middle will bring the car into Assist mode, where the best route would be calculated in real time and displayed on the navigation system.
In this mode, the vehicle will actively intervene in the driving of the car only if there is danger of a shunt accident, or if an obstacle on the road appears to present a safety risk.
Bringing the switch all the way to the right activates Auto mode, where the vehicle would take over control of acceleration, braking and lane changing, without driver intervention.
It would also be in Auto mode that the steering wheel of the vehicle may be recessed, giving more space for the driver to manoeuvre in his seat.
He or she could then turn to talk to his or her companion, or access the web and audio-visual content through the panoramic display.
Gesture-based control and sensible notifications
Navigating the in-car menus are done through hand gestures. Known as AirTouch, the driver simply waves his hand towards the left and right to run through the menu items, while a push forward with the palm indicates a selection.
During the demonstration, the feature worked very smoothly, recognising natural hand movements without botches.
Even the need for visual cues between the different drive modes have been thought out.
The car will proactively alert drivers when they are in a zone that allows for highly automated driving, and the steering wheel will be illuminated in blue once the driver puts the vehicle in automatic operation.
The software will also anticipate when the driver is required to operate the vehicle, giving him or her five to seven seconds to take over the controls. The steering wheel will glow in red to signal the drive mode.
This may sound like nothing much, but simple visual cues like these are essential since driving modes can be changed when the vehicle is running. There will be no time for the driver to guess whether he or she is required to operate the vehicle.
Self-driving cars no longer the stuff of science fiction
Automatic driving is already possible in sections of German motorways and Car Pool Lanes in the United States. Google’s autonomous vehicles have clocked 2.4 million kilometres of automatic driving and just one accident can be attributed to its software.
In Singapore, the Land Transport Authority has demarcated areas in one-north, Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay and West Coast Highway as self-driving vehicle trial zones.
Self-driving cars will become a reality over the decade, and BMW has presented their take on a future self-driving car, with high resolution screens displaying context-sensitive information, controlled through voice, gestures and touch-sensitive surfaces.
Have a look at the BMW i Vision Future Interaction Concept Car for yourself at Performance Motors’ showroom, at 303 Alexandra Road, by 6pm today (August 7).