08 Jan 2019

After your morning alarm blares, and before your feet hit the floor, you grab your smartphone from the bedside table and summon your ride to work.

An electric vehicle parked at a charging station a few miles away quietly begins traveling a seamless route toward your house through the smart-city infrastructure that directs morning traffic for the droves of driverless robo-taxis.

Arriving at your front curb, it pings your smartphone and displays your name and destination on the side window to confirm you’re the passenger. It remembers your preferences from a previous ride – temperature level, seat position, interior lighting and music choice – and adjusts for your commute to work.

You don’t own the car. It’s rented, like a city bike-sharing or e-scooter-sharing system, but it also comes with a sophisticated artificial intelligence-enabled system on board.

What once seemed like science fiction is on its way to becoming a reality for drivers – enabled by advanced sensors, processors, microcontrollers, DLP® technology and other innovations displayed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

“As technology transports us closer toward a world where drivers become passengers, the driving experience is transforming to become more personalized, automated and convenient,” said Heinz-Peter Beckemeyer, who leads our company’s automotive-systems group. “Increasingly, electronics that sense conditions, communicate among vehicle systems and decide what to do – often without intervention by the driver – are key automotive components.”

While robo-taxis may still be a far-off possibility, here are five ways your driving experience is changing today and in the near future:

Personalization rises to a new level

As the digital cockpit evolves to include a multitude of screens on the dashboard and head-up displays project information on your windshield, your car’s displays will cater to your line of sight. Turn your head to the right, and the navigation map will appear on the right-side screen. Turn to the left, and the map moves to the left-side screen.

Getting even more personal, driver monitoring systems will detect health indicators like heart rate and blood glucose levels for a quick, convenient wellness check-up. Enhanced connectivity could make in-car telemedicine possible: Instead of carving an hour out of your day to visit the doctor, you could be able to connect with the clinic on your commute while your car sends data over a 5G network about your vital signs.

Replacements for push-button operation

No more searching for buttons to change the radio station. With TI mmWave radar technology, intuitive gestures become in-vehicle controls. Simply wave a hand to turn on a light – or even to tint the windows. In the future, a mixture of gesture control and a few key configurable haptic features will improve the car’s user-friendliness.

“One gesture application that’s becoming more commonplace is the ‘kick-to-open’ feature,” Heinz-Peter said. “Through sensors, you can open the tailgate without touching the car. If the driver carries the car key, it’s enough to swing a foot under the trunk, which is very handy if you have shopping bags in your hands.”

Visibility peeks around objects ahead

Blind spots could become obsolete. Mirrors can be replaced by small digital cameras that stream high-resolution video to screens on the dashboard and are designed so that rain or snow won’t affect their performance. 

Working together with radar and LIDAR, highly sensitive cameras will give you an expanded view of your surroundings – sensing the speed and shape of objects around the cars ahead and behind, and alerting you through an augmented reality display on your screen or in the head-up display.

Adaptive features make smarter rides

Cameras can help us drive smarter, but can make our ride smarter, too. When a camera sees a pothole ahead, for example, the car will adjust its suspension system so the passengers don’t feel the bump. While this technology is available in select vehicles now, cameras can help enable this innovation in a broader range of cars in the future.

More vehicles may start using adaptive beam headlights that dim for oncoming vehicles and intelligently react to the environment.

"Future cars can also project letters and symbols onto the street, such as warning signals for pedestrians," Heinz-Peter said. “And DLP technology can make life easier for drivers in adverse weather conditions. With today’s high beam systems, light reflected on heavy snowfall shows a white wall in the driver’s view. In the future, adaptive beam headlights can adjust to improve the driver’s visibility on the road."

Enhanced connectivity helps cars talk to everything

Cars that connect to the cloud and through 5G technology will communicate with other vehicles, the smart grid and the broad landscape of the Internet of Things. When you leave the grocery store, voice-recognition technology that links with your smart-home devices could let you give a verbal command to pre-heat the oven as you drive home. Once parked in your garage, the car can stay connected to automatically download updates.

Connected cars can dramatically enhance communication with other vehicles to improve drivability. A car that makes an emergency stop for a fallen tree can relay that information to other vehicles a mile behind it. Or a group of cars can relay traffic patterns or deteriorating weather conditions to others in the area so they can reroute. Or sensor-embedded light poles can monitor and alert drivers when a parking spot opens up or when a bridge is about to open.

“The electronics and features we’re enabling in vehicles today are driving us toward an automotive future that’s very exciting,” Heinz-Peter said.

Learn more on what our experts have to say about smart driving.