In a driverless future, drivers will do anything else

Mar 06, 2014 by Nina Larson
A Bugatti car is is displayed at the group's stand during the press day of the Geneva Motor Show in Geneva, on March 5, 2014

Brew an espresso, watch a movie on a large screen, surf the Internet or simply sit and chat with friends?

As automakers and technology firms steer towards a future of , a Swiss think tank is at the Geneva Motor Show this week showing off its vision of what vehicles might look like on the inside when people no longer have to focus on the road.

"Once I can drive autonomously, would I want to watch while my steering wheel turns happily from left to right?" asked Rinspeed founder and chief executive Frank Rinderknecht.

"No. I would like to do anything else but drive and watch the traffic. Eat, sleep, work, whatever you can imagine," he told AFP at the show, which opens its doors to the public Thursday.

Google is famously working on fully autonomous cars, and traditional carmakers are rapidly developing a range of autonomous technologies as well.

With analysts expecting sales of self-driving, if not completely driverless, cars to begin taking off by the end of this decade, Rinderknecht insists it's time to consider how the experience of riding in a car will could be radically redefined.

Patting his shiny Xchange concept car, Rinderknecht says he envisages a future where car passengers will want to do the same kinds of things we today do to kill time on trains an airplanes.

So Rinspeed has revamped the interior of Tesla's Model S electric car to show carmakers how they might turn standard-sized vehicles into entertainment centres, offices and meeting spots wrapped into one.

The seats can slide, swivel, and tilt into more than 20 positions, allowing passengers to turn to face each other or a 32-inch screen in the back.

A hostess poses inside the new Rinspeed "XchangE" concept car displayed at the Swiss carmaker's booth during the press day of the Geneva Motor Show on March 4, 2014

Up front too, an entertainment system lines the entire length of the dashboard, and the can be shifted to allow passengers a better view of the screens.

Espresso anyone?

And of course there is an espresso machine.

While brewing coffee, video conferencing and keeping an eye on your email at 120 kilometres an hour may sound like a fantasy today, Rinderknecht is convinced it could happen in the not too distanced future.

"We think this is what things could look like in a few years time," he said.

Driving, he said, is on the cusp of being redefined, allowing people to take the wheel for pleasure, for instance while going over an Alpine pass, but handing over control of the car on tedious stretches.

"If I have to go three hours from Geneva to Zurich and it's congested, I'm not doing anything… I want to be doing something else," he said.

Carmakers at the Geneva Motor Show seemed to agree that vehicles that drive themselves, at least to a certain extent, are on the horizon.

A visitor sits next to a Fiat 500 displayed at the Italian carmaker's booth during the press day of the Geneva Motor Show in Geneva, on March 4, 2014

"Autonomous driving is an inevitability that we are approaching very rapidly," Hyundai Europe COO Allan Rushforth told AFP.

He stressed though that "full automation" was not a priority.

Ford Europe chief Stephen Odelle also said the technology was speeding forward, but added that he believed "the technology will be ready before legislation and consumers are."

"How comfortable will consumers be with fully automated cars?" he asked, adding that legislating for liability would be quite tricky with no driver behind the wheel.

Rinderknecht acknowledged there are obstacles, but insisted "they can be overcome."

He pointed out that accident reduction is actually a major argument for automation, since once the technology is finalised the machines should be far more reliable than humans.

And while it will be an upward battle to redefine liability legislation, "I think it can be done, because laws must adapt to life, and life as we all know changes," he said.

Explore further: Carmakers: Driverless cars need legal framework

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User comments : 17

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digbygary
5 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2014
I can hardly wait, kick back in my motorhome.. wake me at Puerto Valartta.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2014
I can hardly wait, kick back in my motorhome.. wake me at Puerto Valartta.

...or when the gas runs out.

Don't trust your automatics too much. Friend of mind tried to get navigation information from one city in Denmark to another (about 40km distance). The navigation system would have almost routed him on a track that takes more than 300km if he hadn't caught the error. Turns out: he had set the system to "avoid toll roads" and the city is surrounded by toll booths...so the navigation system had planned to take him through Sweden and back to Denmark by ferry (no toll booth that way XD )

But all joking aside: Unless someone protests a 'loss of freedom' (or someone screws with the system if it is highly interconnected) I can only see advantages in this.

alfie_null
5 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2014
As driverless vehicles supplant drivers, this will have an effect on the whole industry of ticketing traffic violations. For communities that depend on it, much less revenue to be had.

If there can be driverless cars, can there also be passenger-less cars? Parking areas might be aggregated. I would summon my car and later dismiss it. I might do away with my driveway and garage and maybe put in a deck, a garden, or a pool. Cities can get rid of much of their parking-lot blight; just have large, central garages tucked in out of the way spots.
grondilu
not rated yet Mar 06, 2014
If there can be driverless cars, can there also be passenger-less cars? Parking areas might be aggregated. I would summon my car and later dismiss it. I might do away with my driveway and garage and maybe put in a deck, a garden, or a pool. Cities can get rid of much of their parking-lot blight; just have large, central garages tucked in out of the way spots.


Driverless cars will be great for comfort and security, but indeed passengerless cars would be completely game changing. Not having to worry about parking anymore would ease lots of room in cities. Hell, if you don't need to park anymore, that would reduce a lot of commute time and thus you could live much further away from the place you work. Game changing, really.
indio007
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2014
Automated cars are the gov't worst nightmare. No more tickets, no more fishing expeditions erm i mean searches, no more road blocks, no more licenses, no more registration, no more insurance etc...
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2014
Automated cars are the gov't worst nightmare. No more tickets, no more fishing expeditions erm i mean searches, no more road blocks, no more licenses, no more registration, no more insurance etc...

On the other had: perfect tracking where you are at all times. And I'm pretty sure that they'll just increase taxes or tolls to the point where the lost revenue stream is made up for.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2014
Automated cars are the gov't worst nightmare. No more tickets, no more fishing expeditions erm i mean searches, no more road blocks, no more licenses, no more registration, no more insurance etc...

On the other had: perfect tracking where you are at all times. And I'm pretty sure that they'll just increase taxes or tolls to the point where the lost revenue stream is made up for.


How about paying a fee to drive 10 mph faster here or there? It's a shakedown, a blatant one at that, but so is the current system...especially in non residential areas where the "safety factor" is much lower. There are many examples of large areas having "high" speed limits or even no limits and it didn't result in a highway apocalypse...
Squirrel
1 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2014
Driverless cars will be never allowed in the UK--they would make H2S uneconomic--and no government having spent £80 billion would allow that.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2014
There are many examples of large areas having "high" speed limits or even no limits and it didn't result in a highway apocalypse...


There's other points to driving slower, such as road wear and noise pollution, and bottlenecks elsewhere along the route that might get jammed if you increase the number of cars per hour through some bit of highway.
Bob_Wallace
3 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2014
With self-driving cars people might be willing to drive (ride) a bit slower. Driving 55 rather than 70 would significantly lower the energy needed to cover the distance. That would mean lower fuel use and longer battery range.

If you could sleep, get some work done, entertain yourself then a few extra minutes would probably be acceptable.
Eikka
3 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2014
With self-driving cars people might be willing to drive (ride) a bit slower.


Usually people want to get where they're going instead of spending time in the car. Few extra minutes can be the difference between being late from work (again), and driving 55 instead of 70 means you have to cut ten minutes more out of your morning routines to get to work on time.
LastQuestion
5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2014
With self-driving cars people might be willing to drive (ride) a bit slower.


Usually people want to get where they're going instead of spending time in the car. Few extra minutes can be the difference between being late from work (again), and driving 55 instead of 70 means you have to cut ten minutes more out of your morning routines to get to work on time.

If I can check my e-mail while riding to work, then I can afford to get to work a little bit later.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2014
If I can check my e-mail while riding to work, then I can afford to get to work a little bit later.
If I check my emails while riding to work then the ride should count as working hours. In that case I'd have no qualms about the ride being as fast (or as slow) as it wants to be.
Bob_Wallace
5 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2014
If I can check my e-mail while riding to work, then I can afford to get to work a little bit later.
If I check my emails while riding to work then the ride should count as working hours. In that case I'd have no qualms about the ride being as fast (or as slow) as it wants to be.


Exactly. Turn the commute time into work time. Time your work day from the time you leave home until you arrive back at home (minus any non-work stops). Shorten your work day and end up with more personal time.

Or use your commute time for personal time. Eat breakfast. Watch some TV. Take a nap.

Either way you gain time that you had been spending doing a job that can be done by a machine.
TransmissionDump
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2014
"Windows has detected a problem with ChauffeurBot2100 and is searching for a solution" [............... ]

Blue screen

A fatal exception OE has occurred at 0028:C0011E36 in UXD UMM(01) * 00010E36 The current application will be terminated

*Press any key to terminate the current application
*Pres CTRL+ALT+DEL again to restart your driverless system. You will lose control of your vehicle if you haven't already

Press any key to continue _
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2014
Exactly. Turn the commute time into work time. Shorten your work day and end up with more personal time.


You know that's not going to happen - you'll still be sitting the full 8 hours in the office anyways, and spending 20 more minutes a day sitting in your car wishing you were somewhere else because your boss now expects you to use the idle time to check emails and organize stuff.

Or use your commute time for personal time. Eat breakfast. Watch some TV. Take a nap.


I'd rather set my alarm clock 10 minutes later in the morning. Continuous sleep is better than a dognap in a noisy vibrating box.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2014
Press any key to continue

At least you get a crashdump for the post-mortem.