What does the future of mobility look like? It’s an increasingly common question with often contrasting answers. Those developing the technology are doing so with a number of challenges and opportunities in mind. These challenges and opportunities vary, depending on if it’s a large OEM, top tier supplier, or relatively new startup.
Challenges and opportunities: the two best words to describe the landscape of future mobility. AutoSens Brussels examined both in great detail this week.
Strength In Numbers
Inside the famed Autoworld Museum, AutoSens Brussels united over 400 senior level researchers, engineers, and other experts to identify the challenges and opportunities surrounding future mobility. Attendees, speakers, and sponsors were encouraged to leverage each other’s expertise.
“Don’t be the only one working in the silo,” said Rob Stead, Managing Director of Sense Media, during the event’s opening remarks on Wednesday. “We are here to work together, so please reach out and meet someone new.”
A number of dynamic and diverse speakers took the stage to share their insights, experience, and visions. Richard Schram, Technical Manager, Euro NCAP, highlighted the organization’s 2025 Road Map, which details a number of initiatives, driver assistance and crash avoidance among them. The 2025 Road Map leads straight to automated driving, but interestingly, covers things like child safety with regard to heat stroke. In an informational video, representatives from Euro NCAP spoke about how parents can sometimes accidentally leave their children in the vehicle.
It also takes into account, especially in Europe, the number of two-wheeled vehicles, from bikes to motorcycles. Euro NCAP is working to minimize the higher fatality rates associated with two-wheeled vehicles in an accident.
Rudy Burger, Managing Partner, Woodside Capital Partners, spoke on mergers and acquisitions within the automotive arena and how that affects future mobility. Burger highlighted the more recent acquisitions, like Harmon by Samsung, Mobileye by Intel, and Cruise Automation by General Motors, the latter of which he believes is promising.
“As an acquirer, I would have to take my hat off to GM,” Burger said on stage. “Their bet in Cruise Automation is significant.”
Burger also pointed out how corporate investors are much more active when it comes to future mobility. His presentation made mention of BMW, Daimler, Delphi, and Denso among others as the most diligent.
“What we are seeing is a number of very large companies placing bets – significant bets – whereby they believe in order to create a controlling position in the market, they must actually acquire a company,” Burger said.
Corey Zehfus, an Optical Designer from Sunex, spoke on how automotive camera trends are influencing optical designs. He underscored the importance of why vehicle cameras must be durable, high performing, and able to handle a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Zehfus also addressed a reoccurring mindset with vehicle perception technology that effectively wants to do more with less.
“Now ADAS has grown to include many different functions and people are trying to do these functions and detections with as few sensors as possible,” he said during his presentation.
Zehfus also noted the increasingly critical role cameras play and how a number of ADAS systems, from emergency braking to pedestrian detection, rely on cameras. Zehfus explained how this demand means more sophisticated camera and lens specs.
“It’s pushing the state-of-the-art,” he said.
Human Versus Machine
Saskia de Craen from the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research raised hard but necessary questions on automated driving. During her presentation, she addressed the distinctions between a human and machine driver, suggesting that even though automated technology is promising, there are some things only humans can detect.
“When a driver approaches this ball in the street, they can determine that perhaps a child is following,” she said, pointing to a basketball on the large screen above her. “Of course you can tell a computer this simple script, but a human can determine the many different types of balls that could be in the road.”
de Craen, with a remote, changed the ball on the screen, from a football, to a beach ball, to even a Pokémon ball. She then challenged the audience to think in terms of other children’s toys that might inadvertently end up in the road: a little train, miniature car, or kite, for example. And if that scenario were encountered, would a machine be able to determine that not only a ball, but another toy in the road may mean a child is close behind. Would a machine be able to make that distinction as well as a human?
“Please let us not forget that our brain is the best computer ever invented,” she urged. “The point is that people are very good at adapting in situations like this and computers do make mistakes.”
Other speakers and presenters included Dr. Heiko Hirschmuller, Co-Founder of Roboception, on how robotics and remote sensing play into autonomous driving; Erich Ramschak, Senior Product Manager ADAS Engineering, AVL List, on the importance of map data in autonomous driving, and Alain Dunoyer, Head of Safe Car, SBD Automotive, on the impacts of the autonomous car on traffic.
“It’s not every day you can find this many experts in one place,” remarked an attendee from the United States. “I have really learned a lot from watching the speakers.”
“The speakers are the best part because of their knowledge,” said another attendee from Germany.
Collaboration & Connection
AutoSens creates an environment where those working on vehicle perception technology can collaborate. It’s not a trade show or convention, and attendees are not subjected to any sales literature. AutoSens is genuinely about getting the engineers, researchers, and other experts on ADAS together in one place. The vehicle and technology demonstrations combined with the expert panels make AutoSens a world-class event on something that will change the world as we know it.
“It’s important we don’t develop the technology behind closed doors and that we are all talking the same language,” Stead said. “We can bring some real benefits by doing that.”
AutoSens is returning to the U.S. next year. Although a venue and date have not been announced, organizers say they are planning a May event in the Detroit metro.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan.