Guillaume DevauchelleVice-president "Innovation and scientific development" of the international equipment supplier Valeo
"Every discussion on the car of the future is dominated by autonomous, self-driving vehicles. In fact, mobility is already undergoing a huge transformational shift, led by a combination of different technologies. The future is emerging before our eyes."
Tomorrow’s Vehicles Are Being Designed Today
In the early 20th century, transportation experienced a revolution as the horse-drawn carriage was replaced by the automobile within a period of 15 years. Today, one hundred years later, we are witnessing an even greater disruption.
At a time when the world’s population is becoming increasingly concentrated in urban areas, transportation needs to address the three major requirements of greener, safer and more connected mobility. For the global auto industry, this means tackling three key technological challenges at the same time: the development of electric powertrains to curtail CO2See Carbon Dioxid emissions, driver assistance systems to enhance vehicle safety and autonomy, and digital solutions to provide new services and modes of transportation.
The transformation of the car industry has already begun, without our necessarily having realized it. The future of the car is being shaped right before our eyes, day after day. To illustrate this point, since 2004, no more than two years have gone by without our having introduced unprecedented new products in the area of driver assistance alone. We developed a number of world firsts, starting with a lane departure warning system and followed by a fully automatic parking function and an image-processing solution that enables drivers to see behind their trailer or caravan, as if it were invisible.
The Convergence of Three Revolutions
The auto industry is therefore undergoing three separate revolutions. In reality, however, the three technologies combine, interact and intersect with each other to produce effective, groundbreaking innovation. A few real-life examples help illustrate this fact.
Driver assistance systems – no matter how smart – are only one of the factors behind the development of autonomous vehicles. Another factor is electric propulsion, which offers a high degree of technical simplicity. An electric motor eliminates the need for a gearbox, for example. Vehicle electrification concerns more than the powertrain. When batteries are used to powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... a car, their operating temperature needs to be controlled in order to preserve their lifespan and maximize range. Passenger comfort is another issue. The challenge is a complex one demanding the development of HVAC technologies for vehicles that are no longer equipped with an internal combustion engine. These examples show how the electric revolution is fueling transformations in unexpected areas.
No Global Standard but a Number of Regional Varieties
The advent of the autonomous car is redefining the onboard experience. Using biosensors and infrared cameras to monitor what the temperature feels like for each passenger, we have developed a system that offers a thermal comfort bubble adapted to all vehicle users’ needs, based on their heart rate, morphology and clothing. The onboard environment can also be adjusted to take into account the occupants’ emotional state or degree of tiredness. In addition, the interior lighting system uses color to create sensations, with warm shades for warmth and soft shades for coolness.
Drawing on artificial intelligence, we have developed new technologies that enable cars to recognize user habits and tastes. For example, the car automatically suggests personalized routes based on the driver’s schedule and routine. It compiles playlists aligned with driver and passenger preferences. And it reproduces the motorist’s driving style. Autonomous cars won’t have the same driving characteristics in Paris, London or Stuttgart, let alone Shanghai or Mumbai. Rather than a single global standard, there will be a host of autonomous vehicles adapted to the practices and customs of each locality.
The automobile revolution also raises the question of energy efficiency. In all likelihood, we will see a combination of different energy sources: gasoline, electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... , hydrogenThe simplest and lightest atom, the most abundant element in the universe. , natural gas, and all manner of hybrids. Here too, we are heading toward a variety of solutions. If you live on Reunion Island, it might make sense to power your car using ethanol derived from sugar cane waste, but this wouldn’t necessarily be the best solution for metropolitan France.
Thanks to their smoother driving cycle, autonomous cars will reduce traffic jams and thereby save energy. For example, if cars are all connected and synchronized with the traffic lights, they will all start up at the same time when the light turns green, like a train.
And let’s not forget the indirect benefits. Did you know that the rearview mirror is one of the items that consumes the most energy? That’s because it only works if the rear window is flat. With the installation of a camera that lets drivers see what’s going on behind the vehicle, it will be possible to use more aerodynamic bodies, which would considerably lower energy consumption.