My car is your car.
- 11. January 2017
- Mobility Concept
- Photos: Daimler
- Text: Steffan Heuer
Sharing services are remodelling the automotive business. This offers good prospects, too. One of the key topics at the CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
From booking a free floating car in a city with a click to making one’s own vehicle available to others, from hailing a taxi to taking delivery of a shipment in one’s trunk — sharing all kinds of transportation resources is transforming society. And Mercedes-Benz is at the forefront of this radical shift, trying to reinvent the concept of mobility with a host of innovative services.
“Sharing is here to stay. It’s the fastest growing sector of the mobility business. We recognised it early and have been quietly building our own ecosystem,” said Ola Källenius, Member of the Executive Board of Daimler AG, Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, at the CES tech trade show in Las Vegas.
That’s why Daimler operates services such as car2go with currently more than a million members worldwide, as well as ride-hailing platforms mytaxi and Hailo and on-demand service Blacklane. Those offerings were recently joined by Croove, which lets German drivers privately share their vehicles, and a pilot programme called “Smart Ready to Drop” which turns one’s smart’s trunk into the delivery address for receiving and dropping shipments.
Ola Källenius, Member of the Executive Board of Daimler AG, Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development
New business models
Every car in Daimler’s portfolio will eventually be part of an intelligent sharing ecosystem, said Källenius. “I believe that every car we build should be able to be shared if that’s what the customer wants. Technology will make sharing possible for any vehicle in our fleet of the future.”
This fundamental transformation of the automotive industry doesn’t necessarily spell lower sales since it opens up new business models and drives different types of demand. “There will be a blend of ownership, something that’s still very important in the luxury space. Your car is your third space next to work and home,” the Daimler manager said.
He also pointed out that the rise of e-commerce and on-demand services for goods and even food will speed up the replacement cycle for vehicles and generate demand for vans as well as novel last-mile delivery options such as drones — a concept Mercedes-Benz demonstrated at CES with its Vision Van.
Collaboration with Silicon Valley
Daimler is working with partners such as the incubator Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley to identify transformative new business models around shared services even faster.
“I’ve had a front seat to the most innovative companies,” recalled its founder and CEO, Saeed Amidi in conversation with Källenius. Google was one of many tech success stories that moved into his incubator with a staff of three and went on to change the world. Amidi compared the transformation around shared services from Airbnb to Uber with the disruption of the mobile phone industry when the smartphone was introduced.
The Plug and Play Tech Center has been working with Mercedes-Benz to identify 280 promising startups from around the world. A shortlist of 22 ideas were then reviewed with engineers in Stuttgart, resulting in more than 10 joint pilot projects.
CES 2017 in Las Vegas – read more on specific subjects here:
Mercedes-Benz continues to shape the future of mobility, as the brand with the star is demonstrating at CES 2017 in Las Vegas with the help of just four letters: CASE. This stands for “Connected”, “Autonomous”, “Shared & Service” and “Electric Drive”, encapsulating Mercedes-Benz’ new corporate strategy. At the same time, CASE also describes the four trends which are set to fundamentally alter the concept of mobility in the coming years. Mercedes-Benz is already playing a leading role in these areas today.
The Concept EQ provides a foretaste of a new generation of vehicles with electric battery-powered drive systems. The vehicle with the profile of a sporty SUV crossover is the initial exemplar of the new Mercedes-Benz product brand for electric mobility, EQ. The Concept EQ offers an impression of the future user experience in an automobile. The exterior design presents a totally new electric aesthetic which also finds its way into the interior: the new user interface combines emotionality with user-friendliness, with a focus on straightforward operation by means of touch-sensitive surfaces. The asymmetrical design of the instrument panel with its large, widescreen display is tailored to the driver’s needs and places all relevant information such as speed, range, trip data or navigation and map details in the driver’s field of view.
The Mercedes-Benz Vision Van is a revolutionary van study for last-mile delivery operations. It was created as part of the adVANce strategic initiative for the future at Mercedes-Benz Vans. The Vision Van networks information and technology in unprecedented fashion. With a fully automated load compartment, integrated delivery drones and unique communication between the vehicle and its surroundings, it embodies a holistic concept for a fully digitally networked process chain from the goods distribution depot to the consignee. An electric drive ensures that deliveries with the Vision Van are locally emission-free and virtually silent.
As far as intelligent additional services are concerned, the company is also presenting its vision of how society’s increasing health awareness can be intelligently integrated into ideas for the mobility of the future. The concept vehicle “Fit & Healthy” provides an outlook on how a vehicle can promote the well-being of its occupants.
“Regeneration” and “Activation” are two of the worlds of experience that can be enjoyed by the user of this concept vehicle. These provide physical and mental relaxation or stimulation with the help of numerous comfort systems such as fragrancing, massage, ambient light or climate control. The worlds of experience are both cognitive and sensory in many dimensions of perception.
“Motion”, the third “Fit & Healthy” function in the vehicle, focusses on movement. In a video, renowned US medical expert David Agus explains seat functions which can be experienced in the concept vehicle, such as Active Seat and deep massage, and encourages drivers to do practical fitness exercises during breaks in driving.
The technology behind “Predictive Emergency Defence” (PED) from Mercedes-Benz demonstrates that Fit & Healthy features might also help prevent accidents in the future. The aim is to be able to detect imminent loss of consciousness by professional drivers in good time, in order to prevent resultant accidents. In an emergency, the predictive emergency assistance system is designed to automatically activate the hazard warning system and, as a last step, to bring the bus or truck to a controlled stop as well as to call for medical assistance. For this project, the researchers at Mercedes-Benz developed a so-called “sensor vest” with ECG sensors (electrocardiography).
The route to full-fledged autonomous driving is not a straight shot, but a puzzle. Yet all the necessary pieces are snapping into place faster and faster. Until 2025, level 4/5 capabilities (compare graph) that allow cars to take over for their human drivers will grow exponentially. And high-definition maps that are tightly linked to the cloud to bring in the latest information will play a key part in getting there.
That’s the message from Daimler’s Ola Källenius and Edzard Overbeek, head of the open mapping platform HERE. Speaking at an Inspiration Talk at the Mercedes-Benz stall at this year’s tech trade show CES in Las Vegas, both drove home the point that autonomous vehicles powered by HD and live maps are only a matter of time.
“The full transportation ecosystem, from cars to trucks, will benefit from autonomous driving. It’s a journey of building blocks, but eventually we’ll get to the prize: level 5 autonomous vehicles,” said Källenius, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. He pointed to the fact that already today, more and more features let modern cars take over from the driver.
Working on autonomous vehicles
While bundles of sensors are the eyes and ears of the car, maps are one of the most important innovations to make sense of the various info streams, from navigation and points of interest to live weather and traffic plus behavioural data.
“When everything is digital, everything needs a location,” said Overbeek, CEO of Berlin-based HERE which was acquired by Audi, BMW and Daimler in 2015. At CES, it drew additional investment from chip giant Intel and also partnered with graphics chip maker NVIDIA to jumpstart work on autonomous systems.
Overbeek described HD maps as a key enabler of autonomous driving because they marry real-time sensor feeds from an individual car with data from the cloud at ten centimetre precision. “We can make cars intelligent already, bringing in weather and even the brake lights in front of us.”
Edzard Overbeek, CEO of HERE
Road information from the cloud
In its 25 year-long mapping effort, HERE has amassed 50 petabytes of data and is capturing the world with military-grade cameras, LiDAR sensors, and combining it with aerial footage and ultrasound. A direct outgrowth is a new offering called “electronic horizon” that HERE announced at CES.
Software embedded in the vehicle pulls in map data and dynamic road event data from the cloud to create a simplified representation of the road ahead with a range of a few hundred metres to several kilometres. It then feeds that model of the road to the car’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to optimise performance of the engine and safety systems. Before taking a highway exit, for instance, the system would know how slowly other drivers have taken the upcoming tight turn.
Even before full autonomy arrives, drivers and passengers already reap the benefits of live HD maps. “We’re moving from pure navigation in 2D to exploring things around us in 3D. We reduce the information density of a map and highlight just the important details in context,” explained Alexander Hilliger von Thile, senior manager advanced graphics and rendering at Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America. “Maps of the future will dynamically change based on intelligent predictions before the journey even starts.”
CES 2017 in Las Vegas – read more on specific subjects here:
At this year’s CES trade show in Las Vegas, Mercedes-Benz and graphics chip maker NVIDIA offered glimpses into their collaboration to unveil a game-changing AI car in the coming year — a goal into which many tech and automotive companies around the world have devoted massive resources.
“It’s easy for humans to recognise things and distill these observations into a mental model of the world around them,” explained Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder, president and CEO of NVIDIA in an Inspiration Talk at the Mercedes-Benz stall. Until very recently, though, that level of perception wasn’t possible for even the most powerful computers.
The challenge of autonomous driving
The breakthrough came with so-called deep learning, explained Huang, who had called AI “the solution to self-driving” in the show’s opening keynote. Deep learning involves neural networks building on layer upon layer of computation to teach themselves about the world. “We have dedicated ourselves to working on the most extreme computing platforms. Now we can say that AI is the future of computing and will revolutionise the future of automobiles.”
Sajjad Khan, Vice President Digital Vehicle and Mobility at Daimler AG, described how Mercedes-Benz and NVIDIA have been building a long-term partnership to bring AI to everyday drivers. “We need excellent software and great computational power to make things happen that come naturally to the user but require an immense technical input.”
Jen-Hsun Huang, Co-Founder and CEO of NVIDIA
As a glimpse of things to come, he pointed to upcoming features in the new C- and E-Class. Their software studies user behaviour to make personalised predictions, for instance automatically suggesting the morning’s routing or navigating to the nearest gas station to fill up, based on driving history, realtime sensor readings, destination and other factors. With an in-car office experience, incremental AI gives drivers time back in their busy days, said Khan.
Cars that understand their environment
Accomplishing true AI, both experts agreed, requires new thinking about how a car should be designed, starting with the computing architecture on which all systems will be built. It’s a path Mercedes-Benz and NVIDIA embarked on three years ago, but they wouldn’t go into details what’s in store for next year to keep it a “surprise”.
Once every vehicle houses a supercomputer and is connected to the cloud, a future Mercedes will evolve into a highly adaptive co-pilot that’s always looking out for its passengers’ comfort and safety inside and outside the cabin.
CES 2017 in Las Vegas – read more on specific subjects here: