Bay Area companies working on cars of the future

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Bay Area companies working on cars of the future
Labs in Silicon Valley are trying to figure out how best to integrate car technologies so they help drivers without distracting them.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- Technology is going to be at the heart of the car of tomorrow, with Google, Tesla and others pushing the envelope. Labs in Silicon Valley are trying to figure out how best to integrate them so they can help drivers while not distracting them. At Delphi Labs in Mountain View, concepts will soon become reality.

People disparagingly label things like the am car radio of the 1930's "dinosaurs of the past," although they were examples of technology innovation in their time. Fast-forward to the present. Engineers in Silicon Valley are working hand-in-hand with automakers to create innovations for the next generation of cars.

As programmable displays begin to show up on dashboards, the challenge becomes how to integrate navigation, collision avoidance, communications, and even entertainment. Delphi is working with automakers and Silicon Valley inventors to make that happen.

"All of these technologies have been coming together piece-by-piece over time, but the forces of the market are really demanding that it come quicker now. And with this connectivity demand from the consumer, we have to deliver these safety solutions that allow them to use that content in the car," said Delphi Labs Silicon Valley Director John Absmeier.

As autonomous or self-driving cars are refined and tested, that deployment can create time for drivers to watch a movie or work while technology can monitor for hazards. The use of auto radar is at or near production. The radar and vision system is constantly monitoring what's around the vehicle. The built-in warning system will alert the driver, or the automated car will take its own appropriate action.

Other systems can flash a light, vibrate the seat, and blank out the display if a driver is distracted and not paying attention to the road. "The idea is to try to reduce the amount of distraction by giving safe interfaces in the car that actually work very simply and keep the driver's attention on the driving task," Absmeier said.

Delphi is also working on a cloud-based system to let drivers change the look or color of their display panel. And, there's attention being paid to how to upgrade features and software when technology changes faster than people buy new cars.

Plus, connected vehicles can be targets for hackers. "As you connect these cars, cyber security is a hot topic. We've got to figure out how to make sure that they can't be hacked," Absmeier said.

So, there's plenty to work on. And Delphi says its priorities are safety first, comfort, and then convenience.