Connectivity, electromobility determine future car architecture

February 15, 2013 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The car as we know it is an obsolescent model. All automotive engineers know this, because their entire work gyrates about re-inventing it everyday. At the recent Euroforum conference on Automotive electronics in Munich, it once again became clear which factors drive the development, and attendees got an idea of how individual mobility in the future will look like.

The point is that not only the vehicle itself is subject to technical progress but also the business model of the carmakers. The existing business model of building cars and selling them to users, typically private persons who own them and sometimes use them, is challenged by new user habits. And since a change in the business model also greatly affects the way cars are built, this is also a topic for design engineers.

Connectivity is key to understanding the future role of cars, said Simon Euringer who oversees the Connected Drive activities at carmaker BMW, at the event. Cars no longer will be just connected but instead they will be embedded in an information environment, Euringer predicted. Today, one million BMW cars are using the Connected Drive feature, and this figure is rapidly growing. A standard feature in today's connected cars is the availability of apps much like they are available for smartphones and tablet computers. Particularly successful for BMW are apps that connect the driver to information services on the phone - of course in the driver's language. Other killer apps are teleservices which connect driver and garages, real-time traffic information and the HTML5-based BMW Online service, which transparently brings online information to the vehicle's centre display.

These connectivity features highly personalize the way the vehicle appears to its driver. BMW - like other manufacturers - is working on technologies to make these personal usage profiles and personality features portable: This will enable car users to bring along their personal information preferences and user profiles along when they happen to use another car or even a rental vehicle. Apps will increasingly contribute to the driving experience. "A smartphone without an app is pointless", Euringer compared the car with today's most popular information gadget. For him, even apps for intermodal routing are conceivable - apps that, according to traffic situation and availability, even might recommend using public transportation instead