In keeping with many other automakers this week, German automaker Volkswagen is using the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada as a platform to demonstrate and display its latest advancements in autonomous driving, greener fuel and in-car technology.
And it’s the first time the car maker — whose luxury brands include Porsche and Audi — has presented at the popular industry event.
Alongside the unveiling of a new in-car entertainment system which it says will work with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems, bridging the gap between infotainment and the mobile phone, Volkswagen says it will soon be bringing autonomous parking technology to its e-Golf electric car that will make it possible for the plug-in car to find an empty charging parking space and charge itself without human interaction.
But in order to make that a reality, Volkswagen says it’s readying several other new technologies for production which will bring that vision to a reality.
First comes improved autonomous parking technology which builds on the current semi-autonomous reverse parking functionality available on current e-Golfs. Called Trained Parking, the system makes use of a camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror to recognise and take-over routinely-executed parking manoeuvres, such as pulling into a specific space at work or parking on the driveway at night.
At the moment, Volkswagen says the driver will be required to stay in their car while this manoeuvre is taking place, but it hopes the next-generation of the Trained Parking system will be able to interact with a tablet computer, smartphone or smart watch, enabling completely autonomous parking after the passengers have exited the vehicle.
The second piece of technology Volkswagen says is needed for full autonomous parking and charging is a wireless inductive charging system which will fit on the underside of its plug-in cars. Like other inductive charging systems we’ve seen int he past, the efficiency of the charging system itself depends on the physical separation between the inductive charging plate on the underside of the car and the inductive charging plate embedded in the floor of the parking space.
Autonomous parking, where a higher level of precision can be obtained than possible with a human driver, ensures perfect placement every time. To further boost efficiency, Volkswagen says its inductive charging prototypes feature a specialised plate on the floor of the parking space which lifts into place when the car is correctly positioned over it. This enables a minimal separation to exist between transmitting and receiving plate, increasing overall system efficiency to levels usually reserved for cabled charging.
Of the inductive charging — something Volkswagen calls “Intelligent Charge” — the automaker says that it hopes to introduce the feature as an alternative to conductive charging “over the mid-term.”
Alongside what we think of as the highlights of Volkswagen’s CES announcement comes the unveiling of its Golf R Touch: a high-end performance Golf R fitted with a concept cockpit that enhances the many buttons and gauges normally found in a car with cameras and sensors that are capable of gesture recognition.
If you think of Microsoft’s popular Xbox One games console and its controversial Kinect, you’ll get the idea: instead of having to reach over and touch specific controls, drivers might be able to access satellite navigation systems or interact with the car’s climate control with a few gestures. Since those gestures could take place nearer the steering wheel, the driver spends less time with his or her hands off the wheel, making for a safer driving experience all round, posits Volkswagen.
For plug-in car drivers, Volkswagen says a new charging system — which flashes the car’s exterior front LED daytime running lights to indicate the car’s state of charge — will also make the vehicle far more convenient to use, while improved data connectivity makes it possible for drivers to locate charging stations and find out information on their availability and costing before arriving.
Finally, Volkswagen says it will shortly introduce smartphone and smart watch compatibility for its e-Golf, allowing customers to unlock or lock their cars from their smart devices in much the same way as Tesla Model S owners can leave their car keys at home and use their smartphone to activate their car instead.
Following in Tesla’s footsteps, Volkswagen says its smart device apps will go one step further, allowing owners to ‘grant’ temporary ‘Digital Key’ access to other people, such as parking valets or mechanics, without requiring the owner to leave the physical key with them.
And while Volkswagen spent the majority of its CES presentation focused primarily on the use of its four key technology areas (smartphone integration; ease-of-use improvements; e-mobility packages and autonomous driving) in Volkswagen’s own brand vehicles, a tongue-in-cheek video released by its luxury brand Audi demonstrates the potential of these four technologies for future VW-group vehicles.
As dog fans ourselves, we can’t wait to teach our Border Collie to prove his smarts with automated parking.
What do you make of Volkswagen’s suite of interconnected offerings and intelligent parking and charging capabilities? Would you trust your car to park and charge itself? Or do you worry that the system is simply too complicated to be as reliable as a plug and socket?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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