In summary, the idea is that details of what could be described as your ‘driving DNA’ – your habits, strengths, weaknesses and preferences when you get behind the wheel – follow you into any car via an electronic gadget not unlike a mobile phone.
The potential marriage of the mobile device and the automobile suggested in our cover feature is an intriguing prospect.
The car would then adapt everything from steering response to music library to suit your tastes, giving you what you want, or – if your driving is deemed deficient in some way – what you need from the vehicle’s systems.
If this trend is taken to its logical conclusion, the phrase ‘I’m just getting used to the new car’ could pass into history.
Instead, it would be up to the car to get used to you, with the help of the data held on your personal device.
It would also mean that a rental vehicle would feel more like your own car than is the case now (although there is no technological remedy even remotely in prospect to having the gear stick on the wrong side when hiring a car in mainland
No one involved in the project outlined in our feature claims that the ‘adaptive car’ is coming to a showroom near you in the very near future, but the research demonstrates which way the wind is blowing.
The automotive sector is not the only area of industry to show interest in developing systems that respond and adapt to the needs of individual users.
The burgeoning area of ‘smart home’ technology is already making progress in this area, with a range of products already on the market designed to make your living space a highly personal one.
But the idea of applying this in the car is especially exciting. As consumers, we long ago rejected the ‘any colour you like, as long as it’s black’ philosophy of the industry’s early days. We demand that manufacturers produce cars that not only function effectively and reliably, but which fit into our lifestyles.
Practically, vehicle producers can only take this process so far, of course. They cannot reasonably be expected to know the habits, eccentricities, likes and dislikes of every one of their millions of customers.
However, with a system such as the one discussed in our feature, they would not need to; they would merely have to enable their vehicles to respond to the unique user profile of each driver and let the ‘car in their pocket’ do the rest.
If this sounds ingenious but of little practical use, consider the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the automotive industry — and many others — is how to cope with the demands of a rapidly ageing population.
More of us are going to want to continue driving at a greater age, while facing the particular challenges that come in later life, such as worsening eyesight, physical infirmities and potentially slower reaction times.
Our cars will have to cope with this, and the ability to tailor the vehicle to these requirements is potentially a big step forward.
Andrew Lee, editor