Cars are basically rolling computers now, as automakers strive to keep abreast of the latest in the digital world, knowing drivers will want to see it replicated behind the wheel.
So what’s next? According to John Kispert, CEO of Spansion, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in bringing memory to computer systems, especially those inside cars. He was happy to share his five big predictions about how the next few years will bring more changes in the electronics of cars:
1. The glass cockpit. Faux instrument panels are becoming common enough that they are reaching down into cars like the $15,995 Dodge Dart, coming to showrooms in the spring, but Kispert thinks the phenomenon is going to go a lot further. He thinks automakers will be inclined to go digital with all the major instruments in cars. In essence, they would create a “glass cockpit” like the ones found in the latest commercial aircraft.
2. Driver Assistance. The car will be smarter than you. Radar and other sensors will warn you about hazards you cannot see, and stomp on the brakes if you won’t. They promise an unprecedented level of safety.
3. Gesture and voice recognition. Cadillac is bringing gesture recognition to cars with its CUE system in the new XTS and ATS. As your hand approaches the navigation screen, it lights up. That’s only the start. Waving your hand will allow you to control what information you see, or don’t see. And voice recognition can only become better.
4. Better engine control. Cars are already controlled by computers, but engine management systems will be able to get more sophisticated. Ford recently showed how a car’s computers can sense where you’re driving and adjust the engine accordingly. If your daily commute takes you on crowded city streets, the car knows where you’re headed and it makes the engine use less gas, for instance.
5. Black boxes. The Toyota debacle a couple of years ago underscored the role that data recorders can play in trying to figure out if there is something wrong with the car, or the driver. In Toyota’s case, the car’s black boxes were being tapped to see if cars had an unwanted acceleration problem, or if drivers were at fault. Kispert thinks black boxes will play a bigger role in showing drivers how they can handle the car more efficiently, saving more gas.