Bosch shows us how smarter cars help drivers stay focused on the road

bosch virtual cockpit top screen
Best-case scenario, you’ll hear the phrase “please look at the camera” when getting passport photos taken. Worst-case scenario, it’s when you’re getting booked into jail – and we’re not talking about Monopoly. You don’t hear it when you start your car, though. That might change in the coming years. Bosch’s vision for the next-generation car interior relies on facial recognition and haptic technology to make driving more relaxing and, ultimately, safer.

The German firm installed a version of its cockpit in an otherwise stock Cadillac Escalade to show us how it works at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It’s made up of five interconnected color displays. One replaces the analog instrument cluster, two live in the center console, and two more are attached to the front seatbacks for the enjoyment of the passengers riding in the second row. They’re all powered by a single hardware, though multiple operating systems run simultaneously to separate vehicle-specific controls from connected-car controls. Allen Sun, a mechanical engineer in Bosch’s multimedia division, told Digital Trends that’s done for safety reasons.

“Studies show this technology can reduce distractions by 15 to 20 percent”

Step inside, turn on the ignition, and you’re kindly requested to “please look at the camera” by a GPS-like voice piped through the front speakers. Don’t look for an old-school Rolleiflex. The unit that scans your face is no bigger than the lens in a rear-view camera system. In this application, it’s positioned right above the digital instrument cluster, where it has an unobstructed view of who is in the driver’s seat. It identifies the user and automatically adjusts to his or her preferred settings for the seats and the mirrors. It even loads your favorite playlists, kind of like the world’s smartest jukebox.

The latest voice-recognition technology, which Bosch introduced separately, adds another dimension to the car interior of the near future. It recognizes each user’s voice. If Jack says “show me my calendar,” it will display his agenda for the day. If Jill says the exact same phrase, she’ll see hers. It’s possible to integrate apps into the system, too. For example, Jack can link his home camera to the infotainment system and display real-time footage on the car’s center console-mounted touch-screen.

bosch virtual cockpit press

You’ll like this technology if you regularly share a car with a family member. You’ll love it if you regularly share a car with the thousands of motorists that signed up for the same car-sharing program as you.

The screen positioned closest to the gear selector replaces all of the buttons, switches, and knobs normally found on the center console, even the ones used to adjust the front seats. Haptic feedback helps keep the driver’s eyes off the center console and on the road. The user can feel the “edge” of the button, which appreciably reduces the amount of poking and prodding required to execute an otherwise simple command.

“Our studies show this technology can reduce distractions by 15 to 20 percent,” Sun explained. But it’s still possible for people to ignore the law and common sense by texting while driving, right? Not really; Bosch has a way around that, too. It developed a smartphone lockout feature that allows the device to sense where it is in the vehicle. Virtual borders that split up the cabin lock the phone’s screen if it’s in the driver’s vicinity and unlock it as soon as it’s in one of the passengers’ hands.

It’s not smartphone diplomacy or cellular voodoo; it’s baked right into the sound system. The phone listens for signals emitted by the speakers on both sides of the car. They’re inaudible to humans, but the soundwaves that come out of the speaker in the driver’s door automatically lock the phone; the rest unlock it. Automakers could also use this technology to deliver personalized content to passengers.

While undeniably cool, QLED screens integrated into a car’s headliner are far, far away from mass production. Bosch’s next-generation cockpit, on the other hand, is realistic and ready for production. It could equip your 2019 and 2020 model. Though the company doesn’t make its own car, it’s currently talking with several large automakers about sending the aforementioned technology to the production line in a timely manner. Who, you ask? Watch this space.

Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.
Mobile

Upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 models may have two, three, or even four rear lenses

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Cars

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.
Cars

Waymo becomes the first company to charge for rides in self-driving cars

Waymo has launched a commercial ridesharing service using self-driving cars in the Phoenix area. It's the first U.S. company to generate revenue by putting passengers in autonomous cars. Waymo One is only available to a select group of…
Smart Home

Is old-school Airstream finally embracing smart home technology?

Airstream's vintage-looking trailers have a huge audience but its 2019 Classic camping trailers are getting a modern upgrade with the addition of app-controlled smart home technology to bring modern convenience online.
Cars

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.
Cars

Uber is about to restart self-driving car tests but on a reduced scale

Uber is reported to be on the verge of restarting its autonomous-car test program. The company halted it in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, but its cars could be back on the road within weeks.
Cars

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.
Cars

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.
Cars

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.
Cars

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.
Cars

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.
Cars

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.