Wednesday 7 December 2016

How 'they' will know you're due a stop and offer a cut-price lunch

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

Keeping you connected: the Opel Corsa interior
Keeping you connected: the Opel Corsa interior

Here's a glimpse of what 'connectivity' will bring. You leave home at 8am and you're heading into a four-hour drive.

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About two-and-a-half hours on the road you get a spoken message offering you brunch/lunch at an imminent café with €5 off the going rate. It's near the next exit.

How did they know? Well, as part of future connectivity and commercial tie-ups and technology and all that, their system will have known when you started out and when you should be thinking about stopping for a rest.

Sound like Big Brother? It does. Only you can opt in or out.

David Voss is Opel's connectivity guru and speaking to him is like lifting another layer on a future where your car does most of the talking (to other cars and road signs etc) and a fair share of the driving (the boring, straight bits).

It's all part of a huge push by carmakers and their computer counterparts to drive the fusion of auto and digital and exploit it for its commerciality and, importantly, safety implications (GM's Mary Barra dreams of a 'crash-free' future).

Opel are making their own waves with their new OnStar and IntelliLink systems. David Voss is understandably bullish about the transformation these can bring about.

You get a package that includes a wi-fi hotspot, and mobile and emergency services as well as all sorts of data (tyre pressure, oil life) and the ability to lock or unlock your car. And up to seven mobile devices can be connected.

And that is just the start. There is no knowing where all this is taking us.

But Mr Voss is also acutely aware of safety implications. None of this must distract. He mentions the 'twilight zone' of 10 seconds, for example, when people will have to resume control of the car after it has been driving itself.

It takes them that time to readjust. That is a challenge. The road ahead isn't straightforward and time is pressing.

He reckons cars will be driving themselves on 'open roads' within four years; 10 years for fully autonomously.

Can you imagine your car driving itself? Tell us what you think. ecunningham@independent.ie

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