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Audi researching use of time in self-driving car

Published 18 July 2017

Audi has joined hands with Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Germany, to find out what is important for making optimal use of time in a self-driving car.

The company started the 25th Hour, a project that is aimed at studying how to make the time spent in a car for a passenger, particularly for a self-driving car in the future.

The company said drivers currently spend about 50 minutes per day at the wheel.

The idea of the project is that an intelligent human-machine interface can learn a person’s individual preferences and can adopt more flexibly. In the future, customers of Audi could benefit from such a machine learning system.

As part of its 25th Hour research programme, the study has been initiated. The intention of the study is to provide Audi with insights on how to design the next generation self-driving cars so that the interiors can be personally optimised.

For the experiment, Audi has built a driving simulator that produces an effect of a self-driving car with variable interiors and without a steering wheel. By using displays, researchers will introduce digital distractions. The interiors of the vehicles can change according to the distractions.

For example, windows can be dimmed, interior colours and background noise can also be changed in response to such distractions.

Subjects chosen for this experiment were mainly millennials. The participants’ brain activity was measured during the experimentation and reaction times and error quotas and subjective impressions were noted.

The results showed that when the surrounding were without any distractions, the brains were more relaxed.  Participants with such relaxed brains could solve tasks easily and quickly.

Audi Culture and Trends Communication head Melanie Goldmann said: “When cars no longer have a steering wheel, premium mobility can be newly defined. In future, people traveling from A to B will be able to surf the Internet at leisure, play with their children – or do concentrated work.”

Goldmann also stated that “The results show that the task is to find the right balance. In a digital future, there are no limits to what can be imagined. We could offer everything in the car – really overwhelm the user with information.

“But we want to put people at the center of attention. The car should become a smart membrane. The right information should reach the user at the right time.”


Image: Audi starts new Simulator programme for self-driving cars. Photo: Courtesy of AUDI AG.