Panasonic has revealed a glimpse of the not-too-distant future, an exciting new concept that points the way to how the autonomous car will fit in with the lives of regular consumers.
Unveiled today at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, Panasonic took the wraps off its Autonomous Cabin Concept, a world-first for the company, which boasts its next-generation infotainment and connectivity expertise all wrapped up in a futuristic four-seater cabin full of surprise and delight features.
Following on from Panasonic’s Advanced Cockpit Concept, which was unveiled at last year’s CES, the Autonomous Cabin Concept is a natural next step, boasting the very latest in touch displays, smart materials and augmented reality to make travelling in the autonomous car of the future as fun and as important to everyday life as a smartphone is today.
The Autonomous Cabin Concept shows how an autonomous car can be the ultimate in versatility, providing the perfect extension to the workspace on the one hand, switching to the perfect family zone on the other, through creative, innovative and informative displays, connectivity and augmented reality.
Panasonic has produced a short film showing just how the Autonomous Cabin Concept fits seamlessly into a family trip.
As global leader in providing key technologies to the automotive industry, Panasonic already supplies many of the world’s biggest car companies and has done so for over 60 years. The Autonomous Cabin Concept points the way to how Panasonic could support the automotive industry in the future as mobility becomes increasingly autonomous. .
Much of the technology that features on the Autonomous Cabin Concept is already in advanced stages and thanks to Panasonic’s robust in-house development expertise it is uniquely placed to provide next-generation automotive grade technology to the industry. The highlights of the Autonomous Cabin Concept are described below.
Next-generation infotainment through Connected Interactive Tables
The four-seater Autonomous Cabin Concept has Connected Interactive Tables for all four occupants, each featuring a screen in 4K resolution that can be used as a touch display or a foldable table – or both. In the film, the father of the family is seen working on an interactive table in the car on his way to meet the family, continuing the work he started in the office.
With his work finished, the car then becomes the perfect family space. Each Connected Interactive Table is highly versatile and can be moved into a number of positions, allowing occupants to face each other, sit side-by-side or combine all four tables as one giant interactive screened surface.
This provides the perfect multi-use platform, allowing families to watch their own content – in the film the father checks on the hotels at the destination while his son plays games – or even play digital boardgames together with the tablets arranged as one.
This surface is also ‘smart’ in that it reacts to objects around it. Panasonic has designed a magic mug – the Autonomous Cabin Concept provides hot and cold drinks with an integrated coffee machine and fridge – to work with the connected interactive tables. When this magic mug is placed on the table, the screen display immediately moves so that vital information is still visible.
Working (literally) hand-in-hand with these tablets is a magic ring, a detachable circular controller device which, when placed on the Connected Interactive Tables, can be used to adjust a host of different settings such as the cabin temperature.
Occupants use the center of the ring to select or confirm and in the film, the mother uses a magic ring to dim the light in the cabin.
In-car cameras also scan the faces of the occupants. The ‘driver’ is identified by Face Recognition. He or she is the only person who can fully control the car – for example, he or she can change the destination by updating the satellite navigation system.
Surprise and delight through Smart Materials and AR Windows
Thanks to Panasonic’s innovative Smart Material, all is not what it seems. In the Autonomous Cabin Concept, interior surfaces can look like real wood and also display information – or provide mood lighting, or both.
How do they work? The interior materials are made of resin with Panasonic’s unique Film-in-Molding technology, which makes it possible to create plastic parts that look and feel like real premium wood – or metal or leather.
Smart Material can then be backlit, creating new ways to illuminate a cabin, and also animated, allowing interior trim parts to be used as displays for safety or information purposes. The Autonomous Cabin Concept features a Smart Material ‘wooden’ panel that acts as a display showing information. In the film, the mother changes the temperature of the cabin, merely by touching the Smart Material.
Thanks to Panasonic’s experience in developing components for many different automotive applications, it is able to make Smart Material technology work for the specific and challenging environment that is the car interior.
The displays don’t end there. When is a window not really a window? When it’s an AR Window. Thanks to transparent display surfaces bonded to the windows of the car, a whole host of information shown to the occupants, such as weather conditions at the destination.
But the really clever part is that these displays can augment real objects outside the vehicle. See a landmark go past the car and it is possible to bring up augmented information – and display it on the window in real time. In the film, the son spots a castle and, using Augmented Reality and the interactive table, the car posts information on the AR Windows about this point of interest for all the family to enjoy.
Optimal comfort through the Air Purifier and Personal Sound Technology
Panasonic believes that travelling should be as comfortable as possible – and that means occupants should have clean and odorless air. As a result, the Autonomous Cabin Concept features an Air Purifier which uses Nano-e technology: nano-sized electrostatic water particles, which eliminate unpleasant odours and also suppress the formation of mold and allergens, keeping the cabin de-odorised and as clean as possible.
Adding to that comfort is Personal Sound Technology. Each passenger has a set of speakers built into his or her headrest, allowing personal audio content to be streamed directly to these spaces. Panasonic is a world-leader in automotive cabin noise-reduction, having applied versions of this technology in the market already. Through next-generation noise-reduction technology, zones in the Autonomous Cabin Concept can suppress unwanted sounds, maximizing comfort and each passenger’s enjoyment of their chosen music. In the film, the family is shown relaxing to their own music individually, thanks to Panasonic’s Personal Sound Technology.
Andreas Heitmann, VP of Panasonic’s Infotainment division in Europe, commented: “Autonomous cars are set to become a huge part of our everyday lives, but hardly anyone has explored in depth just how the autonomous car can fit in with regular consumers – and make their lives better. That’s what the Autonomous Cabin Concept is all about.
“We are showing that thanks to Panasonic’s next-generation technology, taking a trip in an autonomous car will enrich our lives. Because we are not driving, we have more time to learn and enjoy ourselves. On a family trip, the fun starts as soon as the car journey begins, not when the family reaches their destination.
“As the automotive industry increasingly looks to autonomous solutions for mobility, we are uniquely placed to support it. At the same time, our ethos is to provide systems and technologies that make mobility safer, more environmentally friendly, more comfortable and more enjoyable – and the Autonomous Cabin Concept does exactly that.”
Fabien Roth, General Manager infotainment marketing at Panasonic Automotive & Industrial Europe, said: “With the Autonomous Cabin Concept we are combining our Consumer electronics expertise with our over 60 years of heritage in the Car industry to redefine the travel experience, not just for the driver – but for the whole family.
“The Autonomous Cabin Concept uses Panasonic’s next-generation technology in touch displays, smart materials and augmented reality to show that an autonomous car can play multiple roles. ”
“On the one hand, it is the perfect working environment, a real extension of the office. Yet, on the other, it is the perfect family space, its connectivity and infotainment systems bringing fun to journeys. The versatility and flexibility offered by the Autonomous Cabin Concept is a revelation.”