As a ten year old, I loved Knight Rider. The thought of a cool looking car that could talk, interact and drive itself seemed like a lifetime away in the 80s. Not impossible, just a little too far ahead of its time to be real.
It's been pretty obvious to those who pay attention to the motor industry that Technology, particularly Smart Phone Technology, would naturally meet with automotive technology eventually.
For the past two years, Volkswagen Group have been working with Apple in the race to become the first to bridge the gap. In recent weeks, Volkswagen have taken one of their most iconic models, as have Apple and joined them up effectively creating the iBeetle.
Ok, so this may simply be another integration of two products and a bit of initiative from the marketing department - One step further than simply having an iPhone in a cradle I suppose. It is, however, another clear step towards technology platforms and vehicle manufactures thinking collaboratively in terms of road map.
The current functionalities included are mostly for entertainment and social networking, adding applications and smart features to the car, rather than new platforms. There is even a game in the new iBeetle called Milestones. It rewards users with 'milestone' stickers for traveling certain distances. Next thing you know, the whole carbon footprint thing will be out of vogue because everyone is trying to win a badge for driving the most random miles.
I was reading a report by Intel recently. It refers to the new in car trend as the ‘connected car’. Reportly this space is the third fastest growing technology device after mobile phones and tablets; hence they are investing $100m into it over the next five years. Smart move if you ask me.
In recent years Augmented Reality tech has been used by the likes of Mercedes and BMW. Take this a step further and your head up display becomes a mini computer in itself and starts to help with directions, traffic coverage, conditions, monitoring the car behaviour’s and alerting you to places of interest as you drive along.
Suddenly you open up a whole market around apps for this technology. Let's hope we don't end up with the same sort of deluge of apps produced when the iPhone first came out.
Let's be sensible about this for a moment. All the movement in this space and empowerment to the driver and vehicle, means a great deal more responsibility for the driver and the car manufactures and technology providers.
History shows us that the introduction of the phone into the car increased accidents. Moving this tech into the car, obviously has side effects but can the new technology help manage further potential problems?
It's not hard to get distracted. I was test driving a new vehicle on a press day in France recently and I freely admit that whilst sat in traffic I was at one point far more interested in the on board computer and how I could play around and change things than I was in what was going on around me.
Great news is that Augmented Reality head up windscreen displays and voice commands in particular, should help towards the safety aspects and so overcome the likely barriers for widespread adoption of this technology. The adoption will happen eventually though.
Research in the US is suggesting that the potential market for this is huge. In the next five to six years the space will be worth hundreds of billions and account for 20-30% of connected lifestyle.
Just like Knight Rider, in-car apps will act as a co pilot, finding parking spaces before you turn up at a location, understanding where the restaurants are and even booking a table for you. Eventually they will understand the entries in your diary for the day and decide which route to take, where to get fuel, eat lunch and meet your partner later for dinner.
So the far-fetched TV show all those years ago, is now becoming reality and that cars are. You do have to wonder though if the manufactures will ever produce anything quite as perfect as KITT.