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Vehicles will have to become more personal and smarter about driving themselves, according to SAE Convergence panelists.

Personalization, autonomy create many challenges for engineers

Meeting diverse customer demands is a vexing challenge that will require heavy amounts of engineering work. Development teams will have to give drivers more personal options while they also determine how to ensure that autonomous driving platforms mimic the ways humans sometimes break traffic laws.

A broad range of panelists explored the many facets of vehicle development that now face engineers at SAE 2014 Convergence on Tuesday, addressing the topic of "Enhancing User Experience to Improve Personal Mobility." One critical element is the desire for an individual experience.

“Connectivity is an enabler for personal mobility and new experiences,” said James Buczkowski of Ford Motor Co. “The next-generation experience must be much more personalized. The vehicle must look at the cloud and bring an experience that’s relevant to the driver.”

This personal data can’t overload drivers. For example, a user who gets scores of emails every day might find it distracting if the vehicle system notifies him for every incoming message.

“Information sent to the vehicle should be relevant to the driver,” said Dan Loop of Freescale Semiconductor. “Systems can’t bombard you every 5 min with messages you don’t want to read.”

Panelists also discussed the challenges of developing autonomous driving controls. The tasks go beyond sensing and analyzing input. Vehicles must know when to obey rules and when to skirt them.

“One of the big challenges for autonomous driving is how vehicles interact with their surroundings in ways humans do,” said Chris Gerdes of Stanford University. “There are rules humans don’t adhere to, like going over double yellow lines to go around a car that’s double-parked. Engineers need to look not at mimicking the average driver, the systems should match the levels of professional drivers.”

As connectivity and autonomous driving race toward the mainstream, security is becoming a hot issue. Connectivity raises the specter of hacking, while the safety aspects of autonomous driving require data protection.

“Security is a huge issue, not in the future but right now,” said David Strickland, a former NHTSA Director who’s now with Venable LLP. “Security is an issue that every OEM should be thinking about. They need to have systems that look at themselves and see if something’s wrong.”

Many other factors must be addressed as the industry moves to meet changing consumer desires. Both technology and marketing tactics will have to change.

“Old fashioned ways of marketing aren’t going to work” said Marios Zenios of Chrysler Corp. “We have to take into account that some people love technology and other people are not happy with some of it.”

On the technical side, engineers want to limit the number of options and variations they need to work with.

“If we have to support a number of standards, we’re asking for trouble,” Loop said.

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