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Autonomous Technology is needed for more than driving, says Daimler AG’s Volker Entenmann

Autonomous technology seems to be synonymous with driverless functionality, but there are other uses for automation – including within the confines of a vehicle.

Today many consumers are used to fumbling through an ever-growing list of controls and features, thanks in part the proliferation of smartphones. The number of features is likely to expand as consumers demand more from their in-car experience and as automakers seek to up their margins in this highly competitive marketplace. And with that increase comes the need for greater automation.

“The big thing is that we add more and more functionality to our cars, to the infotainment system,” said Volker Entenmann, senior manager of UI functions at Daimler AG. “We definitely have reached a level where the customer cannot operate all of those features manually, so we have to work on systems which take [the] initiative and offer the customer what fits best to the given situation.”

In other words, features, functionalities and information must be delivered without the customer having to perform any complicated actions. It must be quick and seamless – and in time, automatic.

“This is, from my perspective, the main direction in which we need to work,” said Entenmann. “This includes artificial intelligence in the background by analyzing the overall context and situation of the car, driver [and] passenger.”

Entenmann would like the system to be very observant, taking note of what was needed previously, as well as what occupants currently need. Then the vehicle could make a potential suggestion.

“It will be the natural interaction between car and occupant in terms of gaze, body language and speech, which will ease the access to those kinds of information,” Entenmann added.

In short, Entenmann believes that autonomous technology is not only essential to the future of driving, it is also an important part of the way cars will interface with consumers.

“What [consumers] do inside the car has comparable complexity and challenges to what is done for automating the driving task,” said Entenmann. “We also use deep learning, we also have to take careful data collection, data annotation. We also have to ask ourselves: how many data do we need to get a reliable system? We have to focus on making all of this happen on embedded platforms, which can be technically but also commercially realized in a car. From my perspective, regarding the challenges and technologies which are applied, it’s on an equal level.”

Until then, Entenmann said he is already looking at the future of mobility by focusing on the interior of human-driven cars, both for drivers and passengers.

“If the vehicle becomes autonomous, the driver will become a passenger too,” he explained, adding that Mercedes-Benz interiors have already evolved into more of a living room experience. “All of this is what we expect to be available in future autonomous cars, and what we’re trying to do is provide those comfort features to the customer without the need for manual operation or interaction. That’s why we see a continuous development from what we have today to this future autonomous scenario.”

About the author:

Louis Bedigian is an experienced journalist and contributor to various automotive trade publications. He is a dynamic writer, editor and communications specialist with expertise in the areas of journalism, promotional copy, PR, research and social networking.