We've heard a lot about how smarter cars will help to make highways safer, using self-driving technologies to eliminate human distraction and error from roadways. Eventually, drivers will be free to browse the internet, send text messages, video chat and more. In the meantime, such distracted behaviors continue to pose a grave risk. Jaguar Land Rover's Smart Assistant is designed to minimize that risk, by learning your behaviors and taking care of non-driving tasks that could otherwise absorb your attention.
The Smart Assistant, which Jaguar provided a preview of this month, identifies the driver of the car based on a smartphone or similar device and learns his or her driving style and in-vehicle habits. The system runs this information through an algorithm, combined with background information like your calendar, traffic conditions and current weather, to predict your behavior and handle a variety of non-essential tasks. Meanwhile, you focus closely on the road with less distraction.
The Smart Assistant starts before you even get in the car. It can send reminders to your smartphone, prompting you to remember your child's sports gear for the evening game, or paperwork for your morning meeting. As you walk up to the car, it automatically adjusts the mirrors, seat and steering wheel settings so that everything's ready by the time you slide in. Using your digital schedule, the car will also have your route preset in the navigation system, adjusted for current traffic conditions, and it will continue to reroute throughout the day based on your schedule.
After learning your behavior behind the wheel, the Smart Assistant will handle tasks and make vehicle adjustments. If you call your boss each morning, the system will learn to ask you if you want it to initiate this call. It will also offer to make a call or send a message if it sees you're going to be late for work. It can additionally learn to adjust cabin settings, such as temperature and seat massage, based around the specific times you usually adjust them on your own. As an example, the system will pump up the AC and put the seat massage on when you're driving home from the gym, without you having to give it a second thought.
The Smart Assistant can also make certain driving changes based on what it's learned from your driving style. It can integrate acceleration style and following distances into the Auto Adaptive Cruise Control so the car drives more like you.
"By developing a learning function for Adaptive Cruise Control, it is technology concepts like the self-learning car that will ensure any future intelligent car remains fun and rewarding to drive as we move closer to more autonomous driving over the next 10 years," says Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover director of research and technology. "This is important because in the future customers will still want an emotional connection and a thrilling drive – with the ability to drive autonomously when required."
Whether or not your driving style is something that you want a 2.5-ton Range Rover imitating is another story.
Jaguar imagines the Smart Assistant system being tied to the cloud, where it can extend far beyond your daily commuter's doors. Any Jaguar Land Rover vehicle would be able to apply your preferences, so if you rent or borrow an XJ or Range Rover Evoque, you can still enjoy the Smart Assistant features.
Beyond the driver, the Smart Assistant can also adapt vehicle settings like infotainment and personal climate zones to the passengers in the vehicle.
The Smart Assistant system is designed to cut down on cognitive distractions that increase accident risks. Things like hands-free cell phones and voice-based messaging have been designed as solutions to the problem of distracted driving, but a pile of research suggests that just taking your mind off of driving to talk on the phone or compose a message can be plenty dangerous on its own, no matter how physical the method used.
Last year, the AAA called upon auto manufacturers to limit voice-based infotainment features after finding that some of these features are even more distracting than making a handheld cell phone call. Its research prompted it to recommend that such voice control systems be limited to vehicle-specific features, such as windshield wipers and climate control, when the vehicles are in motion.
"The aim of our self-learning technology is to minimize driver distraction, which will help reduce the risk of accidents," Dr. Epple explains. "Presenting the driver with information just at the right time whilst driving will reduce both cognitive distraction and the need for the driver to look away from the road to scroll through phone lists, or adjust mirrors, temperature or seat functions while on the road."
Of course, the system may prove a cognitive distraction of its own, should it constantly nag at you to make a phone call, adjust the temperature at the wrong times, or start navigating to a destination you're not driving to yet. It also selectively encourages some cognitive distractions, such as the act of engaging in a phone conversation.
Jaguar is still working on the Smart Assistant technology and has not stated when it plans to have it ready for release.