Automotive

Audi’s Holoride is a VR experience like no other

Back seat car rides will never be the same again

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It had been a long day, but I could still barely contain my excitement as a fancy car whizzed me down the interstate to a race track on the outskirts of Las Vegas, one chilly evening before the start of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. 

While the in-seat back massage made me wish the ride was longer, I also couldn’t wait to get there. Tonight would be my first time in an e-Tron, Audi’s new fully electric SUV, and my first taste of what Audi calls the future of mobility, one with entertainment content at its center.

It’s an interesting proposition, one I’m more than willing to chew on. With self-driving vehicles on the horizon, tonight, instead of getting behind the wheel, I take a back seat, put on a VR headset, and trade my current reality for one that promises to be more exhilarating.

Called “Rocket’s Rescue Run,” it’s the first title in a collaboration between Marvel and Disney and Audi’s new spin off venture Holoride, that aims to make VR entertainment a mainstay in cars of the future.

As the e-tron’s driver steps on the accelerator, in my alternate universe my ship surges through space. I’m joined by my sidekick Rocket Raccoon, and together we team up to help Iron Man take down a mob of Thanos’ space goons.

I’ve had many VR experiences before, but none like this. As soon as the SUV pulls away, the whole experience makes perfect sense. Every twist, every sharp turn, every bit of acceleration or sudden brake is matched by the same sensation in the game. For the entire 5-minute ride, my body is tricked into believing this reality. Not an easy feat for an utterly nitpicky tech journalist, I can only begin to imagine how big of a technical challenge it was to pull off.

I wield my laser gun like a pro, take down an evil mothership, and celebrate our victory with fireworks. The experience ends, and the e-tron stops. Reluctantly, I take off my headset. It feels like I’ve just been on a theme park ride, but from the privacy of my own car — well, not really, but I wish — and without standing in an hour-long line. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that during my adventure the e-tron reached speeds of up to 90mph. We’ve navigated plenty of sharp turns, too, but I don’t feel so woozy.

Supposedly matching the car’s movements to the virtual reality experience helps in mitigating nausea. As I get out, I thank my driver, but also can’t help but imagine a world that’s driver-optional.

At CES, we saw Audi’s vision of the future, a concept car called the Aicon, with an interior that resembles more of a lounge than a current automobile. As with Holoride, the development of Aicon represents a shift in the idea of mobility, one that’s ushered in by a focus on passengers instead of drivers. Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles. If no one is driving, what else are we to do?

Anything you want to, apparently. Cars are now seen as multi-purpose spaces, just another room that we occupy as we travel from place to place: be it a relaxation pod, a meeting room, or your own private cinema.

The team behind Holoride is most invested in the latter, creating entertainment experiences that are just long enough to fill the entire duration of your trip. They’re calling it “elastic content,” VR games and adventures that automatically adjust to congestion and shortcuts, so that you’re never left without something to occupy you.

Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles.”

Soon, Holoride plans to open its technology to more car manufacturers, content creators, and game developers. The goal is for a wide range of immersive experiences, customized to events in the real world like traffic jams or stop lights, and for those experiences to be available in more car brands. Apart from games, like the one I played, the company is also planning movies, interactive features, and educational tours. Indeed, the type of content you could enjoy is limited only by the imagination.

A few minutes later, I find myself getting another back massage inside another chauffeured Audi A8, making our way back into downtown Las Vegas. These days, when I do travel by car, the experience is similar to this, albeit less fancy. I’m bored, maybe antsy or impatient, in the back seat, with only my phone and social media to distract me. I hadn’t given it much thought till today, but in a world where one constantly thirsts for something to capture one’s attention, I can certainly see how “content will be a major driving force for the mobility experience of the future.”

The day is almost over and I am exhausted. I recline my chair, close my eyes, and enjoy the back massage for a few minutes more. I dream I am back in the e-tron, and wonder when this future will arrive, what it would be like if the next Avengers movie was interactive, and most importantly, what it would be like to watch it from the back seat of a fully autonomous Audi.

Automotive

Why Nissan’s new infotainment system looks better than others

As seen in the Ariya Concept

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Cars are turning up the heat in the infotainment department. Today’s vehicles have bigger and better screens nestled snugly on the center. However, for the current upward trend in technology, a few carmakers have refused to follow the zeitgeist.

Today, Nissan has announced its own unconventional take on the large infotainment system. Compared to everyone else’s central tablet-like dashboards, Nissan’s Ariya Concept puts the wave-like system in a more free-flowing position between the driver’s wheel and the center.

According to Nissan, the new design derives its inspiration from Japanese Futurism and Stanley Kubrick’s timeless classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Besides its aesthetic value, it lends itself to better functionality. Flowing horizontally, the layout matches a driver’s line of sight more than the more grandiose versions of systems today.

Despite stemming from the driver’s side, the Ariya Concept’s system is still easily accessible from a passenger’s perspective. Also, users can seamlessly switch information displays between positions. For example, if drivers prefer route directions right in front of them, they can transfer that information right in front of the steering wheel. Likewise, if they want to control the music, they can shift it there, too.

Naturally, a concept pertains to a marketable vehicle in the future. Though it already had its debut at CES 2020, the Nissan Ariya Concept has not made an official launch in the real world yet.

SEE ALSO: WOCEE 2019: Nissan Intelligent Mobility Tour 2.0

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Automotive

Tesla’s Autopilot saves family from deadly accident

Eight people were saved overall

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It’s not often that you hear a story about Tesla’s Autopilot saving lives from deadly mishaps. However, that’s what exactly happened in the UK last Saturday. Tesla’s Autopilot function literally saved eight people from a falling tree which could have resulted to their deaths.

The whole accident happened while a powerful storm ravaged the UK’s countryside. Laurence Sanderson, the man behind the wheel of a Tesla Model X, was driving when a large tree suddenly fell due to strong winds. In an interview with Mirror UK, Sanderson said he was unable to react on time.

Luckily though, Tesla’s Autopilot function kicked in and automatically applied brakes. While the tree did considerable damage, it could have totally crushed the car if not for that function. Laurence, his wife, and his three kids were saved by Tesla’s technology.

And by chance, the technology also saved three people in a separate Tesla Model X. Josh Whitelock was driving the other Tesla in the opposite direction when the tree fell towards their car. As with the other Tesla, this car’s Autopilot function kicked in and saved him, his girlfriend, and his mother from death.

The two Tesla Model X involved in the accident | Image by Mirror UK

All in all, Tesla’s Autopilot literally saved eight people. While the function is still far away from enabling a true driverless experience for Tesla owners, they can rest assured that their car’s Autopilot works on keeping lives away from harm.

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Automotive

LG debuts world’s first curved OLED for cars

Featured in 2021 Cadillac Escalade

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Pretty soon, smartphones and televisions won’t be the only place you’ll find OLED screens in. The automotive industry is slowly perfecting the OLED screen for everyone’s cars. In particular, LG is partnering with a few car makers for this endeavor.

Earlier this week, Cadillac has launched the 2021 Escalade. Aside from what’s under the hood, the iconic SUV debuts the industry’s first-ever use of a curved OLED screen in a car. The massive 38-inch display houses LG’s P-OLED Digital Cockpit Solution. The all-new software displays the vehicle information and infotainment system.

The display itself combines three separate P-OLED panels into one. The largest panel measures 16.9 inches.

LG is also boasting a new augmented reality-enabled navigation system and night vision. Presumably, the new features make driving friendlier for any road condition and driving time.

With the 2021 Escalade’s debut, LG dips its toe into the automotive display market. It predicts substantial market growth in the industry by 2023. The display company is also expected to debut a similar display in Mercedes Benz vehicles later this year.

SEE ALSO: LG withdraws from MWC 2020 due to Coronavirus outbreak

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