The Future as designed by Peugeot

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The latest on the autonomous car technology is the news that the self-driving Peugeot Instinct concept adapts to the mood and schedule of its driver.

Unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, the 224 kW plug-in hybrid Instinct concept is a four-seat shooting brake with clear Ferrari GTC4Lusso styling overtones and huge rear-hinged ‘suicide’ doors providing pillarless cabin access.

Peugeot Instinct.
Peugeot Instinct.

To do all this futurology, the clever little electro-gnomes ferret out data from the owner’s cloud accounts, smart devices, electronic schedule, social media, home automation systems and driving history to second-guess their needs and desires. Big Brother is watching you!

Combining Samsung Artik cloud computing infrastructure and data science technology from Sentiance, all information shared by and gathered about the driver is aggregated, analysed, chopped and channeled and used to turn the Instinct concept into a kind of mobile personal assistant and extension of the home or office.

Despite all the far-sighted technological thinking, the French firm has maintained human control for two of the Instinct’s four operating modes as part of its “enduring commitment to driving pleasure”.

Peugeot considers the car as a valuable information source “because it is with us throughout our day and knows our regular journeys, favorite places and how we drive”.

For example, comparing the driver’s schedule with traffic and weather data, the Instinct can advise an earlier departure time for work. And because its on-board systems are synchronized with the driver’s music streaming service, they can seamlessly pick up where they left off on the playlist they were listening to at home.

Later on, the car senses the driver had a strenuous gym session and drives them home in the restful ‘Autonomous Soft’ mode, even making sure the house lights are on when they get there. Conversely, it will encourage the driver to park a 10-minute walk from their workplace to help them stay fit.

‘Autonomous Sharp’ mode is the Instinct’s more urgent self-driving mode, with ‘Drive Boost’ letting the driver take over for some fun behind the fold-out steering wheel and retractable pedals. It even knows when they are approaching a dynamic or favorite road and switches mode appropriately.

The final mode, ‘Drive Relax’ is a halfway house in which the human is in control but assisted by features such as adaptive cruise control and auto high beam.

Even in autonomous mode, the driver can instruct the Instinct to perform certain maneuvers, such as overtaking, using a controller on the central console that Peugeot describes as an i-Device. The same controller can be used to switch driving modes at any time.

Peugeot head of strategy Aude Brille described connected devices and online services as having become “extensions of ourselves”.

“At Peugeot we have integrated this technology into our cars in increasingly simple and ergonomic ways, offering our clients a relaxed, empowering and wholly unprecedented driving experience – one that puts our clients in control of their own mobility, granting them complete autonomy,” he said.

Voice control technology can also be used to book tickets or make online purchases, in a similar way to Amazon’s Alexa service. Each of the four passengers can access their own voice control channel.

The driving seat faces a holographic instrument cluster that displays vehicle speed, drivetrain status and battery charge level and information from the various external cameras and sensors.

During autonomous travel the display switches to show distanced covered, remaining journey time and entertainment options. (For cars destined for the Middle East, there will be an arrow pointing to Mecca I would imagine.)

Peugeot head of concept cars Matthias Hossann said the Instinct “builds on the factors that have made the brand’s latest models so successful”.

“We are creating new forms of driving pleasure. These may come from the interfaces, the architecture or the styling. There is no reason why a self-driving car should be dull to look at or to experience.”

So that’s the future, according to Monsieur Peugeot. For those, like me, who have only just mastered the photocopy machine, I do not see this technology as ‘empowering’, but as being more restrictive and taking away my privacy.

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