Tuesday 18th June 2019

It’s one small schlep for a man, but Clarion makes a giant leap for the connected car

Published on January 23rd, 2019

In the Platinum 3 Parking lot in Swenson Street, Las Vegas self-driving took itself up one level. Which was odd, says freelance technology writer, Nick Booth, because it was already on the top floor.

It was a metaphorical ascent, you see. A Hitachi hybrid which was driven by its own thought processes, nudged its way up the (technological) ramp that takes the Connected Car from Level 3’s Partial Automation to Level 4’s High Automation.

The logic of the Infiniti Q70 saloon’s thought processes was developed by Hitachi’s software writing spin off Clarion, whose boffins have coded sensitivity and thoughtfulness into machines for decades.

This particular model is particularly considerate and polite. Possibly too deferential. These cars may have to learn how to assert themselves as they get older.

To watch the video click here you may find it less of a spectacle than Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, but it may have wider consequences than the lunar landing. What did theApollo missions give us, apart from the invention of Teflon? Robot-kind’s first step change in automation is far more down to earth. For that reason we might argue that it will have far more practical outcomes. This could be the breakthrough that inspires so many more advances.

Is this ‘History in the making’?

Is that what we are witnessing in this video? If we were not watching history in the making, I’d be very impatient with developments. The self-driving car takes an age to back out of its parking space and make a three point turn. There are plenty of people who, confronted with this nervous driver edging out at a snail’s pace, will be tempted to make aggressive interventions. They may start by leaning on the horn but then progress to throwing their weight around.

The self-driving saloon proceeds along the car park aisles at glacial speed. Plenty of drivers could lose patience with being stuck behind these things and push past. Doubtless they will soon learn that a self-driving car will always defer to them. If everyone does this, the person who summons their car to meet them at the ticket machine may be waiting some time.

There is no disputing the fact that the ‘Long-Range Summon Automatic Remote Retrieval (Long-Range Calling) System’ has arrived. Let’s hope that Clarion can come up with a snappier name!

Magical qualities

This is a system they have worked hard to popularise. The car itself incorporates multiple magical qualities: external recognition technology, multiple channels of comms and a fusion of information control technology spun off from the development of navigation systems.

Nick Booth

As Sebastien Brame, senior manager of communications for Clarion tells me, it can park by memory, once the driver has manually shown it how to get itself into a space. Once stationary, the car’s surroundings, route, and external information are held in memory. The driver can automatically retrieve the car using their mobile phone.

The most obvious application for this technology might be in massive parking lots when it is easy to forget where you have parked your car. The Long Stay car parks at most airports, for example.

This is a brilliant idea, on paper, but who knows how practical it will turn out to be? The waiting time for your car to materialise might be agonisingly long, but if you are too tired to remember where you left your car you might not care about that.

The author is freelance technology writer, Nick Booth

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