NOVI, MI – Tomorrow’s automotive cabin will offer so much – including immersive gaming, incredible audio quality and high-definition video streaming – some people will occupy their vehicle even if it isn’t going anywhere.
So says Vishnu Sundaram, a senior vice president and head of cockpit/connected services at 11-brand automaker Stellantis.
The France-based company’s U.S. brands are Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Jeep.
Jeep started as a no-frills, utilitarian military vehicle in World War II. Now, Stellantis has rolled out the luxurious Jeep Wagoneer filled with assorted gee-whiz cabin features.
But much more is in store for Stellantis interiors, says Sundaram (pictured, below left).
“The space will be transformed into a place people go for the experience,” he tells Wards after his participation in a session entitled, “The Digital Cabin of the Future” at Informa’s AutoTech: Detroit conference here.
Wards Intelligence, WardsAuto and TU Automotive make up the Informa Tech Automotive Group.
“Definitely the experience will be different,” Sundaram says. “How you ‘talk’ to the car will resemble how you and I talk.”
Sundraram speaks of redefining Stellantis from an auto company to a mobility technology company. Within two years, Stellantis will employ 4,500 software specialists, he says.
He leads a project with the goal of making Stellantis a leader in transforming vehicles into living spaces through cloud-based connectivity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and immersive gaming.
Immersive starts with incredibly high-definition imagery, where a viewer feels as if they are within the experience.
The cabin of the future will contain eight to 12 electronic screens throughout, providing rich content but requiring minimal user interfacing, Sundaram says.
Stellantis’ future cabin infotainment systems will rely on Amazon’s Alexa, a voice-based AI-powered digital assistant that carries out verbal commands.
In a vehicle, such commands would include telling Alexa to play a movie, set up a video game or connect to a conference call. “There will be contextual awareness, Sundaram says. The Jeep Wagoneer already is wired for Alexa.
Stellantis and Amazon are working together on the enhanced cabin project.
Joining Sundaram at the conference session is Arvin Baalu, director-product management/digital cabin for Amazon Smart Vehicle, a unit of e-retailing giant Amazon.
“In the next 20 years, we will have the opportunity to redefine mobility,” Baalu says. “Over 20 years, Amazon has used AI and machine learning to make people’s lives better. We see vehicles as a natural extension of that making people’s lives better.”
He says the goal is to offer users an array of infotainment options that are easily accessible, which today is not always the case with some systems. Baalu speaks of “personalizing vehicles” that are both smart and safe. “It’s all about interacting with the car.”
Along the same lines, Sundaram refers to “smart cars” that receive continuous over-the-air updates and engage with users effortlessly through sensors and software.
Steve Finlay is a retired Wards senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected].