Living in Los Angeles, I learned early on that it is very difficult to survive in this city without reliable transportation. In the ’90s, the Thomas Guide became my best friend. There were countless times that I found myself lost on the Westside or in Downtown and that thick map notebook always got me out of a bind. Now, I have grown quite fond of the mobile app Waze. If you don’t know about Waze and you continually find yourself in traffic, maybe you should get to know about it. It’s quite handy really.
I try to remain somewhat of a purist and know where I’m going and how to get there. I’ve refused to install a navigation system in my car. But after this feature ran at Wired earlier this week, my thought process may start to shift.
In the not too distant future, Audi will release a leveled up navigation system through the work of their Urban Intelligent Assist project. What is in the cards for this new system are a bunch of rather cool bells and whistles, indeed. The highlights of this AUAI project break down as follows:
Audi Driver Centric Urban Navigation
Time-2-Start will message the driver through their mobile device regarding the travel time to their destination before they leave.
Predictive Traffic predicts and analyzes current traffic patterns based on previous traffic data, along with current weather and event information.
Seamless Navigation will assist the driver once parked in their “Smart Parking” spot with walking directions to his or her destination.
Naturalistic Guidance utilizes nearby landmarks to give detailed instructions for simple navigation.
Smart Parking will combine the parking habits of a driver with the availability of nearby parking spots/parking structures as well as metered street parking to assist in identifying parking spots in a destination area and provide navigation to that location.
For the details on Audi’s Urban Assistance features, click here.
Damn, maybe the self driving car is right around the dang corner! Now, aside from all the cool navigational attributes this system delivers, my interest lies in the “Smart Parking” feature. Living in a sprawl of a city like I do, the hunt for parking at any given time of day can be a laborious endeavor unto itself. I’m sure you are all familiar with “The Californians” sketch on SNL. And there is definite truth to the joke there, but what they don’t touch on is the parking stupidity that can run rampant in this city. And don’t even get me started on San Francisco!
A lot of work has gone into this system, bringing in researchers from the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at USC, UC Berkeley, The University Of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, and Audi’s own Electronics Research Laboratory in Silicon Valley. And the result is being described as a transportation-focused version of Google Now.
I suppose it’s no coincidence I just complained about Los Angeles and San Francisco above as there are parking spaces along 600 city blocks in SF and close to 700 in LA that have sensors connecting to a central server. These sensors can tell the server when a car leaves the spot in question and when one occupies it. You know, like a lot of the parking structures at the shopping malls around the city already do.
The functionality with the Driver Centric Urban Navigation will allow the driver (or passenger?) to connect to the Audi-developed app using their smart phone (via panel connection, Bluetooth, or even Wi-Fi). This then combines calendar and navigation into a GPS/day planner hybrid of sorts. Once your destination is set, the app goes to work and mines current and historical traffic data, then determines travel time and the quickest route. If, say, this were an important appointment you had scheduled, the app would calculate in a buffer of time just to make sure you get there with a few minutes to spare.
If this isn’t enough, this parking spot predictor can even tell you when a spot might open up in the near future. Nostradamus be damned! Along with the historical data and nearby events, this future telling app is able to predict how many spaces will be available near your destination around your arrival time. Audi states the system is 97 percent accurate if you’re 10 minutes away, and 91 percent if you’re 20 minutes out.
And if you aren’t convinced sentience isn’t going to happen – that the Audi’s new navigation system won’t become self aware – they are claiming that the system will actually learn your habits. This is the really crazy part. Every driver is different, so the system will conform to your habits and needs through a driver profile it creates in its computer. The car’s profile will constantly evolve, combine with traffic info and dynamic re-routing to allow the car to tell you with impressive accuracy when you’ll arrive based on your speed, how you’ll react to the traffic, where you’ll choose to park and even how fast you’ll walk from your car to your destination’s door upon arrival. Geez, maybe Spike Jonze was right.
This “Smart Parking” technology is a “mid-term objective” for Audi which means production will move forward within the next few years. The more advanced traffic monitoring systems and parking sensors implemented, the more accurate the system will be.
The whole thing sounds pretty awesome and makes me wonder if Audi will in fact be the car company that brings flying cars into reality (I mean, check out this science!). Hell, I’d settle for a KITT of my very own.
Let’s get to work, people!
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