If Stellantis’ vision is anything to go by, then the cockpit of the standard car in the future will look remarkably different. Stellantis is one of the largest automakers in the world. Its brands include the likes of Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Jeep, Dodge, and Maserati. The company’s software centre in Bengaluru is the primary development centre for the STLA SmartCockpit – a cockpit that the company says will seamlessly integrate with the digital lives of vehicle occupants and transform vehicles into personalised living spaces.Yves Bonnefont, Stellantis’ global chief software officer, on a recent trip to India, told us that the smart cockpit’s next-generation interface will offer users a more natural way of interacting with their vehicle based on inputs ranging from touch and voice, to glance and gesture. It will also use AI-based applications to deliver a rich array of features and services such as navigation, voice assistance, an e-commerce marketplace and payment services. In a nutshell, software will dominate your car.
“It’s a brand-new generation cockpit. It’s a multi-modal cockpit – as you would expect. You get all the connected functions you can think of. Our Bengaluru centre is the leading centre (for this project) globally. There are contributions from other regions, but everything is managed here out of India.” Bonnefont says that the potential use cases for AI in the cockpits of the future is expansive, especially when it comes to recommendations.
“We believe our customers would greatly benefit from recommendation engines in the cockpit, possibly some dynamic HMI (humanmachine interface) that is going to present you with what you need when you need it. So, what media would you like to listen to in a given circumstance? What are the phone calls you are most likely to make in the morning or in the evening?”
With the help of computer vision, Bonnefont says, Stellantis’ smart cockpit will be able to figure out different contexts as well and make recommendations based on what it ‘sees’. “Are you alone in the car? Are you sitting with a bunch of friends? With computer vision we can even monitor the interior of the vehicle, perceive your mood, your emotions, and react accordingly.” If you add augmented reality into the mix, then you really start to see some science fiction inspired use cases, adds Bonnefont. “With augmented reality you can be better connected with the outside world of the car, and the cockpit will be able to give you specific information on something you’re looking at. For example, if as a car occupant you are looking at something, the cockpit will understand what you’re looking at, relate that to the outside world, and just give you some information on what, say, the monument you are passing is, or whether you should take a particular exit if you want to go to that monument.”
The company’s strategy, Bonnefont says, is to keep updating the smart cockpit over time to ensure that customers always have new features at their disposal. “This is a completely different way of managing the technology from what the history of the industry has been. And we have embarked on that journey in a very active manner.”
Reimagining and building a next-gen cockpit of this kind requires a lot of talented engineers, and sophisticated hardware. “For example, we embed in the hardware some hardware accelerator for neural networks compute so that we can deploy AI models to the cockpit on an ongoing basis during the lifecycle. And then it takes a lot of software skills and capabilities to build this as well, which we are very excited to find here in India because the level of skills is tremendous.”
Stellantis will begin launching its next-gen cockpits in its vehicles in the near future.