> * Sven A. Beiker, PhD                                                                      *
> * The Future of the Automobile*
> Sven Beiker is Executive Director, Center for Automotive Research at
> Stanford (CARS), the interdisciplinary automotive affiliates program
> at Stanford University. The vision of CARS is to create a community
> of faculty and students from a range of disciplines at Stanford with
> leading industry researchers to radically re-envision the automobile
> for unprecedented levels of safety, performance, sustainability, and
> enjoyment. Their mission is to discover, build, and deploy the
> critical ideas and innovations for the next generation of cars and
> drivers.
> Before joining Stanford University, Sven worked at the BMW Group for
> more than 13 years, and has worked in three major automotive and
> technology locations: Germany, Silicon Valley, and Detroit. Since
> Spring 2009 Sven has been teaching a Stanford class on "The Future
> of the Automobile" to educate students in interdisciplinary
> automotive thinking and to get them involved with the industry
> early on.
> Sven will describe his work at CARS to bring research with automotive
> interest from industry and academia together, and his vision for the
> automobile's future.
Sven began by giving us a brief history of the automobile, starting with the first true self powered and steered car back in 1885 in Germany. He explained that in those early days there was lots of debate about engine configuration, steering and so forth. The second period of car history change was driven by different drive trains, chassis, and options. These matters have been mostly mature technologies since the 1970s. More recently safety issues, driver assistance, and crash safety have been factors in changing car design.

Moving forward, the main challenges for car design that CARS have identified are safety (last year 1,200,000 people died in traffic Accidents worldwide and 34,000 in the United States), efficiency (last year the average commuter spent 36 hours per year stuck in traffic), pollution (last year 1.9 million tons of CO2 were emitted by the transportation sector), and cost (the average consumer spends $8,758 per year for transportation).

Driver assistance is one area where Sven sees a lot of room for innovation. One reason is that human error plays a role in many accidents. Another is that computers can run the engine of a car much more efficiently than most drives. Another thing is that the legal challenges involved with a self driving car give the auto industry nightmares. The liability is unclear in case of an accident. Car companies are already releasing cars with things like adaptive cruise control that came from driver assistance research. Sven expects more of that in the future.

Electric drive is more efficient than internal combustion engines, if you look at just one car and its power source. The problem is that there are many questions to be answered about where to get the power for millions of cars. That is an area where a lot of research is still to be done.

Connectivity is another area where a lot of research is being done. Areas such as vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) are being explored to find ways to add to the safety of driving. A big stumbling block is the question "who will pay for the infrastructure upgrades?" There are regulatory decisions about that coming in the 2013 time frame. In the mean time, cell phones are turning out to be good interfaces for many needs.

Looking forward, Sven expects plug in hybrid cars to become more common by 2020 while it remains to be seen how battery electric vehicle will catch on.

Tian Harter