Weekly Brief: Hypercars upstaged by tech at the Geneva Motor Show

This year’s show featured 150 car debuts, from supercars to swanky all electric concepts. Andrew Tolve reports.

Supercars hogged the headlines last week at the Geneva Motor Show, more far-reaching technology was quietly showcased away from the blazing spotlights. True, camera flashlights sparkled and the world's media ogled over Lamborghini’s Huracan Performante, Aston Martin’s Valkyrie, McLaren’s 720s, Pagani’s $2.4M (£1.97M) Huayra Roadster and what has to go down as the least creative name for a supercar of all time, the 812 Superfast from Ferrari.

Yet, across the exhibition floor, in a quieter corner sat Sedric, a Level 5 autonomous vehicle who represents the cornerstone of Volkswagen’s future mobility strategy. Sedric isn’t the most handsome of vehicles, especially compared to his supercar companions in Geneva; he’s squat and boxy and looks more like a ski gondola than an automobile. On the upside, he can be summoned at the press of a button, talks to you like a personal butler, shepherds you around wherever you want to go and can whisk off and pick up a package or grab the kids from school while you’re otherwise occupied. No word on if or when Sedric will materialise in the real world but VW says he will have “children” and “grandchildren” across its brands that do make it to the factory floor.

In other news from Geneva, Airbus and Italdesign debuted Pop.Up, a modular autonomous vehicle system that aims to streamline transportation and eliminate congestion in megacities. At the core is a passenger capsule that feels like your classic two-seater. The capsule can be coupled with a range of different modules to best suit the situation, including a set of wheels for ground transportation and avertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle for flight. Once passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers.

Bentley unwrapped its first electric concept, a high-end luxury roadster meant to challenge the likes of Tesla. The Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e has an all-electric motor and a range of about 300 miles, meaning it hasthe capacity to drive from London to Paris or Milan to Monaco on a single charge. It also features fast recharging thanks to inductive technology and a glass, high-definition OLED curved display in the cockpit.

Engineering group SEGULA Technologies unveiled the Hagora Pulse, a concept car that features a slew of connected solutions, from Pedestrian Detection to sensors that continuously monitor a driver’s health. The car also comes with vehicle-to-vehicle LiFi technology, gesture commands and something called “Urban Starc”, which allows the car to capture and store thermal energy and use it to heat the cockpit, preheat the engine in winter or even heat the water heater of a home.

Goodyear introduced the Eagle-360, a spherical, 3-D printed tyre built for the self-driving car era. Rather than physically attach to the car, the tyre floats beneath the undercarriage by way of magnetic fields. That means they can easily shift to avoid obstacles or go right over them without risk of damage. The spherical shape also means the tires can pull off a full 360-degree turn at a standstill, making automated parking easier and more efficient. A second smart tyre, the IntelliGrip Urban, has built-in sensors that share data from the road to the vehicle for the best driving performance.

Similarly, Pirelli launched Connesso, a smart tyre system that delivers all the information drivers would ever to need to know about their tyres to a smartphone app. This includes tyre pressure, temperature, static vertical load, tyre wear, number of kilometres covered, estimated remaining life in kilometres … the list goes on. If tyre pressure drops too low or a tyre needs replacing, the app identifies the closest tyre dealership and can directly book an appointment to rectify the problem.

The new Volvo XC60 SUV made its worldwide premiere with new ADAS features under the bonnet. Steer Assist keeps the car within the boundaries of a lane so long as there are lane markers for the sensors to detect. Steer Assist also works in tandem with Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which looks out for impending head-on collisions, and Blind Spot Indication System, which ensures that you don’t smash into cars in your blind spot when switching lanes.

Harman introduced a dynamic mapping solution meant to address the problem of stagnant map data in connected cars. Harman’s solution collects real-world information from cameras and ADAS sensors and compares that data against the digital map information from the on-board navigation system. If a difference is detected, the information is anonymised and sent to the cloud, where Harman’s scalable cloud platform analyses it and delivers updates back to the road network.

Finally, Renault announced that starting in April, all of its vehicles built with the R-Link infotainment platform will include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The company also launched the R&Go multimedia app for its small car lineup (Twingo, Clio, Captur) and light commercial vehicles (Kangoo Express, Master, Trafic). The app allows drivers to connect their own digital ecosystem to the car, from their navigation app of choice to their favourite music streaming and podcast. The app also with an eco-drive score that can be useful for fleet managers.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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