Engines of Luxury

A Look At The Future of Automobile Luxury

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we NOW know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination — Albert Einstein

Many people have epiphanies in their bathrooms — think Archimedes jumping out of his bathtub claiming ‘Eureka’. In the near future, your car will become the next destination for your imagination to blossom because that’s all you will need to do when sitting inside one- you could work but better still you can imagine and dream inside your car while it drives itself. It is time to think about your car not in terms of transportation but in terms of a robot that helps you be more creative.

It is hard not to think of the future of automobile luxury as the future of luxury itself. A luxurious environment that provides a beautiful place to think and visualize while making your commute blissful and automated.

There is a global debate over when the trusted but polluting internal combustion engine will give way to fully autonomous vehicles with electric batteries. However, the writing is on the wall. It’s not so much the cost of vehicle itself as it is a health issue. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels are making the air in places like China and India hard to breathe. Cities such as Delhi in India and Shanghai in China are experiencing extremely high levels of air pollution and even pollution related deaths. Therefore, very few people doubt the future of automobiles is electric and autonomous. The only question is when.

If the above assumptions hold good, besides your living room-the next battleground for luxury is the interior of your automobile. It is a very simple logic that says people spend time at work (in the future, work can be completely remote), at home or commuting. Think about exploring the world from the back of your car using Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality (AR) controlled by a digital voice based assistant that does more than drive your car. This article details the dimensions of this battlefield. Make no mistake — many common and uncommon suspects will vie for domination or at least a slice of the pie you call the interiors of your car.

The Unusual Suspects

Apple CarPlay and Android are already in a battle to extend the communication and entertainment options offered by their smartphones into the car. Car manufacturers have so far played along instead of trying to reinvent the wheel for front seat connectivity with smartphones. However, the difference in this case is the dashboard design. An uncluttered dashboard can significantly improve client experience. Luxury, in that case

Tesla can claim it did start the fire as far as commercializing electric autonomous vehicles is concerned. There were electric cars before Tesla but Tesla exudes luxury and a premium design very similar to its analogue in the smartphone world-Apple. However, Tesla has also succeeded in creating a wave of electric luxury. A range of startups and established companies are redefining beauty and luxury in electric vehicles.

For instance, Lucid Motors has created a luxury vehicle that resembles an airline cockpit.

Rivian is busy creating a truck that marries electric car with adventure. A fascinating case study in redefining the trusty truck.

Amongst countries, China is sharing the mantle of the leader of electronic cars. It offered residency to Elon Musk. Tesla became the first foreign manufacturer of electronic cars that signaled the opening up of China’s market to an American car manufacturer. As per Mashable , there are at least 9 manufacturers vying to be the Tesla Of China.

To conclude, the story of electric autonomous vehicle will have to add another adjective luxury.

Luxury and autonomy will help tilt the balance of power away from fossil fuel based cars towards electric vehicles while the economics of the electric battery slowly take on the advantage of the internal combustion engine.

Things To Do In A Car

Of course, a party in a limo has always been an option. As the automobile evolves to an augmented intelligence where the inbuilt intelligence that drives autonomy still needs human supervision, a plethora of options open up to the riders in the back seat.

Relax

You could just catch up on your sleep in car. That’s always the basic, no frills approach to relaxation.

Ironically, an autonomous vehicle in motion that has a human in the drivers seat to supervise could provide the perfect destination to relax and meditate. This option is built on a few assumptions — the family is not in the car, the roads are smooth and/or the car has great shock absorbers. Assuming all of this, a car could be a great getaway to steal that 15 mins and squeeze in that mediation time.

Perfumers or aromatherapy companies could then partner with car manufacturers to offer customized fragrances that help with relaxation. The person in the back seat can tell the digital assistant in the car if he/she likes the fragrance or not. Of course, the digital assistant can also alter the music to facilitate relaxation.

Throw in a seat that can customize a mean massage, pillows and a transparent screen on the roof and you could relax in a room with a view.

The beauty with Yoga and meditation is that they don’t need much — a calm environment and technique. Of course, these could be hard to attain in many cases.

Be Entertained

The automobile industry in many ways provides the same options as inflight entertainment as airlines. Movies and music have always been an option. Audi AG has already partnered with holoride to transform the back seat of the car into a virtual reality theme park. Holoride was showcased in CES 2019 and is the shape of things to come.

Shop

Imagine you are on your way to buy a home but what if you could view the home in immersive Virtual Reality (VR) before you reach your destination. Perhaps, you may end up changing your mind. You could also use Hololens or Augmented Reality (AR) to talk to your realtor in real time about other details before you reach your destination.

Imagine if Fashion conglomerates such as the house of Kering (which owns Ulysse Nardin, Kering Eyewear, Alexander McQueen), house of Richemont (which owns Panerai, Jaeger Lecoultre) could provide an immersive virtual shopping experience ranging from watches, clothes to eyewear to passengers in a car with an option to reserve at the shop or simply buy online digitally.

Work

The world is ready for the coexistence of Augmented Reality (AR) which is the augmentation of the physical world with digital layers and Virtual Reality (VR) which is an immersive experience. Mixed Reality (MR) is waiting to take both AR and VR on.

AR can help you work with your colleagues before you reach your office or colleagues across the time zone to maximize your productivity. In an ideal capitalist world, your digital screen will also have space for apps, programs and productivity tool manufacturers to market their tools to help you be more productive.

A CEO could address a virtual town hall from the back seat of the car if inclement weather conditions prevent him from reaching the venue on time.

Excercise

Reading news, watching the stock markets and trading on an AR wide screen are other possibilities to exercise your mental muscles. Gaming is another option to hone your reflexes and test your eyesight. It might be creepy if the screen you are looking at tells you your eyes need new glasses and if you approve of it, your digital assistant orders the right ones for you.

The Universal Digital Assistant

I am not advocating a heavily technology laden lifestyle. My hope for everyone is a healthy self regulation. It is not the technologies such as smartphone, social media that kills us — it is our compulsive use and abuse of these technologies that does us in.

What if everything you want to watch, buy and enjoy is just delivered to your home or your car? It would be a dehumanized world where movie theaters will not exist. My conclusion is that beyond a point, automation has diminishing marginal utility. So, do digital voice assistants. You should be able to switch off your digital voice assistant so that it no longer listens to your private conversations. Also, humans need a break from technology quite frequently.

The problem with voice based digital assistants today is that they are too many — Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Google Home to name a few. This multiplicity kills efficiency because there in no ‘single’ assistant that knows more about you and then builds it’s artificial intelligence in line with your life.

Therefore, if you had a single ‘Jarvis’ or one voice assistant to rule over them all or just one assistant, it would be much easier. Of course, concerns about loss of privacy and anticompetitive monopolistic behavior come into play. The answer could be a single API that connects all different AI assistants — a sum of the best parts. Logically, then, this one assistant would follow you everywhere including your car. A digital version of you that helps you enjoy your engine of luxury.

I want to end this article on a side note that documents a piece of wisdom that is very close to my heart. I want all my readers to remember that the thing with exponential technologies and futurism is that they are easy to laugh off. Many people think that it will be decades before these technologies radically alter our lives and that futurism is just the vision of a madman whose only job is to concoct extremely entertaining and somewhat believable fireside stories. If that was the case, how do you explain the fact that we live in a world that was the stuff of science ‘fiction’ not too long ago.

Whatever you do, my friends, never give up your imagination. It is the difference between viewing the world as it is and the world as it should be. As for the world calling you a madman, that is a totally acceptable risk of living in a world where literally anything is possible. I live with that risk everyday.

Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba

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