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Automotive representation at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 broadly came in two stark forms: the biggest industry-leading brands showcasing their electric vehicle and connected vehicle offerings, and smaller start-ups attempting to expose and cater for modern driver demands in busy cities.
Let’s start with some of the industry leaders. BMW’s key showcase was their latest “Natural Interaction” concept featuring a fully connected cockpit experience, with a huge emphasis on gestures and voice commands to control what’s going on around you, e.g. gesturing at the window to wind it down. Overlay this with a slick AR feature that allows drivers/passengers to view and explore details of buildings, restaurants, places of interest as they pass them by, and it’s a pretty exciting concept – said to be in production as soon as 2021, complete with a reimagined kidney grill to maintain some familiarity with BMW.
Mercedes chose MWC to put an emphasis on what drivers (or passengers, really) are going to do with all their spare time while being autonomously driven. They’ve introduced a gaming application and the latest generation of the brands multimedia system MBUX – Mercedes Benz User Experience, placing in-car infotainment high on their priority list. Touchscreen interfaces and voice control enables the car to learn user preferences over time, and adjusts to these settings based on who is in the car.
SEAT’s presence at MWC proved that the business of mixing tech innovation and mobility is not just for the larger luxury brands. SEAT chose MWC 2019 as the platform for the world premiere of a vehicle in SEAT’s urban micro mobility strategy. This came in the form of SEAT Minimo, and is an attempt to navigate issues of city driving and emissions regulations.
In addition, SEAT confirmed that their 5G Connected Car is en route to Barcelona, thanks to a partnership with Telefónica, placing Barcelona at the forefront of European capitals harnessing 5G capabilities. SEAT and Telefónica will be launching the ‘5G Connected Car’ pilot test, with the initial intention of linking communications of the car, surrounding infrastructure and fellow road users, and the long-term objective of embedding collaborative, autonomous driving.
Away from the main MWC halls, at the FYFN (Four Years From Now) site, the broad array of start-ups also had the future of mobility high on their agenda.
Adsum are currently scaling their smart park sensor, enabling a live directory of available parking spaces in busy cities and allowing users to filter these by cost, location etc. Currently piloting in West London, and with backing from local councils, this could make city parking a lot less painful.
Aside from autonomous cars, new personalisation-driven interfaces, voice tech and navigation-related innovation, we've also seen a strong presence of electric vehicles and the associated demand on infrastructure. A company named Place To Plug is seeking to address the concerns around the availability of charging stations. Place To Plug has identified an opportunity to enable a sharing economy, whereby businesses or homeowners can make their charging point available to the wider public under the “share your socket” scheme. Providing a directory of charging points, users can book and pay for their charge slot via an app from a monitored and trusted community of hosts. Services like this are going to become hugely valuable as the automotive market motors on down the core avenues of EV, autonomous driving and connected cars.
As ever, there was an impressive representation of the automotive industry at MWC 2019. As autonomous vehicles and electrification become more prevalent throughout the industry, and indeed will soon become the norm, brands of all sizes are keen to showcase their latest offerings which will help bolster these two key mobility trends.