As autonomous driving technologies envelope the automotive field, the need to incorporate the next-generation of advanced sensors and systems creates a new set of problems for designers.
That’s according to Australian-born BMW designer Calvin Luk, speaking to media at the launch of the 2018 BMW X3 who admitted the technology required to make autonomous driving a reality is creating new design challenges.
At the moment, semi-autonomous functions like adaptive cruise control and emergency braking systems use a combination of radars, ultrasonic sensors and stereo cameras to detect cars in front and read line markings in the road.
Before the move to more advanced systems that allow drivers to hand over complete control of the car for extended periods of time, more complex sensory technologies including complex 360-degree Lidar scanners and additional cameras will need to be added.
Luk concedes the huge array of equipment is presenting problems for designers to integrate them neatly without compromising style and aerodynamics while ensuring they operate correctly in a wide variety of conditions.
But he sees that as a challenge where designers work even closer with engineers in the future.
"I think with any radar system it presents a new avenue for problem solving," he told TMR.
"It’s no good having a car, from a design standpoint, where we can’t integrate the functions without making it look super cool. We’re always going back and forth between engineering and design trying to find the best position from both sides.”
"The Germans are very precise about their engineering strengths, and problems like the vision angle of the radar and how does that affect its functionality, can it capture all the information it needs, and how can I integrate it into the design without compromising its performance – that is our next challenge.”
"We take all of that into account. We’re going to make it look good, and perhaps they can become a design element."
While integrating the additional equipment into new vehicles in a way that is both functional and pleasing to the eye is one challenge, Luk also sees a huge opportunity within emerging future technologies that could potentially allow vehicles to change shape and colour depending on their driving status.
BMW showcased this thinking with its Next 100 concept car as part of its centennial celebrations earlier this year.
"I think it will be a huge change in design," he said.
"BMW’s heart and soul is in the joy of driving, so it will be interesting how we play with those elements between the autonomous functionality and the driving character of the car. I think the 100 Year show car addresses that in some regard.”
"But anything is possible - The car could come alive through its surfaces. It's an exciting time to be involved in car design."
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