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Human error is the root cause for most traffic accidents. Is the driver distracted for just a fraction of a second a crash can be the result. This will not happen to a computer, because it cannot be distracted and its reaction time is much shorter. However, accident prevention is just one of the reasons for implementing autonomous driving. It can also help to prevent traffic jams, save time and money and reduce pollution. There would also be new prospects for car sharing: The driver would not need to get to the next car sharing station but the car would come to him.
Large automobile manufacturers are intensively working on making autonomous driving a reality. Highly developed technical elements such as emergency brake assist, warning and parking assist systems are already standard in high-class limousines. "The technology has advanced a lot. Manufacturers and suppliers expect implementation within the next four to six years," says Frank M. Rinderknecht, owner of the company Rinspeed. The Swiss developer not only presented a vehicle in running order at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, but also showed that the new technology will change the interior of a car completely: Its concept car XchangE opens up new worlds in this respect.
Autonomous driving creates unforeseen opportunities for the driver. He does not even have to look at the road any more, he just puts the steering wheel aside. He is given a lot of free time—two weeks per year on average concluded the consultancy firm A.T. Kearney. That is more than 20,000 minutes he can use to relax, for entertainment or to work. Car manufacturers want to create a nice atmosphere for this extra time. Evonik Industries takes part in this with its special plastic PLEXIGLAS®. The acrylic glass offers designers huge creative scope in terms of forming, and makes it possible to integrate a number of different functions.
PLEXIGLAS® LED for edge lighting can be found in the car headliner as well as cross car beam of the XchangE. Here the light-diffusing, transparent special product of Evonik creates an attractive interplay of colors. The passengers can choose what colors they want depending on their mood. Thus, the way back home from an exhausting business meeting can already be part of an early, relaxing evening. Enjoying sunny yellow light while listening to Caribbean music or azure blue light while listenting to the sounds of the sea—there are no limits set to the imagination or individual taste. You can also have a relaxing start into the working day: Instead of having your toast at home in a hurry you can have breakfast in the car in an relaxing atmosphere surrounded by pastel colors. If you want you can watch the morning news or a recorded film from the previous night.
PLEXIGLAS® has already proven itself on the automotive market. Its advantages are its weather and aging resistance and it can be colored as desired making painting and laminating redundant—and this is good for the environment. In addition, the light weight of the material saves fuel. Therefore, it can also be found in other parts of the XchangE: amongst others in the high-gloss covers, the cover of the center column, the rear spoilers, the rear lamps covers as well as the in headlamp lenses.
Rinspeed chief Rinderknecht, who presents a new concept car every year, is very satisfied with the cooperation with Evonik: "It's very important to us to have competent partners from all specialist fields. The materials of Evonik form an important part of the innovative vehicle development," he says.
The Automotive Industry Team (AIT) of Evonik sets new impulses for the future mobility again and again. "Specialists from different business units jointly develop innovative solutions for car manufacturing in the fields of light-weight design, lower fuel consumption, light and surface technolgoy," explains Rudolf Blass from AIT.
According to experts, driving will be no less fun with a selfsteering car. You will still be able to drive manually, for example, when traffic is low. "It's about an assist function that the driver can activate and deactivate," explains Rinderknecht. "When driving from Frankfurt to Mannheim its a benefit to use it. But when driving through an Alp pass I would prefer to drive myself."