TomTom: Maps will power the smart connected cars of the future

Peter-Frans Pauwels, TomTom co-founder and CTO, has revealed to Pocket-lint some of his ideas about what lies in store for the mapping company and automotive industry in the future.

The connected car is central to Pauwels's vision of the future, with deeply integrated intelligence allowing the vehicle to adapt to the roads around it. 

Some automobile manufacturers are already working on such features, but Pauwels's visions for the future take things considerably further than you probably imagine, and way beyond what you would expect from a company you probably think just makes satnavs. 

One such idea, is the concept of advanced adaptive headlights.

Adaptive headlights aren't new. The Citroën DS, or la déesse to it's friends, had turning headlights back in the 1970s and BMW also has them now, but in the future, because the car knows where you are on the road, the headlights could adapt to bends or inclinations, shifting to illuminate the road rather than the unkempt verge, in real-time or even moments ahead to enhance safety. 

But that's not all TomTom is cooking up in its R&D labs. When it comes to electric vehicles, Pauwels is already thinking about how to tackle the common customer concern about range. Will you actually make it to your destination and home again? 

One of the prime considerations is the route you take. If, TomTom says, you have the information at your disposal, you could calculate the best route for the vehicle, avoiding hills that will place a greater drain on the battery. You might drive a longer route, but it could be more energy efficient, ensuring you get home okay.

The same logic applies to gearing. How about an automatic gearbox that knows when you are hitting an incline so it can adapt with perfect timing, rather than with lag?

"Man, do you need maps for this stuff," says Pauwels candidly, knowing full well that TomTom might just be at the centre of supplying them in an integrated in-car system.

Of course this sees TomTom looking beyond the personal navigation device.

When asked how long the PND has left, Pauwels says "more than 10 years", but recognises that "the market is contracting".

For Pauwels this isn't a concern, as the focus isn't on the device, but on the content, be that through a PND, smartphone (like the iPhone with its new iOS 6 mapping deal) or in-car system. The "diamond in the crown is the content" Pauwels repeatedly told us, during our time with the CTO.

To find out exactly what this content is, why not take a look at our feature on how TomTom maps are made?



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