Letting the iPad behind the wheel
Last updated 16:47 11/08/2011
TEST DRIVE: Vikash Rugoobur from Curve Tomorrow and Dr Laurie Sparke of EDay Life stand near a prototype of an electric car controlled by an iPad. Photo: Rodger Cummins
The days of booming exhausts, petrol fumes and pollution are numbered. An iPad on the dashboard of an electric car will signal the start of a new silent motoring era.
But take heart, petrol heads. The iPad will probably generate "vintage" engine noises to stir your motoring spirit and warn pedestrians and cyclists of your approach.
It will change the way you interact with motor vehicles.
At least, that is how two innovative Melbourne companies see the future of automotive transport.
EDay Life, set up by Laurie Sparke - the former head of advanced engineering at Holden - and entrepreneur Robert Lane, plan to have their first trial shipment of electric cars on Melbourne's roads early next year.
The other company, Carlton-based Curve Tomorrow, led by Vikash Rugoobur, his brother Avinash and colleague Mohinder Jaimangal, has developed a software package that turns an iPad into a car's controller and vastly more than that.
Vikash worked previously for IBM in Australia, the US and India. Avinash and Jaimangal were members of Sparke's Holden innovation team at Fishermans Bend.
The possibilities of the convergence promised by the iPad and the EDay Life car are almost limitless, Vikash says. "Your car is now about the only thing in your life that is not integrated," he says.
"Your phone, your workplace - even your TV - all are integrated. Yet your car, the second-largest purchase most people will make after their house, is isolated.
"We thought there ought to be a way for people to connect with their cars in an emotional aspect, as Apple has done with its devices.
"People use [the devices] to solve problems and perform tasks in their day-to-day lives.
"That's what we want to do with the car.
"If I am taking the elements of my life on my iPhone or iPad, there is no reason why that cannot extend to my vehicle."
"We are looking not just at the technology; we are building an experience around the vehicle.
"Apple has nailed [that concept]. Their growth in the past few years has been astronomical and they have done it because they have connected with their consumers on a new, different level."
The Curve Tomorrow team says that means when you leave the vehicle and take the iPad out of the dock that turns it into the EDay Life car's dashboard and control centre, you remain connected to the vehicle. "At breakfast you could, for instance, start the car's climate control by tapping the iPad, so it is warm or cool when you get in," Jaimangal says.
The iPad could constantly monitor the performance and maintenance details of the car and automatically communicate them to a service centre.
The iPad would add security, allowing the car to be disabled remotely.
Apple's new iCloud system will create huge opportunities, the design team says.
The EDay software package resides on the iPad but the device is not jailbroken, that is, modified to use software not authorised by Apple.
"We want to maintain the link with Apple and use iPad apps," Vikash says.
"We will use best-of-breed technology, which we see as Apple's, but we are looking at Android, too.
The EDay Life cars will be leased, not sold, and returned for refurbishment every two or three years and replaced with a new car.
The battery from the first car will be given to the lessee with a conversion unit enabling its use as a power source in the home.
As technology and network services grow, control systems managed from the iPad will be upgraded by simply logging in and downloading new firmware and software.
Batteries will be charged at home or the office, from public points - such as those being built by Evan Thornley's Better Place company, with which car manufacturer Renault is involved - or from a home solar array.
"The car we buy today remains the same through its life with us," Vikash says.
"But our phones and other such devices change constantly with new software, applications and functions, customising them to the individual needs of their owners.
"Now we can do that with a car. Just because two people have the same car does not mean they have to have the same experience."
- Sydney Morning Herald