South by Southwest (SXSW®), founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, expands each year in size and scope bringing together diverse, collaborative and inventive communities from across the globe. The Conference & Festivals, which span ten days, celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries, blending together the intersection of technology and art. Encouraging both creative and professional growth, SXSW breeds connection, discovery, and presents new opportunities.

This year our very own Axel Nix, HARMAN’s Senior Director of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, presented on the panel titled, Semi-Autonomous Cars: How to Train the Humans, which took place March 11th. The panel also included Nathaniel Beuse, National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), Chris Augeri, Drive Spotter and Catherine McCullough, Intelligent Car Collation.

Semi-autonomous driving is a very new concept for many, therefore striking the balance by encouraging drivers to assess the risks accurately and continue to advance the safety gains we’ve won through autonomous technologies is key. While connected car safety is an obvious concern, understanding the activity and environment around your vehicle is critical.

This puts a much-needed emphasis on the human factor. HARMAN’s researchers are evaluating a critical area in the introduction of autonomous cars; namely, mediating the hand-off between driver and car, and vice versa – essentially, ensuring its safe to allow the car to take control, and perhaps more importantly, ensuring the driver is prepared to take control of the car again when the situation requires it.  This means ensuring the driver is never confused about the operating state of the vehicle. These cars are not too complex for drivers to handle and HARMAN is working to ensure that drivers are informed and trained, rather than alarmed and confused.

HARMAN is continuing its efforts to develop innovative connected solutions to assist and alert drivers to keep an eye on the bigger picture -- safety. HARMAN’s pupil monitoring, pedestrian detection, camera based navigation, and 360 degree rear surround view solutions go further than simple safety warnings, instead focusing efforts on integrating various forms of camera-vision based solutions to protect the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers near the vehicle.  In the future, the vehicle may indeed surpass their role as machine, and will be thought more of like a member of the family – one that we interface with via voice, and that knows our preferences, our habits, and our unique situations like familiarity with the vehicle systems, that may allow some features to be access by experienced drivers, but not to, for instance, a teen driver.

In addition, HARMAN has developed a Service Delivery Platform, which leverages cloud-based services that store personal historical road information to warn the driver of inclement weather and other various road conditions based on the time of day as experienced by other drivers. These enhancements, along with new improvements in areas such as ADAS analytics, are important steps towards delivering a car that is backed by the right technology and tools, and keeps the driver’s safety top-of-mind.

The panel proved to be incredibly insightful as these thought leaders came together to discuss these safety concerns and the innovative solutions that have been developed to alter and dramatically improve the current state and future of semi-autonomous driving.