800 out of Tel Aviv’s 6,600 start-ups operate in the car industry. SEAT is in, through Xplora - a team of specialists in innovative technology looking for hi-tech solutions that bring clear benefits to car drivers and passengers.
“Warning! Driver falling asleep!” This could be how cars warn drivers in the future if they detect that their eyes are closed or that they are not looking at the road. And that’s not all: in the future, we may also be able to regulate how much light passes through the windows at the touch of a button.
These are just some of the technologies that SEAT is working on through the Xplora project in Tel Aviv, Israel - one of the most technologically advanced places on the planet. “If we want to shape the future, we have to be in the most innovative ecosystems”, says Stefan Ilijevic, the Head of Product Innovation at SEAT. Above all, the focus is on safety and driver assistance.
Eye openess, angle of vision and head position… An algorithm analyses the actions of the driver and warns them if they are showing signs of distraction or drowsiness. It can also detect mobile phone use and whether the seatbelt is fastened.
SEAT has teamed up with the start-up Eyesight Technologies to work on adapting this driver monitoring system in its cars. According to a report by the European Commission, 36% of collisions are due to some form of driver distraction or tiredness in the three seconds leading up to an accident.
“Our software is a key to safety”, says Tal Krzypow, the Vice-president of Product at Eyesight Technologies. In terms of comfort, it can be used to identify the driver and adapt to their preferences, from the positioning of the seats and the door mirrors to the interior temperature.
“There will even be further benefits when our system combines with others. For example, if a device can recognize pedestrians then the software can analyse whether the driver has seen them. If not, it can send a warning,” Krzypow concludes.
Another project focuses on car windows. Sometimes, under certain driving conditions, sunlight through the window can be blinding. Other times we just want more privacy. A new active glazing technology by Gauzy enables users to darken or lighten the glass of the windscreen, side windows or sunroof on demand.“We've developed different types of films coated with specially curated formulations and emulsions that react to an electric impulse to let in more or less light”, says Adrian Lofer, cofounder and CTO of nanotechnology business Gauzy, which is collaborating with SEAT.
“We are the only material science company working with both SPD (suspended particle devices) and Liquid Crystal based nanotechnology. Both technologies allow glass to shift to shaded or opaque for a custom user experience, and instantly back to transparent for driving," he adds.
The Middle East's Silicon Valley
Several of the world's most successful businesses started out in someone's garage. Gauzy began in the kitchen of one of its founders, who was looking for a way to make his windows more private. Today, Gauzy has more than 100 employees including PhD chemists and mechanical engineers, with two manufacturing facilities in Israel and Europe, making it a prime example of the innovative culture of Tel Aviv. There are another 6,600 start-ups in the city, 800 of which are dedicated to the automotive industry - all in a cluster of just 52 square kilometres.
According to Aitor Aizkorreta, the head of scouting for SEAT in Israel, “this concentration of emerging companies makes Tel Aviv one of the easiest global innovation hubs to explore for solutions that improve our cars and services.”
In just two years, SEAT has worked with more than 200 emerging Israeli businesses through Xplora. The goal of the project is to facilitate relationships with start-ups and stakeholders involved in Israeli’s mobility scene and to identify innovative technologies that could lead to solutions and effective business models for the automotive market. SEAT is especially looking for solutions that enhance well-being and on-board safety, and new ideas in cybersecurity, sustainability and artificial intelligence.
“If you want to be a leader of the disruption in the car industry instead of a spectator, then not only do you have to be in Tel Aviv, but in the world's other major technology hubs as well,” emphasises Ilijevic. “Not only does this enable you to be the first and apply new technologies, but you can also attract the best talent, who want to work in companies that are spearheading change.”
Source: SEAT S.A.