Special Interview Vol.2 | Daikin Mobility Lab. | Chemicals Division | Daikin Industries, Ltd.
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Daikin Mobility Lab.

Communication among engineers and specialists is essential to
anticipating the necessary technological issues


To your opinion, what are today the technological issues slowing down the development of autonomous vehicles?


When speaking of the maintained road, the method of recognizing the white line by image data processing is the common way. However, it isn’t just a matter of whether there is information for the car lane and in front of the car. The issue is whether sensing can be performed and to what degree the ever-changing environment can be stabilized. Then it will be necessary to determine what is possible under what type of conditions and in which areas regions. Establishing a dividing line for the range of entrusting a system and the range decided by humans is difficult. We then have to decide the definition of certainty. Is it 1 error per 100 kilometers? Or is it maybe 1 error per 1,000 kilometers? Obtaining zero errors is unrealistic, so we need to determine the level of reliability in which a person can ride with confidence using a backup system. Thus, the current technological issue is environment recognition and the degree of stability and precision that accompanies it.

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That is an extremely difficult challenge. We know how complex it is to develop a solution that impacts a complete value chain. With that in mind, Daikin created the Technology and Innovation Center (TIC) in November 2015 to provide an environment for engineers to quickly respond to highly-complex issues like that. Producing good products is the primary function of a manufacturer, and creating and refining technology for new products is a concern for the entire company. TIC was created in recognition of the importance of collaborative creation. Here engineering specialists from other departments and outside the company can perform research in collaboration. We also encourage projects that cross the different business divisions of the company such as air conditioning, chemicals, oil hydraulics, and electronics. By gathering engineers with expertise in a variety of fields it creates a forum for free-flowing communication that sparks innovation.

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For example, when a challenge is identified in one field, we can ask engineers from a different domain such as air conditioning to help. Air conditioners are built using many different parts such as motors, inverters, and components related to heat exchange. When you are wondering what can be done for the motor or inverter of an automotive, for example, it is possible to find specialists within the company to ask. We can propose answers to technical issues more easily by utilizing such an open innovation activity.

Placing greater emphasis on human factors for cars of the future


Irrespective of autonomous driving, the automotive industry places importance on human factors, and the idea that humans must be part of the equation is particularly strong. No matter the car created, the aim is to produce the best tool for humans, and this also includes the electrical control technology. For this reason, it is necessary to understand humans. In cars, human engineering is a classic element. In the past, settings such as the seat layout and dashboard distance were mainstream considerations as part of cabin design. Recently ease of use, comfort, and enjoyment are given great prominence.

Driving simulator at National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

Driving simulator at National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

Currently, I am studying these types of human factors for driving pleasure. The autonomous driving and driving assistant technology are unworkable if they are not harmonized with human needs. Once autonomous driving has further progressed, people who love cars will lose the pleasure to drive. That is why, we are quickly approaching the time when we must redefine what the concept of driving is.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned doctor of psychology in the United States who advocated the flow theory, has said that we enjoy participating in sports for the chance to channel all of our energies and challenge ourselves. When the skill level of the opponent is either too high or too low, our enjoyment significantly decreases. It is only when abilities are evenly matched that we find true satisfaction in a victory. It is the same with driving. When driving along a winding mountain road, you may find it rather difficult and it may test your best abilities, but you experience an enjoyable sensation while you are doing it. The sense of control dominates your entire being and gives you pleasure. The degree of the exertion is called demand, and demand is not only the exertion put into it but it is also the control over one’s self. Explicitly, when driving at a leisurely pace you may feel relaxed, but a big change occurs when the speed is increased, even when driving on the same road. Controlling the difficulty of the task overall is the fun of the car. What I would like to stress is that these pleasures can also be obtained from autonomous driving.

In autonomous driving, it’s possible to drive with all our best and drive by entrusting to a system. For this reason, people in the future will be able to enjoy the timing between a static and dynamic driving rhythm even more than now. I think the point is to think about autonomous driving technology from the perspective of technology that expands the range of functions that a person can use.

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So, it is not if autonomous driving reduces the fun of driving but is rather the approach that enables us to capture the fun of driving by expansion of tasks. From what you have said, I realized that autonomous driving changes car user’s satisfaction, the added value for a car, and the manner the car is used. To respond quickly to the changing market, Daikin is always investigating the trends of the automotive industry. For this reason, we would like to set our sights on autonomous driving from our base in San Jose, United States, and in the future we are planning to establish a laboratory in Detroit. This will allow us to maintain constant communication with automobile manufacturers and related companies.

The major common for needs these days is to make items smaller and lighter. We would like to perform technological development and relieve the stress of operation no matter what system is used. Naturally, because our technology is still improving, we will continue collecting an array of information from people like Dr. Akamatsu on what the new generation of driving will be like and how we can fulfill our role as a chemical materials manufacturer that stays one step ahead in technology as well.

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The Motoyuki Akamatsu laboratory in National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology

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