Flying cars, sound bubbles greet execs at Tel Aviv smart mobility confab
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Flying cars, sound bubbles greet execs at Tel Aviv smart mobility confab

Israel, not known for its car manufacturing activities, has become an unlikely leader in technologies that look set to transform vehicles as we know them

New Future Transportation (NFT) a husband and wife endeavor, unveiled the design of its flying car at the EcoMotion exhibition in Tel Aviv on June 11, 2019 (YouTube screenshot)
New Future Transportation (NFT) a husband and wife endeavor, unveiled the design of its flying car at the EcoMotion exhibition in Tel Aviv on June 11, 2019 (YouTube screenshot)

The Expo Tel Aviv convention center was packed this week with visitors whose name tags bore a who’s who of the giants of the global automotive industry: Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Ford, Renault, Nissan. They were there to see the latest developments in the hot field of autotech that the Startup Nation was cooking up.

Among the companies that displayed their wares — as industry heads spoke in the main hall about how important it is for global car makers to team up with startups in a changing industry — were one that makes a flying car for personal use and another that developed a sound bubble for each person in a car to listen to their own music.

At the event, which ended Wednesday, a contest held by insurance firm Sompo Japan Nipponkoa chose ContinUse Biometrics as winner and put Mobileye in second place to pilot technology that will help senior citizens in Japan avoid accidents. Israeli firm SoftWheel unveiled its electric and autonomous platform for vehicles, while StoreDot demonstrated its battery charging technology that enabling a full charge of an electric 2-wheel vehicle in five minutes.

The exhibition of Israeli wares was part of the EcoMotion conference and exhibition, held for the seventh year in Israel. The exhibition presented smart transportation solutions, with more than 100 startups exhibiting their technologies to some 4,000 attendees, 1,000 of whom were senior executives from international giants, EcoMotion said in a statement.

Israel, which has no car manufacturing activities to speak of, has become an unlikely leader in technologies that look set to transform vehicles as we know them, with tech giants like Google and Intel, and car manufacturers, including Honda, GM, BMW and Volkswagen, scouting and investing in Israeli tech in this field. Earlier this week Renault and Nissan inaugurated their open innovation lab in Israel to tap into technologies and startups, and US carmaker Ford Motor Company opened a research center in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

The conference and exhibit are part of the Ecomotion ecosystem — a community of entrepreneurs and investors in smart mobility that was set up by the Israel Innovation Authority, the Fuel Choices Initiative and the Economy Ministry.

“I am not a prophet and I don’t know when the autonomous vehicles will be implemented fully on the road,” said Orly Dahan, the executive director of EcoMotion, at the event. “But I’m willing to commit to the fact that every autonomous and electric vehicle, will have some kind of Israeli technology within.”

Here is just a tiny taste of the technologies on display.

The flying car: New Future Transportation (NFT), a husband-and-wife endeavor, unveiled the design of its flying car at the exhibition. The firm’s mission is to help ease congestion by creating a competitively priced car that can be flown and driven. The size of the vehicle, which is still in development, will be that of a sport utility vehicle (SUV), with two or four seats. It will take off and land vertically, and its wings, equipped with propellers, will be retractable.

The ASKA vehicle — flying bird in Japanese — will fly and drive autonomously and have the ability to reroute and choose where to land, depending on weather, traffic or preferences. The car will be integrated with existing autonomous driving systems, the firm says.

Two attendees at EcoMotion sit on chairs to try out the sound bubble developed by Silentium Ltd.; the software developed by the startup allows people to share the same space but listen to their own music or content via off the shelf speakers, placed here above the users; June 11, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon; Times of Israel)

The sound bubble: Silentium Ltd., based in the Rehovot industrial park, is developing what it calls “silence in a chip.” Using software, the company has developed a way to create a sound bubble around individuals sharing the same spaces, so that each person can listen to music from speakers without hearing what the person sitting in close proximity is listening to.

This reporter sat in one of the chairs displayed by the company at EcoMotion, above which regular, off-the-shelf speakers were playing music, then moved to the adjacent chair — no barrier in between — which also had speakers above it, playing completely different music. No sound interference from the other side was detected.

The key, said Amit Stern, an engineer for the firm who displayed the technology for visitors, is the software and the angle of the speakers. The firm is mainly targeting the auto industry at the moment, but offices and other public spaces could also eventually be customers, he said. Another product the startup is developing is “quiet bubbles” for appliances such as like air conditioners.

Roger Ordman, EVP of startup Aurora Labs, which has created software to detect bugs and fix and update software in cars (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Tracking car software glitches and fixing them: Aurora Labs has created “self-healing software” that will enable car manufacturers to keep track of any software glitches that develop in cars already on the road.

“There are 100 million lines of code in automated vehicles,” said Roger Ordman, the executive vice president of marketing, who was displaying the company’s product to visitors at a stand. This code can be hacked or could have bugs or configuration problems, he said, or even be affected by things like extreme climate changes. How to detect these problems and fix them is a huge problem for car makers, he said. Aurora’s software helps detect flaws, fix, update and validate all of the software within a car, he said. “Software will always have problems,” he said. “But can you find it before something bad happens?”

The software developed by Aurora is meant to be integrated into car manufacturers’s code, and will provide so-called “functionality relationship maps” to help the car makers pinpoint any problem. It will also provide evidence for regulatory purposes.

Visitors attending the EcoMotion exhibition that arrived by car had the option of driving above an electronic inspection device deployed at the entrance for the exhibition grounds by startup UVEye; June 11, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

A camera-equipped drive-over threat-checker: Visitors to the EcoMotion exhibition who arrived by car had the option of driving above an electronic inspection device deployed at the entrance for the exhibition grounds by startup UVEye. The firm has developed a camera inspection system for vehicles — a mat-like device equipped with high-fidelity cameras that can be placed at the entrance to public venues to scan incoming cars for threats like bombs or also mechanical faults like oil leaks. Using both proprietary hardware and deep learning and computer vision algorithms, the firm’s AI-based technology scans the entire vehicle to identify security or safety issues, including the undercarriage and tires, throughout its life cycle. The product is designed for both security and civilian purposes.

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