Jaguar’s Smart feature will remember your anniversary

Elisabeth Behrmann
Bloomberg News

In two years, your Jaguar will be able to recognize you, predict how warm you’d like your seat on a rainy fall day and prompt you to swing by the florist on an anniversary.

Like the push to develop driverless technology, Jaguar Land Rover’s so-called Smart Assistant project has the goal of making vehicles more intelligent to pull in a growing group of urban residents who are more fixated on smartphones than cars. That’s contributed to declining ownership rates in Europe’s biggest cities, where public transport and car sharing are viable alternatives to owning a vehicle.

“Priorities have changed” from the time when buying a car was a yearned-for rite of passage, said Paola Franco, 44, who views her 28-mile London commute as more or less wasted time. “It’s far more important to be connected.”

Since 2005, the number of vehicles per 1,000 people in Paris has fallen 9 percent, alongside an 8 percent drop in London, according to data from research company Euromonitor International Plc. In Munich, home of BMW, the number plunged 16 percent.

Jaguar and Land Rover will start rolling out the Smart Assistant gradually over the next 24 months, said Anthony Harper, head of research at the manufacturer. Not all functions will be available immediately.

“In terms of what the customer will experience, it’s more of a feeling of the car becoming a much smarter and a much more alive thing to interact with,” Harper said in a phone interview.

The system will use cameras to recognize the driver’s face, along with technology that picks up signals from smartphones to adapt climate and even driving settings for that person. It’s designed to help keep focus on the road and will compete with technology from Mercedes-Benz and Ford Motor Co.

“Connectivity is the same game changer in terms of benefits for driving safety as were the seat belt and the head rest,” Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, said in a phone interview.

Increasing use of cameras as well as radar, infrared and ultrasonic sensors is already making cars smarter, helping stop vehicles from veering from lanes and signaling when something is in the driver’s blind spot. Mercedes introduced a system in its S-Class luxury sedan last year that enables the vehicle to drive itself in stop-and-go traffic. This month Audi announced ait will soon offer cars that can steer, brake and accelerate at low speeds on their own.

Ford’s Sync system can access a driver’s mobile phone contacts, read text messages and change the temperature by voice command. Ford will add accident alerts and other intuitive systems over the next five years.

“The car of the future will be much more than a mode of transport,” Mercedes, a unit of Daimler AG, said in an emailed statement. It’ll become “an intelligent, automobile companion that recognizes the driver’s and passengers’ wishes, moods and preferences.”