Polestar Precept

Polestar Precept

IAIN ROBERTSON 

 

Whether you regard the Polestar Precept as a concept, or not, continues Iain Robertson, its role as a preconception-buster is much in evidence and having looked at both design and sustainability, its digitalisation is also impressive.

Despite expending a massive effort in creating brand delineation, economies of scale, especially for a medium-sized car manufacturer like Volvo, demand that whatever Polestar gets, either Volvo has already got it, or it is about to. While Volvo had been experiencing near unprecedented new registration successes in almost all of its markets, prior to the onset of Covid-19, even with the reported funding strength of the Chinese Geely Corporation behind it, other influences will be brought to bear in coming months.

Polestar Precept

Polestar Precept

The accelerated growth of the Chinese automotive market over the past few years may play against hopes for instant resurrection, when we all start returning to work. After all, the Chinese economy is in a similarly parlous position to those in the rest of the world. The longer the break, the spectre of several major companies heading to hell in a handcart may be much closer to reality than anticipated. For a relatively young firm like Polestar, being able to lean on its Volvo progenitor, is a boon but with hardly any sales results worth mentioning, in the run-up to self-isolation and social distancing, quite a few members of its management team will be pinching themselves for several months, during the recovery period.

Although Precept has given Polestar an opportunity to explore future generational changes in the evolution of its Android-powered infotainment system, which is already fitted to the Polestar 2 model, sales of which have been stymied by the viral outbreak, the company is still keen to promote technology that is within immediate reach. As a result, seeking major advances in Precept is not a directive.

Polestar Precept

Polestar Precept

The large format, 15.0-inch digital interface/touchscreen recognises the driver upon approach, with settings and personal content authenticated by the Polestar Digital Key. Naturally, Polestar is keen to highlight that all customer information is protected. Yet, on the basis of Huawei, another Chinese communications company, having been suspected and accused of misappropriating and perhaps even ‘spying’ on its clients, Polestar may be forced into making more than mere assurances that security breaches will not occur.

Engaging with Google Assistant and Cloud accessibility, which has been growing its relationships across several aspects of the motor industry, means that the evolution in advanced speech recognition now incorporates not only more languages but also better local dialect interpretation, while providing an extensive range of personalised experiences. This is inevitable, as some consumers start demanding ever more links between their domestic lives and what occurs when they are on the move. From a strictly personal viewpoint, I used to get animated, whenever intrusive local advertising appeared on my mobile phone. Since I stopped using such devices, I feel marginally more confident that my private life remains sacrosanct!

The big central screen allows video streaming services, when the car is parked, or recharging. Naturally, pre-emptive proximity sensors adjust what appears on the screen dependent on where the user’s hand is placed. Some top executive-class models have started already to feature this type of display brightness and screen content adjustments, according to user movements, so it is not new. However, the need for more, or less, information dependent on what the user is doing is novel. Similarly, the 9.0-inch horizontal display located just behind the steering wheel, contains vital information but is linked to eye tracking.

Polestar Precept

Polestar Precept

Interestingly, Subaru was an early adopter of this technology, which most observers regarded with a degree of suspicion, mainly due to its slow reaction times. However, working in close partnership with its technology colleagues, eye tracking in Precept monitors where the driver is looking and adjusts the manner in which information is presented. It can be smaller and more detailed, when the driver is focused on the display, but larger, brighter and with more essential information, when focused on the road ahead.

As much as possible, the displays, which are colourful and more interesting, have to strike a balance between providing information, distraction levels and risk avoidance. As a result, the systems in Precept are flexible and more intuitive than ever. How the sensors achieve what is demanded of them is quite amazing but the system refinements mean that both Volvo and future Polestar products will adopt eye tracking technology in the not too distant future.

Google Maps, which is now established as an industry standard, and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) are now merged into a single system for safer manoeuvres and more accurate predictions based on traffic conditions, while being displayed together in one combined graphic in the Precept’s supplementary driver display. Again, this is not revolutionary, as other carmakers are starting to roll-out map-assisted displays in their top models, where a blend of LIDAR, Radar and other sensor technologies work in combination with cruise control, headlamp and even steering assist programs.

Polestar has been very careful to emphasise that Precept is precisely what its name proposes; its developments are entirely realistic and showcase future commitment, rather than pie-in-the-sky aspirations. As company boss, Thomas Ingenlath, states: “Precept demonstrates where we shall be heading, our design direction, our ambitions about sustainability and the beneficial digital user experience that we shall bring with our future cars.”

Conclusion:     In some ways, it is fortunate that Polestar is not as ‘exposed’ as some carmakers are at this moment. Polestar 1 was a sorely over-priced, limited production hybrid model. Its more ‘mass market’ Polestar 2 has not made any impact presently. Precept may be a ‘toy’ but it has tangible reality as its key benefit.