The next time you step into your car and you think it’s too warm, your car might already know and will have started cooling it down. That’s exactly the kind of technology France-based company Valeo is working on and already has customers buying.

The company is using sensors to monitor a list of conditions both inside and outside vehicles to ensure a vehicle’s driver and passengers are comfortable on all levels. Much of the technologies behind autonomous vehicles, for example, can be leveraged for multiple purposes. Valeo has harnessed multiple technologies into what it calls The Valeo Smart Cocoon, a system offering a localized thermal comfort bubble adapted to each passenger according to their body type, the way they are dressed and their heart rate, according to the company.

I spoke to Guillaume Devauchelle, vice president of Innovation and R&D at Valeo, from Paris, about these developments.

Guillaume Devauchelle, vice president of Innovation and R&D at Valeo

Guillaume Devauchelle: We are experiencing a disruption in the automotive industry with three revolutions: electric drive, a change of energy, connected cars and also autonomous driving.

With autonomous driving, you have a set of sensors including a camera which will give us a very good understanding of the context of inside the cabin and outside the cabin. It also gives us a lot of information about the driver and the passengers. So we can compute the level of stress, the level of attention, the level of comfort and the way the driver or the passengers are dressed. This is really the idea of the Smart Cocoon: to take advantage of the existing sensors for autonomous driving to decrease the need for energy and increase comfort in the cabin.

Mark Phillips: Could the Smart Cocoon technology help lessen the chance a child could be left in a vehicle on a hot day?

GD: Yes, absolutely. We can work to use the same set of devices to ensure both comfort and safety, detecting children in both the rear and front seats to, for example, specify airbag deployment.

MP: Could you speak to another technology you’re particularly proud of?

GD: We have also designed an outside cocoon to protect the car for autonomous driving. The cocoon is based on cameras, sensors, but also Lidar. So we are very proud to say we are protecting those inside the car and the outside of the car.

MP: What is the status of production of the Valeo Smart Cocoon system?

GD: Many of the sensors for the system are already under development, such as detecting how occupants of the cabin are dressed, where people are sitting, for example. So, this is not science fiction. Some of them have already been ordered by customers.

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