Where does the car end and the phone begin?
SHARON can park herself.
At a signal from a smartphone, a system of tiny computers activates her engine, gearbox and steering—and she reverses smoothly into a parking space.
Sensors stop her from bumping into other cars or people.
Pilotless cars, such as the Volkswagen Sharan, are no distant dream.
Many people at this week's Frankfurt Motor Show were asking not only how the cars of the future will be powered,
but who or what will drive them.
Where does the car end and the phone begin? asked Chris Anderson,
the editor of Wired magazine, at a brain-storming session organised by Audi, a carmaker.
A future car will be more like a computer on wheels, networked with the surrounding infrastructure and other vehicles.
Even if it comes with a steering wheel, the driver will have the Knight-Rider-esque option of being piloted while he video-conferences,
answers e-mails or looks on a screen at an annotated view of the world whizzing by.
The threat to the taxi drivers parked outside the show is obvious.
But Frankfurt's cabbies are a sceptical bunch.
Driverless taxis? Not in my lifetime, says one.
It's science fiction, scoffs another.
In tough times, many carmakers are innovating like fury.
Some are recasting themselves as mobility service providers.
This means hawking car-related software and other add-ons.
For example, for those who prefer to hire or share cars—as young city-slickers increasingly do—there is software to make them feel at home in any vehicle,
by instantly switching the radio and other settings to their tastes.
Some carmakers are also tempting buyers with more mundane services, such as priority parking or cheap deals on fuel.
Or, to help them let off steam, they might offer an annual spin with that gas-guzzling sports-utility vehicle of their dreams.
Even in changing times, there is still plenty of passion for a flash motor.
Hence the covetous sighs that greeted the new Ferrari 458 Spider, which was unveiled on September 13th.
Alongside it was Ferrari's first four-wheel drive four-seater. Different Ferraris for different Ferraristi! exclaimed Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari's boss.
同时这也是法拉利首款四轮驱动的四座跑车。与众不同的法拉利给与与众不同的法拉利人法拉利的总裁Luca di Montezemolo宣称。
Even Volkswagen's new single-seater electric commuter, with its narrow body and wide wheelbase, looks rather like a 1950s racing-car.