lundi 20 janvier 2014

Drive into the future!

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Published on December 16 , 2013

The automobile space is abuzz with futuristic technology innovations that will truly revolutionise the cars of tomorrow.
As tech innovations soar to unimaginable heights, future automobiles will be no less than robot overlords preventing accidents, saving lives, smoothening road traffic, storing energy, going the high-tech autopilot mode, and even identifying and resolving technical glitches on their own! Super cars of the future will not just be vehicles, they will be dreams turned to reality.
Let’s take a closer look at some amazing automobile technologies that will soon blur the lines between the possible and impossible.
Car-to-car talk
Another person’s transgression causing accidents for a rule-following, law-abiding driver is not unheard of. Someone else jumps a signal and the very next instance; they collide into your vehicle stationed at a signal or an intersection. A developing technology that could avert such accidents is Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication (V2V). Through V2V communication, a car can send out signals to other cars, warning the probable victim of a potential collision. The technology could even be programmed to automatically hit the brakes to avoid a crash.
V2V communication uses wireless signals to relay information back and forth between vehicles about their speed, direction, and location. The information is then transmitted to cars in the vicinity to caution them on maintaining a safe distance from each other.
Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on V2V algorithms that make critical calculations based on the information received from cars. This information is then used to determine the best possible evasive action in case another car unexpectedly appears in its projected path.
Besides V2V, researchers are also testing Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Communication (V2I). V2I could allow vehicles to communicate with traffic signals, road signs etc. which in turn would provide vital safety information to vehicles. V2I technology can also request traffic management systems for the necessary traffic information to access or divert the traffic to best alternate routes.
Automobile companies and governments worldwide are putting in serious efforts to bring these smart technologies closer to reality. A combination of V2V and V2I could drastically increase automotive safety and improve traffic flow, thus bringing a true metamorphosis in the vehicle world.
Augmented reality
Though some high-end vehicles do have windshield displays, future cars go one step ahead. They can identify external objects in front of the driver and display all relevant information on the windshield. Read: Augmented Reality (AR) dashboards.
A renowned automobile company is developing AR dashboards that could spot objects in front of the vehicle and caution the driver how close or distant the object is. The AR display will superimpose information on top of what the driver is actually seeing. Hence, for example, if the driver is moving speedily towards another car, he will see an image of a coloured box on his dashboard, outlining the car ahead, with arrows indicating how the driver should maneuver into another lane to prevent a collision. More advanced AR GPS systems could incorporate capabilities to highlight the actual lane the driver should steer to and even indicate exactly where to turn, without taking his eyes off the road.
The same company is also researching on how AR can be a great tool for automotive technicians. They are developing AR glasses which technicians can wear to look at car engines and pinpoint which parts need replacement, followed by a step-by-step ‘how to fix it’ guide.
AR has something in store for passengers too. Another car company has shared working concepts of the AR system they are developing, which enables passengers to use a touch-screen window to view, select, and zoom in on objects outside the vehicle’s window.
Augmented reality may not have turned into a reality yet, but if these car companies proceed along their intended paths, some of our future cars may actually embody the AR brilliance.
Self-driving wonders
A self-driving car is not a completely new idea, and in some places, cars that can self-park are already being seen. However, a real self-driving car stands true to its name. It can navigate independently – and such cars are moving closer to reality.
In Nevada and California, engineers are testing advanced self-driving cars on long stretches of public roads and highways. These wonder cars do more than just self-drive - they record road images, and their computerised maps enable them to view road signs, identify alternate routes, and even see traffic lights from considerably longer distances. The cars use cameras, lasers, and radars to process and analyse information about their surroundings with remarkable speed and accuracy.
In a series of tests conducted, these cars absorbed every little detail of a road by driving through it several times. When these cars hit roads after pilot runs, they demonstrated the intelligence to determine when pedestrians were crossing and stopped accordingly. It is therefore evident that these highly advanced, self-driving cars can make transportation safer by eliminating human error – a major cause of accidents today.
Though these extraordinary cars may seem like a distant dream, several car companies are testing the waters aggressively, and it is believed that some kind of self-driving cars may become part of automobile showroom displays in the coming decade.
Incredible airbags
Airbags placed at all possible impact spots are common in modern vehicles. However, companies are now working on novel ways to convert this passive safety measure into an active safety system.
A company is experimenting with airbags that are positioned underneath the car.
The airbags form part of the vehicle’s overall active safety system, and when sensors detect that an impact is inevitable, they deploy. This mechanism helps to stop the vehicle before an impending crash. These new-age airbags also contain a friction coating that not only slows down the car, but also doubles its stopping power. Further, the airbags lift the vehicle up by about eight centimeters, thus countering the dipping motion that ‘hard braking’ causes, and prevents passengers from sliding under seat belts when a collision occurs.
Though a car company has been working on this technology for a few years now, it may still take time to actually hit automobile markets.
It is worth noting that these kind of airbags contain serious potential as a future safety technology due to the fact that they use existing vehicle safety systems. Because of the global popularity and ongoing evolution of airbags, it would not be out of bounds to visualise future cars having airbags not only to protect passengers, but also to stop cars as a critical safety measure.
Body panels = Energy powerhouses
Energy-storing body panels are the next big thing.
In Europe, a small group of auto manufacturers are testing and researching body panels that could store energy and offer speedier charging compared to existing batteries. These ‘under the test’ panels are made of carbon resin and polymer fiber which are extremely sturdy; yet malleable enough to be molded into panels.
The panels can hold energy for extended periods of time, and also collect extra energy produced by technologies such as regenerative braking. The captured energy can then be fed back into the car as and when required – to power air conditioners, and even entertainment systems. The results would be reduction in vehicle weight, and of course, tremendous energy saving.
Quiet caution
Future super cars will be able to sense when they are being broken into. If someone tampers with locks, the car will place a calm phone call to the owner instead of sounding off loud, cranky alarms.
Tyres that don’t tire
New Tyre Pressure Monitoring (TPM) systems are a wonder. They can identify not only which tyre has low pressure, but also by how much. To further capture the driver’s undivided attention, the system is designed to illustrate the same through an indicative diagram in the centre console screen. When the situation nears an emergency, the diagram beeps and blinks in an attention-grabbing colour.
Perceptive sensors
State-of-the-art car sensor systems can tell just about anything. Climate control and air re-circulation in accordance with varying temperatures inside the car; indications that the battery is draining out, the brake pads will soon lose power, filters are clogging, oil and fluid need checks - sensors can say all this and more.
Highly advanced systems will have on-board communication capabilities that transmit a code to the car dealer, alerting him about the approaching problem, and even getting an appointment fixed.
The future
All this networking, communication and pre-emptive vehicle assistance will pave the way towards safer, yet phenomenal driving experiences. At the same time, it is evident that the near future will boast of dynamite four-wheelers – guaranteed to shoot up adrenaline levels of tech-savvy customers.

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