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Vehicle tech in spotlight for 2015

2015-01-26 08:06

FUTURE VEHICLE HUD: Hyundai’s augmented reality head-up display and intersection movement system will warn drivers if oncoming vehicles pose a danger. Image: Hyundai

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JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng - The 2015 North American International (Detroit) Auto Show and 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas showcased next-generation vehicle safety advances.

In an indication of just how car tech is carrying the torch for convergence, CES 2015 looked more like a car show than a gadget fest as automakers unveiled concepts and prototypes.

INNOVATION IN TECH

The latest developments headed toward utility, not merely convenience, and cabins and exterior features seem likely to make driving a safer and more connected experience.

South Africa's car safety tech takes it cue largely from international R&D teams. However, innovation in the local market is driven through downstream industry players, such as vehicle tracking companies which are very often much more than just that.

Tracker's Ian Adendorff said: “It's an exciting time for vehicle safety. We're seeing how tech innovation is gathering momentum not only incrementally but also multi-dimensionally. Connectivity is playing a central role from which an ‘Internet of Things' makes anything possible.

"Ultimately, though, it's about safer cars and passengers."

The envelope has been emphatically pushed for 2015. You can now start your car with your watch as wearable tech has fused with vehicles but that's not the only working innovation to catch one's eye...

GESTURE-BASED CONTROLS

Consoles are getting bigger- 30cm screens with fewer knobs and switches means less driver distraction. In fact, many models on display were equipped with touch screen interface.

What is even more impressive is gesture-recognition. Sensors pick up common hand movements made in front of the console without being touched. When you need an audio volume change, perhaps, or a warmer cabin, zoom in and out on the satnav or scroll through a menu, simply make the gesture while your eyes stay on the road.

Gesture-recognition is still in early development.

Apps continue to integrate into vehicle systems. Some automakers are increasing engagement with custom-built in-car services so that useful geolocated offers and recommendations pop up as you near them. These are based on your particular interests and location, or where you are programmed to go in the navigation system.

Trip data communicates that you are on a road trip and may, for instance, need to rest or check in at a hotel. Not only will the name and address of the hotel appear on the console but you will even receive a quote – with booking capability - for the exact number of occupants, with notification of a special minor's rate, sensing if one is a child.

VIRTUAL HUD

Connectivity won't only be about integrating mobile devices or accessing the internet hotspot as cars will soon be much more connected to the environment.

Augmented reality has been around for a several years though with limited success. Visitors to the 2015 Detroit auto show could simulate driving with real-time assistance displayed seamlessly on a digitised screen presenting information from the surroundings overlaid on the car's windscreen.

Picture a car changing lanes in front of you. As the vehicle enters your lane you immediately see the distance, area of potential impact, and colour markings highlighting your required angle of direction. The predictive aspect is the most impressive. You will soon receive warnings of potential dangers at four-way stops.

Once again, this still requires huge amounts of testing.

Another concept in the works is the idea of seat-belt or steering wheel sensors that car a driver's vital statistics. The ultimate goal: a car that can pull over and call paramedics if the driver has a heart attack or requires emergency medical assistance.


SELF-DRIVING CARS

Leading automakers had produced various self-drive prototypes. It was announced late in Jan 2015 that drivers in the US would have to wait until at least 2020 for the highly anticipated Google Car – the model that seems to have captured global imagination.

However, with concerns about road logistics, regulation and legislation of autonomous driving, that may be an ambitious date.

LASER LIGHTS

Meanwhile, one component of autonomous driving already installed in vehicles at CES was the integration of laser lights with assistance systems and vehicle sensors.

The laser lights work with the navigation system to illuminate corners well in advance and warn of humans or animals at night from a distance of up to 100m. Laser lights offer an impressive long-beam range of up to 600m.

Plans are in place to deploy lights that automatically shift to avoid direct beams aimed at oncoming traffic.

Ain't science wonderful...
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