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2016 is shaping up to be a landmark year for automotive innovation. Huge advancements in car technology that seemed like distant dreams are now starting to appear on prototype and even production vehicles, and they are set to change the way we drive and use our roads forever.
Welcome to the intriguing world of automotive autonomy
A fully self-driving vehicle will no longer remain a mere figment of your imagination. Many car manufacturers across the world are hard at work delivering the concept of autonomous cars.
After working on a number of concepts in recent years, Google has developed a bespoke self-driving car which is not far from being production-ready. With driving duties taken care of, this amazing car can double up as a recreation room or mobile office during your journey. The most incredible fact about the car is that it requires absolutely no input from drivers. You only need to inform it about your intended destination.
Another prototype – the super luxurious Mercedes-Benz F 015 – has created a lot of buzz as well. This car combines a self-driving experience with a sleek lounge-like cabin. Mercedes-Benz claims that it offers an “immersive user experience” and an “innovative perspective into the future of mobility”.
Tesla’s Autopilot feature is already available on the company’s Model S saloon, and despite a few early bugs, has brought the self-driving car into the real world for lucky Tesla owners. Another innovative aspect of Tesla’s approach is that the software to control the Autopilot function was not simply made available for new cars; it was downloaded to existing Tesla Model S vehicles, providing an instant upgrade to cars already on the road.
Going 3D with surround-view cameras
Surround-view cameras are a significant evolution of the popular rear-view cameras already fitted to millions of cars around the world. By using several cameras around the vehicle and some clever software, surround-view cameras provide a driver with an holistic view of their car like never before by combining footage of different cameras, strategically placed all around the vehicle. This presents the driver with a 360-degree view of their surroundings, allowing for safer manoeuvring in many different situations.
The gesture control feature of the new BMW 7 Series takes this a step further by enabling the driver to spin the camera images by simply waving a finger.
Interactive vehicle communication for road safety
Wouldn’t it be great if cars could interact with one another on the busy roads, and exchange vital information with one another?
There are many uses for this technology. Some satnav providers already aggregate data from all of their customers to provide real-time traffic information. Traffic lights will be able to ‘see’ vehicles approaching from all directions and optimise light cycles to keep minimise red-light waiting.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication is an ever bigger advantage for autonomous cars, and will allow vehicles to work together to make sure everyone gets to their destination as quickly as possible. It will facilitate the exchange of multiple pre-determined fields of data such as location and velocity.
Many manufacturers are working on developing such software which can easily be fitted to their fleet of vehicles.
Advanced backing for those behind the steering wheel
New software is being developed for displaying an array of crucial information in vehicles, in order to alert drivers and enhance road safety.
As a result, drivers would get to keep constant tabs on speed limits, the distance to traffic signals, the time between the changing of lights and weather forecasts too. Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems are fast becoming essential kit for new car models hitting the streets, with most manufacturers offering both as part of their 2016 ranges.
On the human side, many authorities are using social media platforms to advance road safety messages. The increasingly close relationship between our phones and our cars makes this a powerful medium to deliver important safety messages.
Preventing potential collisions with advanced sensors
Safety on the roads has always been a significant point of concern. The evolution of pre-collision technology has resulted in the widespread adoption of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems.
AEB makes use of two highly advanced sensors – a radar in the front portion the vehicle, and a mounted camera. The work of these sensors is to calculate the speed as well as distance of the car with respect to another one in close proximity, and to issue a warning.
If the warning fails to evoke a suitable response, the vehicle applies brakes on its own. These warnings can prevent a large number of fatal accidents, and safety campaigners NCAP is pushing for AEB systems to be made standard on all cars as soon as possible.
A car that parks itself
The new BMW 7 Series range has a novel new remote-controlled parking feature, which allows the driver to hop out of the car and then use the remote key to drive the car into and out of a tight parking space.
In the near future, BMW and other manufacturers expect to be selling cars equipped with the ability to detect space for themselves in crowded parking lots. The use of laser technology facilitates mapping of the surrounding terrain by the car and finding an appropriate parking spot.
You will even be able to use a smart watch for fetching your car from its parking spot. It will obediently track the watch signal and drive itself back to you.
What car technology innovations are you looking forward to seeing on the roads soon? Let us know in the comments below.