Your new ‘eyes’
The ‘connected car’ will put safety first, writes Paul Gover in Germany
SUPERCARS that boost safety by seeing around corners and into the future are being tested in Germany and promise the biggest cut to the road toll since seatbelts and ESP stability control.
They can warn about roadworks, red lights, crashes more than a kilometre away, icy conditions and even traffic jams using a system that promises the next major safety breakthrough and a massive boost to motoring efficiency.
‘‘It is safety and efficiency. It is both,’’ Mercedes-Benz safety guru Dr Ulrich Mellinghof told cars Guide in Stuttgart.
‘‘We say that if you know what is happening at a distance, where you cannot already see, this makes driving extremely much safer.’’
Mercedes-Benz, the world’s original car company and one that celebrated its 125th birthday last weekend, is helping drive development of the ‘‘ connected car’’ in a partnership with other makers and governments in Europe.
Its work mirrors efforts in the US by a number of companies, including Ford, on cars that are permanently linked and able to warn drivers about a range of safety hazards.
Cars can be advised about delays from fixed sensors beside the road, or by other cars — perhaps using Bluetooth — that have already come past a dangerous corner, or had their ABS brakes activated, or had their wipers working in rain.
Benz says its ‘‘connected car’’ could be ready for the road inside three years, but warns there are significant obstacles in the cost of infrastructure to run the system and the need to have at least 15 per cent of cars linked so they can report dangers and communicate directly with each other.
‘‘The system works perfectly. So, I think from the technical side we could start very shortly , ’ ’ Mellinghof says.
‘‘The question is if we could find enough people and enough organisations which will help to introduce this. The people from Mercedes, from Volkswagen, from Porsche, we are very successful (with)’’ Mellinghof says there are many benefits from the ‘‘connected car’’ project.
‘‘For example, you get the information that after the next curve there is a red light and you have to stop. Then you know it much earlier, or you get the information there is any icy road or something.
‘‘You can then guide the traffic around such jams and give early warnings.’’
Ford is accelerating its commitment to vehicle-tovehicle communications. It is the first carmaker to build prototype vehicles for demonstrations across the US. It has also doubled its intelligent vehicle investment in 2011, dedicating more scientists to developing the technology.