Your new ‘eyes’

The ‘con­nected car’ will put safety first, writes Paul Gover in Ger­many

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On Road -

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.

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