Giz­mos of the fu­ture

The car world is lit­tered with trade­mark terms and phrases and an ever-in­creas­ing range of equip­ment, writes Stu­art Martin.

The Advertiser - Motoring - - TECHNOLOGY -

THE cut­ting-edge safety and lux­ury fea­tures that ap­pear on the equip­ment lists of the top-end lux­ury ve­hi­cle mod­els will even­tu­ally fil­ter down to the main­stream mod­els. An­tilock brakes and airbags are two of the most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try are mov­ing quicker than when the re­searchers were cre­at­ing those first safety ad­vances. This means it may not be as long a gap be­tween the S-Class driver turn­ing on the night vi­sion and the same sys­tem be­ing started in a Com­modore.

This has been around a while and is known by many acronyms and trade­mark terms, such as Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Pro­gram or Dy­namic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol. The fun­da­men­tal sys­tem is the same and it is wor­thy of recog­ni­tion.

Sta­bil­ity con­trol uses sen­sors from the anti-lock brake sys­tem (which can quickly ap­ply, re­lease and reap­ply the brakes to pre­vent lock­ing) to monitor wheel speed while the ve­hi­cle’s elec­tronic sys­tems take in­for­ma­tion from other sen­sors mon­i­tor­ing ev­ery­thing from en­gine out­puts and steer­ing wheel an­gles to di­rec­tional changes.

If the car is no longer head­ing in the in­tended di­rec­tion – through a loss of grip at the front or rear end – the car will re­tard the en­gine out­puts and brake in­di­vid­ual wheels to re­turn the car to its de­sired path.

The bot­tom line is this sys­tem can mas­sively re­duce – even by half – the chance of an ac­ci­dent in a ve­hi­cle.

Once the realm of mil­i­tary pi­lots, night-vi­sion sys­tems are now avail­able for the well­funded car owner look­ing at topend ma­chines from sev­eral brands, in­clud­ing Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. The Benz night vi­sion has two in­frared lamps that fire for­ward of the car and uses a cam­era to dis­play the re­sult­ing view on the in­stru­ment panel.

The cen­tre dis­play that can hap­pily dis­play an im­age of an ana­logue in­stru­ment panel trans­forms to a small TV, show­ing the im­ages picked up be­yond the head­lights’ range.

The BMW sys­tem is sim­i­lar in its dis­play but uses a ther­mal imag­ing cam­era to de­tect hu­man be­ings, an­i­mals and ob­jects up to 300m in front of the car be­fore they be­come vis­i­ble to the h u ma n e y e in the head­lights, in­form­ing driv­ers of haz­ards by up to five sec­onds at 100km/h.

Now of­fered by a num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers, these are the next step from t h e n o r mal cruise con­trol.

The sys­tems em­ploy radar – and in some cases cam­eras as well – to monitor the road ahead of the ve­hi­cle.

The early sys­tems de­buted on top-spec Mercedes-Benz and BMW mod­els and would brake the car au­to­mat­i­cally to match the speed of

the ve­hi­cle ahead, re­turn­ing to the set speed when the slower car was no longer in front.

The most re­cent in­car­na­tion of the radar cruise con­trol sys­tems is in the form of low-speed (sub­30km/h) col­li­sion avoid­ance sys­tems. The ex­ten­sion of these sys­tems is the col­li­sion avoid­ance technology, which uses cam­eras, radar or a com­bi­na­tion of the two to de­tect im­pend­ing im­pacts and will warn the driver, pump up the brake sys­tem pres­sure and in some cases ‘‘jab’’ the brakes.

Be­com­ing more com­mon in real-world cars, there are dif­fer­ent lev­els of com­puter-con­trolled sus­pen­sion sys­tems.

The ba­sic sys­tem of­fers such modes as nor­mal, com­fort and sport – or vari­a­tions of those terms – and the sys­tem changes the flow rate of the valve within the damper to firm up or soften the re­sponse to road con­di­tions.

These sys­tems have been taken to an­other level with com­puter con­trol – the car takes in­for­ma­tion from a large col­lec­tion of sen­sors to look at what the driver is do­ing and the driv­ing con­di­tions.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz each have ac­tive sus­pen­sion sys­tems that of­fer first-rate ride qual­ity with the abil­ity to re­duce body roll by half and pro­vide sportier road man­ners from a two-tonne li­mou­sine.

This was also some­thing more likely to be seen in the cock­pit of a fighter jet.

Nis­san toyed with the sys­tem in its Blue­bird model but more re­cently BMW and Peu­geot have put read­outs in the driver’s line of sight.

Peu­geot’s 3008 flips up a lit­tle screen and dis­plays the car’s speed as well as tail­gat­ing warn­ings.

The BMW sys­tem is a lit­tle more in­te­grated: there’s no flip-up screen but the info is shot straight on to the wind­screen.

Not only does it have the car’s speed but in cer­tain mod­els the satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion in­struc­tions also can be put up in front of the driver.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.