What’s coming to a car near you?
THERE’S an old car-related joke that’s been buzzing around the internet for almost as long as computers have talked to each other. If cars had evolved as fast as computers we would all be driving vehicles that cost $25 and they would be so fuel-efficient they would travel more than 400km.
The reality is that while computers have evolved in leaps and bounds, in the 125 years that the car has been around, the fundamentals are largely unchanged.
Look at the car of today. Similar to vehicles of 100 years ago, it still has a wheel at each corner, a big, round thing in front of the driver to make it go in different directions and a few foot-operated inputs that tell it to stop or go.
There’s even an interpretation of the century-old Benz Patent-Motorwagen’s onecylinder engine under the modern-day bonnet – albeit with more cylinders and a lot more refinement.
But that’s not to say cars have stood still during the past century.
It has been a continual process of improvement, with such advances as the monocoque shell (where a car’s strength is built into the entire frame rather than just the chassis), seatbelts and airbags.
Computers, too, have brought their influence to bear, with features such as electronic stability control, which can help a car correct a skid and anti-lock brakes, which allow a car to steer through a skid, contributing to the safety of those in the car and – in the event of a collision with another vehicle – those outside it.
Expect big things as the next generation of cars becomes more like computerised living rooms on wheels rather than the motorised tin box with which we’re more familiar.
Here’s some of the projections on the technology on the horizon that will change the way we drive. step in and give us a wake-up call if needed.
Luxury brands have led the charge on minimising driver distraction, throwing up messages on the dash to advise drivers to take a well-needed break when they have been behind the wheel too long, are falling asleep at the wheel or if a wheel strays too far to one side of a lane.
There are even systems that warn the driver if a vehicle is sitting in the blind spot behind the car or if you’re too close to the car in front.
Some new Mercedes-Benzes not only warn if you’re wandering out of your lane but even apply the brakes to one side of the car to help steer.
Holden’s system, meanwhile, can store up to 15 albums in its memory.
Other car stereo manufacturers are doing away with the CD player altogether as USB sticks, memory cards and wireless audio streaming via Bluetooth take their place. extenders – ethanol-blended fuel and an electric car with a petrol-powered back-up generator – and LPG. Likewise, Ford is sticking with what it knows by backing LPG but is likely to have a play in the pureelectric vehicle field with the Focus.