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The Science of Tomorrow's Cars

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Old 03-30-2010, 03:43 AM
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The Science of Tomorrow's Cars

New technologies making vehicles safer, greener and better connected.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Mar. 30, 2010

Mercedes Attention Assist – Advanced Technology working to make the automobile safer.

Technology is transforming the cars and trucks that we depend on and enjoy, in ways that could never have been imagined even a decade ago. From state-of-the-art electronics and safety systems to environmentally-friendly powertrain technologies and infotainment devices that help keep drivers connected, today's automakers are providing consumers with innovative technologies that meet real world needs.

"Science and engineering are at the heart of today's vehicle development and the auto industry is transforming itself by reinventing the automobile to meet the societal goals of energy security, greenhouse gas reductions and sustainable, safe mobility," said NYIAS chairman John LaSorsa. "To be at the leading-edge of the new clean energy economy, the auto industry is investing billions of dollars each year. In fact, the auto industry ranks among the top investors in research and development globally."

Fuel efficiency

For many years, auto engineers have been developing new technologies to make vehicles more fuel efficient — testing and refining them — and the results are now coming to market. This year, 50+ technologies will be on sale that reduce emissions, increase mileage and run on clean fuels. Consumers can buy 130+ models that achieve 30 MPG or more (highway), including 27 models of hybrids and 8 clean diesel autos.

One of the clearest trends to emerge from Europe in the past year is the growth of Stop-Start technology. The technology conserves energy by shutting off the engine whenever the car stops, such as at a traffic light. The decrease in fuel consumption results in savings of up to 12 percent, and lower CO2 emissions.

Mainstream goes the ubiquitous hybrid. First designed and sold to the average consumer in Asia, the Hybrid automobile has made its way into the US overtaking all other alternative fuel solutions. The lead of course belongs to the Prius with more than double the fuel economy of the average automobile on US roads. Many hybrids today are not only far more fuel efficient but are also PZEV rated. So clean are their exhaust emissions that it takes ultra modern machinery to even measure what little NOx, PM, CO and HC is being emitting from the exhaust pipe.


In-Car Connectivity: Ford's new, smarter, safer, simpler in-car technology connectivity system combines a variety of technologies into one powerful, intuitive connected driver experience called MyFord, which will begin rolling out on vehicles this year. This new in-vehicle connectivity experience replaces many of the traditional vehicle buttons, knobs and gauges. With more voice commands, clear, crisp LCD screens that can be customized and five-way buttons like those on cell phones and MP3 players, drivers can choose which information is front and center through a button click, voice command or touch-screen tap.

Google Earth will be available for the first time in a production vehicle in the new Audi A8. The state-of-the-art online services allow the new A8 to retrieve up-to-date information from the internet via an optional integrated GPRS/EDGE modem in the latest generation MMI navigation plus. The user can search online with Google for points-of-interest directly from within the MMI. With Google Earth on the MMI's 8 inch LCD display the new Audi A8 allows its occupants to discover the world from above through high resolution three-dimensional satellite and aerial imagery for the entire globe. The Google Earth imagery and 3D terrain model are combined with the detailed street network from the onboard navigation database in a seamless integration of online and offline content.

Making Scents of Smells: Infiniti's Forest Air system helps reduce the intrusion of unpleasant odors into the cabin and provides a more natural breeze-like airflow.


Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake is a groundbreaking technological solution found on the all-new Volvo S60. It can detect pedestrians who walk into the road in front of the car, warn the driver - and automatically apply full braking power if the driver does not respond in time. The system can avoid a collision with a pedestrian when driving at speeds of up to 22 mph. In an emergency situation the driver first receives an audible warning combined with a flashing light in the windscreen's head-up display. At the same time, the car's brakes are pre-charged. If the driver does not react to the warning and an accident is imminent, full braking power is automatically applied.

World First Rear-Seat Center Airbag: Toyota has developed a world first rear-seat centre airbag to help reduce the severity of passenger injuries in side-on collisions. The new Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbag is fitted in a large, fixed, rear-seat centre console and will feature in particular Toyota models to be released in the near future. When the vehicle is hit side-on, the airbag deploys from the top of the console to act as a barrier that helps lessen injuries caused by passengers colliding with each other or into the console.

Mercedes-Benz Attention Assist: This system monitors drivers so they don't get into dangerous situations in the first place. This is accident prevention at its best because it can help stop accidents before they happen. Attention Assist uses an algorithm to produce an individual driver profile that recognizes typical patterns of behavior and then compares that profile with current data from sensors to detect the driver's transition from a state of alertness to a state of tiredness. The in-vehicle sensors used in Attention Assist can detect unintentional lane departures, delayed reaction times coupled with over-corrective steering as well as driver inactivity. That data is then combined with information detailing the time of day and the length of time the driver has been behind the wheel. When drowsy driving is detected, Attention Assist will sound an alarm and offer a visual warning in the form of a coffee cup displayed in the vehicle's instrument cluster.
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