11th February 2019
Impressive car technology in the pipeline from OEMs and others
Striving to make their conventionally-driven cars ever safer, more engaging, efficient, and connected, manufacturers are continuously unveiling exciting technologies and features – and we take a look at the latest highlights.
Smart fingerprint technology
Hyundai concluded 2018 and opened 2019 with a raft of announcements and, at face value, the brand’s news regarding fingerprint technology seemed far from ground-breaking, with the 2007 Audi A8 incorporating biometric entry and ignition functionality and settings personalisation over a decade ago1. Online forums are abundant with reported problems over these earlier systems, though, and Hyundai has presented its ‘world-first’ fingerprint opening-and-starting technology as the most secure yet2.
Forged or faked fingerprints will be prevented by means of capacitive recognition that analyses the electricity level in many different parts of the fingertip to detect differentials, while Hyundai’s ‘dynamic update’ system learns fingerprints in real-time, the Korean manufacturer asserting that its system will be much more effective and secure than smart keys that are prolific across most manufacturers’ ranges these days but are prone to ‘relay’ theft3. Only time will tell how, though, how rain, ice, greasy or damp fingers and other variables will affect the system’s performance. Hyundai’s smart fingerprint technology will be fitted to the new 2019 model year Santa Fe SUV4, first in China before the system is then introduced in Europe.
Ford: listening, talking and ‘language lights’
New cars are increasingly becoming ‘connected’, not just to the internet to enable social media, web-surfing and business continuity on the move or when parked up, but also to infrastructure and even to each other such as through swarm intelligence.
Ford, for example, plans to integrate ‘cellular vehicle-to-everything technology’ (C-V2X) into every one of its new models in just three years’ time5. With 5G soon enabling rapid and direct communication without cellular towers placed in the middle, Ford and other C-V2X vehicles will be able to communicate directly with each other, with hardware from traffic lights to buildings, and with people such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will see cars synchronise with precise traffic light sequences, while vehicle-to-pedestrian communication will warn those on foot of connected vehicles that potentially pose a danger for whatever reason. ‘Right of way’ at busy or confusing road junctions and roundabouts will be decided automatically by all C-V2X vehicles in the vicinity, while those involved in accidents will immediately relay their statuses to other vehicles nearby, respectively reducing collisions and helping traffic to flow more smoothly. Ford also envisages its connected vehicles providing data to road signs that will update dynamically to advise the best routes to take depending on an array of variables. Qualcomm’s 9150 chipset lies at the core5a and connected technology including LiDAR, cameras, sensors and radars will eventually be merged with fully autonomous vehicles, which will bring about advantages including emergency services vehicles notifying others of their approach well in advance, ultimately saving lives.
Ford is also conducting tests in Germany along with Chemnitz University of Technology whereby a Transit Connect van has been adapted so that the driver is disguised as the seat, giving pedestrians the impression that it is autonomous at first glance6. A roof-mounted light-bar fitted to the van was initially configured to flash white when the vehicle is driving, purple when it’s about to set off and turquoise when the van is giving way, but the experiment’s results identified that turquoise was the colour most trusted by pedestrians and others, 60% of whom believed the Transit Connect to indeed be autonomous. The position of the communicative light was found to make no tangible difference, though, and it will be fascinating to see how Ford continues refining this new visual language, which we perceive as an excellent concept.
Volkswagen’s latest innovations queued for the new Passat
Although technically still a concept car at the moment, we expect the forthcoming Passat to closely resemble the images currently circulating in the media, VW taking a typical evolution rather than revolution approach. But the Germans who will be the first to take delivery of the latest model in September will have many of the brand’s latest technological innovations at their disposal, which sound rather exciting.
Volkswagen’s current and future intelligent driver assistance technologies, from today’s ADAS systems through to ‘level 5’ fully autonomous capabilities, are now bundled under an umbrella name called IQ.DRIVE, which is already being incorporated into brochures and other collateral for vehicles that are even just equipped with a handful of ‘assist’ functions such as for parking and lane discipline8. The new Passat will be the first model from VW to feature a new IQ.DRIVE system called ‘Travel Assist’, which is admittedly just a combined name for the existing lane-keeping and active cruise control systems, but the significant step forward is that, in markets where such Level 2 functionality can be legally used, the car will be able to control its own steering and moderation at speeds of up to 130mph rather than the slow-moving traffic jam situations such technology is currently restricted to9.
The new Passat will also be the first VW to incorporate a capacitive steering wheel, primarily for ensuring that the driver’s hands always remain in situ while Travel Assist is active, but it’s clear that OEMs are endeavouring to provide as many alternatives to traditional button-pressing and dial-rotating as possible, so we expect touch-sensitive steering wheels to eventually open up expanded operability. Emergency Steering Assist will also be offered, although companies like Ford already offer the same, such as for the new Focus. It’s exciting to see technology from the marque’s range-topping Touareg trickling down to the new Passat, though, a highlight including IQ.LIGHT LED matrix headlights10 that reduce glare on wet, dark roads by incorporating a poor weather light, while additionally using cameras to automatically control the beam and to proactively illuminate bends by using sat nav data.
Completing the new Passat’s arsenal of innovative technology, a SIM card will be fitted as standard as part of VW’s Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB3) system, while the permanently-online and connected car will allow unlocking and starting using the driver’s smartphone as a key, and will incorporate ‘Hello Volkswagen’ natural human voice control rather like Mercedes’ Me/MBUX.
Nissan’s Invisible to Visible technology
Trak Global Group’s solutions such as our Carrot Insurance brand for young and newly-qualified drivers have always encouraged safe and efficient driving techniques but it’s fair to say that human skill has become increasingly augmented by technology, and Nissan is certainly working on remarkable technology with ‘anticipation’ at the heart11. The Japanese car-maker’s Intelligent Mobility division has created what it calls Invisible-to-Visible (I2V) technology that could feature in its future cars, whereby internal and external sensors continuously gather information that is then combined with real-time cloud data to effectively display a 360-degree virtual world on a 3D head-up display or similar.
Nissan’s trio of Omni-Sensing, Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) and ProPILOT semiautonomous technologies gather information and analyse the road environment in order to display vehicles, pedestrians and other objects on the screen along with data on their trajectories and speeds, for example, effectively enabling the driver to see through buildings ahead and anticipate objects around corners before they appear. The merging of real and virtual worlds in Nissan’s connected cars of the near future will be enhanced by friendly avatars providing guidance and information, and it will even be possible for stored contacts to appear on the display in 3D, which admittedly sounds like something from a sci-fi film, and for sunny images to be projected on rainy days. Away from the perhaps superfluous aspects, the safety benefits of Nissan’s R&D are to be welcomed.
Quieter journeys thanks to Bose
Some countries’ road surfaces are lamentable, with many sections of the UK’s very much included, which can make journeys even in the most luxurious and comfortable cars quite unpleasant at times. Bose has developed a remedy, which it expects to see incorporated into certain production cars by as soon as 2021. Based on the company’s existing QuietComfort noise-cancelling technology for headphones, the new ‘Road Noise Control’ (RNC) system will be combined with its other current vehicular applications called Engine Harmonic Cancellation and Engine Harmonic Enhancement, to comprehensively and actively manage all sounds relating to a car.
RNC works using signal-processing software, microphones and accelerometers, the latter continuously detecting vibrations which are then cancelled by a comparable acoustic signal outputted by the car’s speakers. Microphones placed strategically around the cabin aid the system to dynamically modulate the volume of the noise-cancelling signals to ensure that each journey is as quiet as possible, which will become ever more important in electric vehicles for which road, tyre, wind and other external intrusions can be the main issue in the absence of engine noise. Bose’s technology will also enable relevant OEMs to reduce cars’ weight after negating the need to rely on substantial sound-proofing material, thereby making them more agile and fuel-efficient.
As car manufacturers and technology companies refine and conceptualise all manner of systems, the automotive space is as tantalising as ever and the systems that will hopefully make the cars of the near future even safer are especially encouraging.
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