There have been three main focuses for manufacturers over the past decade; driver safety, environmentally friendly driving, and the driver comfort. Motorists are already benefiting from recent tech innovations, such as cruise-control and rear-view parking sensors, but what else can we expect to see in the near future and are we getting any closer to seeing self-driving vehicles in the mainstream industry?
JLR’s weather adaptation system
Weather adaptation systems are a relatively new feature in the automotive industry. The system allows cars to autonomously adapt to weather changes and situations to make adjustments to drivetrain, suspension, traction control and climate control for optimum efficient driving.
Jaguar Land Rover recently announced that their new vehicles will be equipped with these systems and we are already seeing its use in the Land Rover Discovery Sport Hse. The system is said to be able to connect to present and future weather data via telematics and GPS to sensibly adapt both inside the cabin and around the exterior. One feature suggests that the system will automatically close your vehicle windows if it senses that rain is forecast. Onboard rain- and terrain-sensing mechanisms will be used to control the temperature, pressure and humidity inside the cabin, whilst interior and exterior lighting will be altered depending on the circumstances.
We can expect to see widespread use of weather adaptation systems in 2020, when it makes its debut alongside JLR’s autonomous vehicles and all-electric models.
Driver Safety and Autonomous Technology
Autonomous technology has been a key focus in the automotive industry for several years now. Most manufacturers now offer self-driving technology as part of their latest models – with most used to improve road safety.
Lane departure warning system
Lane departure warning systems are designed to keep us safer on the roads. These systems keep you within your lane when driving on the motorway. When motorway driving, it’s vital that you stay firmly in your lane, unless you are overtaking. This system alerts you with a vibration on the steering wheel if your vehicle is unintentionally edging out of its lane – and in circumstances when the vehicle thinks you are reacting too slow, the vehicle will take control and provide steering torque to divert you back into the safe space on your lane. This is a safety feature to prevent drivers from veering out of their lane on motorways and dual carriageways where drivers around them are driving at high speeds.
Blind spot information system
Blind Spot Information Systems (or BLIS) are designed to keep you aware of other vehicles in your blind spot when you are changing lanes. When a vehicle enters your blind spot zone, the BLIS system will alert you. The detection area is on both sides of your vehicle, extending rearward from the exterior mirrors to approximately 10 feet (3 meters) beyond the bumper. The system alerts you via a small light on your side wing mirrors – when there is a vehicle in your blind spot zone, the light will illuminate. When your blind spot zone is clear, the light will switch off.
Intelligent speed assist
This handy feature alerts drivers when they have gone over the speed limit. By using GPS, the system is able to detect the vehicle location and reference this with a digital road map that is programmed with speed limit information for each road. The system can be used as an active speed limiter whereby it can take control of the vehicle and reduce the speed when travelling above the speed limit. It does this by reducing the throttle signal. Additionally, the system is also fitted with a speed limiting function that increases the pressure on the accelerator when you exceed the speed limit, so that it is harder to accelerate and break the speed limit.
The newest Nissan Leaf model features an innovative eco-pedal. The electric automobile not only has double the mileage range of its previous model equivalents, but the one-pedal driving system allows for the accelerator pedal to be transformed into a multifunctioning e-pedal at a touch. The e-pedal functions as a start, stop, accelerate and breaking pedal when activated. Suitable for 90% of urban driving, the system means that the car will slow to a halt by itself with the ability to hold itself on an incline without the need of the brake pedal.
This new system offers even more environmental benefits than previous models in the range. Nicknamed the ECO-pedal system, the pedal controls the speed of acceleration to prevent revving up the engine. The level of fuel-efficient driving is displayed through a colour and flashing Eco-P lamp. According to Nissan, studies have proven that effective eco-driving with the ECO-pedal can contribute to an improved fuel efficiency by 5-10%.
EV Charging Technology
EV manufacturers have been working on developing ultra-quick charging EV batteries which can be taken to a rapid charge point and charged fully in 30 minutes. Researchers claim they could have developed an ‘instantly rechargeable’ method that recharges an electric battery in the same time as it would take to fill a gas tank – a solution to the biggest headache of electric vehicles. This would revolutionise the EV industry, as battery life and its charge has been the biggest challenge for the industry.
EV technology is likely to make rapid progress over the next five to ten years. According to the National Grid, peak demand for electricity could increase by 50%, if and when the nation switches to electric vehicles – which could be sooner than we think now that a new pan-European EV charging network has been announced too. IONITY, set up by the BMW Group, Daimler, Ford, and the VW Group with Audi and Porsche, launched the network early November 2017, and plans to work on 20 ultra-rapid charging points has already begun as they begin their EV charger installation plan to target for 400 points across Europe by 2020.