The auto of the future may be parked in your driveway before you know it. No, the car of the future won’t be running on water or any other dream fuel – not just yet anyway – (check the AC archive for more info!), but the next generation of cars is certainly aimed at making the physical aspect of driving less reliant on the person in the driver’s seat.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take parking for example. Parking is certainly the least enjoyable aspect of driving – all that twisting and turning and checking the rear-view mirror, but worry no more. Thanks to an electronic sensor unit called “self-park” (which is currently installed on the just-debuted top-of-the-line Toyota Prius) all the driver has to do is pull up to the proposed parking space, press a button and sit back. The car’s in-dash computer and external tele-cameras have already sized up the parking space and transmitted the data to an auto-pilot which takes over the steering, brakes and acceleration.
But that’s just the beginning. German engineers are ready to debut (on the latest Mercedes CL) what they refer to as “artificial eye” technology. Which means the car sees and sizes up a specific situation and then REACTS to it. This new technology is best demonstrated on the Mercedes’ “Pre Safe Brake” system – a sensor unit that can react to an impending collision in a nano-second and hit an emergency brake system quicker than nay human could ever hope to. Shades of the computer HAL on 2001: A Space Odyssey! The Pre Safe Brake makes a standard ABS brake system seem downright primitive.
Meanwhile back in Japan, the concept of the artificial eye is being applied to standard cruise-control technology. No longer just a device to regulate speed. Now (again on the Lexus) sensors and micro-cameras can pick up if the car is straying out of it’s lane or if the auto is veering to close to another car – both symptoms of falling asleep at the wheel. The same sensor unit can detect if SOMEONE else is having the same problem. So if the car next to you is veering to close, your vehicle will automatically slow down or speed to avoid impact or collision. This mega-cruise-control is being debuted on new versions of BMW, Honda and the Lexus with Volvo and Ford not to far off.
No less impressive is an extension of satellite navigation referred to as the virtual map. Once you arrive at a location you take your virtual map (about the size of a palm pilot) out of the glove compartment and keep it with you at all times. If by change you get lost, a micro-camera linked to an orbiting satellite can capture an image of where you are, process the data and feed back to you important info concerning where you want to go, how to get there and other necessities like where you may want to sleep. Plus links to the police if you need them.
All this technology comes at a price. And because every one should have the chance to enjoy these perks, this technology will be a purchase-option when you order your automobile. In the same way you pay extra for a multi-CD changer or satellite navigation system, so too will you have an option to purchase artificial intelligence for your car.
The tip of the iceberg will be a fully operational auto-pilot system which will turn the driver pretty much into a passenger. Prototypes of a new model of the Golf are yielding positive results, which means the future of automotive technology is getting pretty bright indeed.
Now if only I could get better gas mileageÃ¢Â?Â¦then we’d really be on the brink of something special.