Technology just around the next corner

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Here’s what is in store for the motorists in the next decade.  These examples are not “concepts”, but the technology is here now.  For many OEM’s, the integration of the new technologies is the only item slowing its adoption.  That and the price, of course.  In the competitive marketplace of today, the base cost is always a dilemma.  The answer, however, is to make all the new technological applications delete options.  And since the new car buyer is not really aware of what is coming, this makes it easier for the automaker.

One group at the forefront of the new technology, and its application to the vehicles of today is the Continental Corporation in Germany, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of safety, interior and powertrain innovation.

If your car is equipped with a form of emergency brake assist, it already knows when it is too late for late braking.  The technology is simple.  It is easily programmed into the vehicle for it to appreciate how much traction it has, as well as how many meters it is going to take to brake in time to avoid an accident.  However, if you are still too fast, further braking is too late.  But this is where Emergency Steer Assist (ESA) comes in.

In this mode, the system does not take over and steer for you.  Designed to compliment emergency braking systems, ESA works with your electric steering rack to vary the torque by direction, thus very convincingly “suggesting” the proper steering wheel motion.  Suppose you need to swerve left – the torque in the clockwise motion is greatly increased (resistance), but it is very easy to turn the wheel counterclockwise.  Similarly, during the maneuver recovery phase (you may know this as a tank slapper), the inverse is true, the steering working in tandem with ESC (electronic stability control, mandatory on all cars in Europe in 2011) to control the after effects of the swerve.

Another application is the Active Force Feedback Pedal.

The more information being relayed to the driver, the more confusing things can be.  Continental’s philosophy is the right one: instead of bombarding the driver with signals on an already crowded cluster or creating ever more beeping noises, they’ve turned to haptic feedback systems.  Ones that respond to your inputs physically to give information directly to your muscles.

The force-feedback pedal is pretty self-explanatory: The foot pressure can be varied instantly, from super-stiff to feather-light and, in addition, the pedal can pulse back on your foot.  Think of the potential uses: In today’s increasingly eco-friendly cars, the pedal pressure could become stiff when you’re driving like a hooligan.  It could pulse twice quickly for an upshift or downshift, and it could even assess traffic conditions ahead to discourage unnecessary acceleration.  In the near future, your car will pick up an emergency stop warning from the car ahead – kilometres ahead – and can alert you to the forthcoming danger with the pedal.

The future sees the automakers bringing apps to your dashboard.  Continental showed its AutoLinQwith partners such as Navteq, Navigon, Shazam, Pandora and more lined up to bring the perks of your smartphone to your car.

Continental’s system is Android-based, which means that developers will be free to create whatever applications they want.  Naturally they’ll need approval by Continental.  AutoLinQ is able to read things such as email or rss feeds aloud, in an attempt to reduce distraction.  The company is working on text-dictation software, too, so the entire system will be zero- or one-click – your eyes will not need to leave the road.  The initial connectivity is with Deutsche Telekom, but count on a U.S. deal before the system is released.  The cell provider will offer a package price, not unlike what you get with an iPad now, until wireless infrastructure becomes pervasive enough to be a viable option (that is, both roadway-mounted and ad-hoc car-to-car communication).