Most of the buzz surrounding automotive technology the past few years has been about self-driving cars. The fact is, the big automakers are working on plenty of other innovations that might surprise you. Here are 5 exciting technical developments to look for.
Researchers are perfecting smart windshields with built-in sensors that can detect the angle of harsh sunlight relative to the driver’s line of sight. An adaptive electrical matrix within the windshield creates a “dark spot” to filter out UV light and minimize glare when you need it. We also have windshields that can function as digital displays to provide you with trip information. Unfortunately, some companies are pushing for this to include advertising.
DVD players and TVs in the backseat keep your kids occupied during long car trips. But that can get boring, also. Some newer versions are on-board Wi-Fi networks that include touchscreens that are essentially mobile tablets. They can be controlled and monitored by parents from the front seat. Kids can look at not just videos, but GPS and mapping information to monitor trip progress, play games, or access web sites that you’ve approved.
Dozing off while driving is a constant danger on long or late-night trips. Newer vehicles have lane-drift and crash-avoidance systems will sound a warning if they determine you aren’t responding and instantly apply throttle cut-off and braking. Other sensors can also monitor head movements, heart rates, and body temperature in case of medical problems. The goal is making cars safer even when we’re not in control.
Major tire makers are doing their best to satisfy higher expectations. New treads are designed to reduce noise, vibration, and uneven wear. Some are being designed with “cooling fins” that dissipate heat to extend the life of the tire. Self-sealing tires aren’t new, but they’re getting better and safer. Continental boasts that its new tires can accommodate a 5mm puncture at speeds in excess of 155 mph.
Homogeneous Charge Compression engines are the emerging trend in fuel-saving power. While spark plugs are used to ignite fuel during acceleration, once the desired speed is reached the engines automatically switch over to a leaner mixture that saves fuel without significant power loss. This is accomplished by early injection of gasoline that’s compressed with recycled exhaust to provide a consistent, sparkless burn within the cylinder.
While some of these technologies aren’t quite perfected, they are coming. The automotive trend is toward cleaner, more efficient vehicles with more sophisticated computer controls. That may not be what traditionalists want, but the trend isn’t going to change.