With every new car we test, we find it quite mind-blowing discovering how modern technology and electrics have been used to do amazing things in the name of safety, luxury or comfort. Much of new vehicle technology paves the way for less human interaction and leads us towards the future of autonomous driving.
Many vehicles have switched to electric steering which allows the use of active lane keep assist features. This allows a vehicle to ‘self-steer’ so it stays in its intended lane, or they can operate with parking assistant to park the car perfectly every time.
Infrared camera technology enhances night vision and displays hazards on a small screen while cameras and radars monitor distances of nearby vehicles – even if they’re around the corner – or let you know about upcoming roundabouts or intersections, adjusting the car’s speed if necessary. Infotainment screens are becoming larger, smarter and more frequent on vehicles’ dashboards. They allow the driver to see what the car is doing, how they are driving, where they are going – and of course what music is playing.
But many manufacturers are setting the standard for the rest of the industry thanks to some game-changing use of technology.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class uses its adaptive cruise control to change lanes hands-free once the indicator has been flicked on, while the Volkswagen Arteon takes safety to a whole new level, leveraging Emergency Assist to constantly monitor steering, throttle and brake inputs. If it notices the driver has been inactive for too long, the system will try to alert the driver via audio and visual cues, as well as jolting the brakes. Should the driver remain unresponsive, the car will try to bring itself to an emergency stop.
BMW has also upped its game with automatic crash notification. This uses a sophisticated set of algorithms to instantly read crash sensor data and make an informed estimate of how to respond to a crash scenario. Such a calculated and rapid response has the potential to save thousands of lives. The popular European manufacturer has also introduced a smart key remote that displays vehicle status, cabin temperature, fuel level and allows the owner to remote park. Tesla has a similar system that’s accessible using a smartphone app, providing a GPS location, battery charging status and car finder activation. Audi has incorporated a 48-volt sub-electrical system into the SQ7 that allows the use of an electric turbocharger. This supplies the engine with instant boost to minimise turbo lag on take-off. It also has a clever suspension system which uses movement to produce electricity and feed it back into the electrical system.
All this technology is ultimately reliant on a quality battery system, because everything stops if the battery does. This is an area that usually gives warning but can often be forgotten about until too late. The demand on batteries also makes it important to select the right one rated for the vehicle as this will make the voltage level last longer under load.
Of course, our commitment as motorists is to stay focused when driving and avoid distraction.