From smart lights lightning the way, to facial recognition systems avoiding drivers falling asleep at the wheel, smart cars will reshape the auto industry.
The UK government has this week put forward £20 million of funding into the country’s smart car revolution.
CBR sums up five key technologies that every smart vehicle will have built-in in the future.
1. Smart lights
The use of smarter lightning systems in cars will help prevent accidents in darker driving conditions, according to manufacturers.
Ford is currently developing a new technology in this space, to which it calls "Spot Lightning". The solution uses a front-mounted infrared camera that works together with GPS data to light the way through hard-to-see routes.
The lights learn the driver’s regular trips, and adjust the lightning automatically as the car drives down the road.
Mercedes is another auto manufacturer with smart light solutions already in the consumer market. Drivers using the Mercedes CL550 Premium Package 2, have a smart infrared camera built in the front of the car that transmits real time images into a screen in the instrument cluster. Drivers are then able to see obstacles and increase light intensity if needed.
Giving intelligence to cars and roads to communicate in real time has led Nokia to invest $100 million in the development of smart car technology.
In May 2014, the company said it had 6,000 employees working on mapping solutions for vehicles. HERE, a Nokia business currently on sale, and Mercedes have already built a 3D digital map of the route that the first Benz Patent-Motorwagen took 125 years ago from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany.
The solution offers the same information normal maps do, but it also gives the number and direction of lanes, traffic signs along the route and exact coordinates of traffic lights.
TomTom and Bosch have also come together to develop technology that will give drivers real-time mapping solutions. The venture is already rolling out automated vehicles in Germany that receive up to the minute information on traffic conditions, speed cameras and other road data.
3. Autonomous driving
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established five different levels of vehicle automation.
The documentation goes from Level 0, in which the driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls, to Level 4, where the vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.
Driverless cars are a big adventure for Google that is currently testing vehicles in California. The company expects to make the first Lexus driverless car range available by 2020.
Volvo is also rolling out its driverless car solutions in Sweden with the "Drive Me" project. The company aims to ensure people automated cars are as safe as today’s vehicles.
Last year, Swiss auto think tank Rinspeed unveiled the XchangE car. The solution takes advantage of the car driving on its own to transform the interior of the vehicle into an office on wheels.
In the model, front seats can be turned around to face back seats and ease meetings. With its own wireless 4G connection, the car also boosts several touchscreens throughout.
4. V2V communication
Vehicle to vehicle (V2V) or vehicular communication systems are wireless systems built in the vehicles that obtain real time data from other cars and the environment surrounding them.
The communication technology for cooperative ITS and Car-2-Car Communication is derived from the standard IEEE 802.11, according to the Car 2 Car Communication Consortium.
Cadillac has been one of the early adopters of the "intelligent and connected" V2V movement and has announced the first smart fleet for 2017.
An all-new 2017 vehicle will have advanced driver assistance technology called "Super Cruise" and the 2017 Cadillac CTS will be enabled with V2V communication technology.
General Motors, the company behind the "Super Cruise" technology used by Cadillac, said that V2V communication technology could mitigate many traffic collisions and improve traffic congestion by sending and receiving basic safety information such as location, speed and direction of travel between vehicles that are approaching each other.
5. Facial recognition
UK Government statistics suggest that 20% of accidents on major roads are caused by lack of sleep, with 40% of these incidents involving commercial vehicles.
Recent technology developed by ARM will gear up cars with facial recognition cameras in the cockpit to ensure drivers keep their eyes on the road.
The system will use a camera installed in the rear-view mirror of the vehicle to read drivers’ facial expressions.
It will constantly monitor users’ faces and in the case of distraction, or if drivers fall asleep, the car will wake them up via an alarm, a shaking steering wheel or by making the seat vibrate.