Despite all the changes going on in automobiles lately, one thing that's remained pretty consistent in every car I've driven has been the rearview mirror. We can check that one off now though, now that I've taken a test drive in a Nissan Rogue equipped with the new Smart rearview mirror. Due to roll out on the company's cars in North America next year, it's a simple augmentation that combines a traditional mirror with a video screen. Flipping the dimmer switch usually meant for night driving drops you into video camera mode, with a feed streamed directly from a 1.3MP camera mounted in the trunk that drops out the usual blockages from the car's interior for a clear view of what's behind you. Back up cameras are already common -- and highly necessary if you have my (lack of) parallel parking skills -- but is it time to change out something that's worked pretty well for the last century or so?
Saturday, 30 August 2014
Monday, 24 March 2014
Volvo has a history of shaping many safety features we take for granted today, regardless of what brand of car we drive. From the first introduction of the safety cage in 1944 and pioneering laminated windshields that same year, Volvo has always prided itself as a safety trailblazer. Now the Swedish automotive company is further developing its cloud-based infotainment system as part of a safety-focused pilot project.
In conjunction with the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens Vegvesen), Volvo has placed 50 test vehicles on Scandinavian roads, each able to automatically communicate real-time data about road conditions with each other and road administrators.
When one of the test cars detects icy or slippery conditions, road friction information is transmitted via the mobile phone network to Volvo Cars’ database. A warning is then transmitted to nearby vehicles and a slippery road warning on the instrument cluster alerts drivers approaching the hazard to take appropriate action. An alert is also sent to road maintenance authorities to help improve the management of dangerous conditions.
"When the road administrator has access to information from a large number of cars, the data can be used to make winter road maintenance more efficient," says Erik Israelsson, Project Leader Cooperative ITS (Intelligent Transport System) at Volvo Cars. "The information could help to improve road safety further for all road users."
Volvo stresses that no data identifying the vehicle is shared with the road administrator and that the aggregated information is used for the sole purpose of describing the current status of the road network. Volvo plans to make the technology available to consumers within a few years
"The pilot is one of the first practical examples of the way communication between vehicles over the mobile network enables vehicles to 'speak' to each other and with the traffic environment," says Israelsson. "This is only the beginning. In the future we will have increased exchange of vital information between vehicles. There is considerable potential in this area, including safer traffic, a more comfortable drive and an improved traffic flow."
Sunday, 16 March 2014
One of life's small but satisfying pleasures is hitting the sweet spot while driving across town and catching all the green lights. At the moment, having that happen is a matter of luck, but Audi is developing a system that will make never getting caught by a red light an everyday thing as a way of speeding up traffic while improving fuel efficiency and cutting emissions.
Driving through a string of green lights isn't a question of gremlins or clean living, but of timing. Modern traffic signals operate on a system of preset timers. Sometimes these change depending on the time of day or, as is increasingly common, because the traffic system reacts to changes in the pattern of car movements. In other words, the trick to an uninterrupted journey is to figure out how the lights are timed at that moment and drive at the right speed, so you always hit the intersections when it’s green.
The Audi system works by taking the guesswork out of the equation. Using Audi connect and the Multi Media Interface (MMI) system, the car uses the internet to contact the area’s central traffic computer and asks it for the automated traffic light sequences. From these, the system calculates the best speed needed to hit as many green lights as possible. This speed, as well as red, green and amber icons, are displayed to the driver via the Driver Information System (DIS) located in the central instrument cluster. If the car is already at a red light, it provides a countdown until green and overrides the start/stop mechanism to bring the engine online five seconds before it’s time to go.
One bonus of this is that not only will the system speed up traffic, but improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, since the biggest enemy of fuel efficiency is the constant braking and acceleration of city driving. If the cars keep running, that saves fuel and cuts pollution. Audi says that if used consistently, the system could produce a 15 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and save 900 million liters (238 million gal) of petrol annually in Germany alone.
According to Audi, the system, which would be integrated into its Audi connect infotainment system, is production ready and could be fitted to every Audi model currently in production, pending the approval of local legislation.
A prototype of the system was shown off at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in an Audi A6 Saloon, which ran on the city roads, with testing continuing there using 50 sets of traffic lights. In addition, Audi is also testing the system with about 60 sets of traffic lights in Verona, Italy, while 25 cars are being tested in Berlin with 1,000 lights. Audi has yet to release performance figures, but it will be interesting to see how the system operates in the real world.
Wednesday, 12 March 2014
While most of Canada seems content to let the rest of the world worry about designing exotic vehicles, some in Quebec see things slightly differently. Recently the francophone province has brought us such automotive morsels as the Felino cb7 and the MK5 track racer, and now Dubuc SLC’s Tomahawk, a multi-talented 2-seater kit-car, capable of supporting an electric drive train, or one pilfered from a gas-powered car or motorcycle, can be added to the list of boutique Quebecois offerings.
Located in Quebec City, the Dubuc Super Light Car team has put forward a scheme where both buyer and designer participate. Recently shown at the Quebec City International Auto Show, the Tomahawk’s design is premised around a traditional mid-engined architectural model. Similar in design and proportions to a Ferrari 458 or Tesla Roadster, the two-door sports car features some interesting design and engineering goodies including gullwing doors, a T6 aluminum monocoque chassis, polymer body panels, a built-in roll bar and a targa-top. The aluminum chassis, reported to weigh in at a scant 300 lb (136 kg) is capable of fitting a 6’3” individual if needed.
The kit itself provides many key ingredients to build the Tomahawk, but buyers are still on the hook to source some of the kit-car’s remaining items. Things like the engine and transmission from a FWD vehicle needs to be tracked down, as does a C4 Corvette’s front suspension, bearings, wheels and brake components, a wiring harness to help get the electrics functioning, lights, the radiator, fuel tank, seat belts and of course, carpet. A full list of what's in the kit and what you need to bring to the table yourself can be found here.
So while the kit price of US$19,995 may seem appealing, the economic reality is buyers will be required to do some extra financial lifting. Mario Dubuc says the cost of a full build could come in as low as $30,000 providing a suitable donor car is found, and with a build time estimated at a 250 hours, those with the know-how might still find a bargain-priced supercar at the end of this rainbow.
Dubuc SLC is currently taking reserve payments of $5000 for the Tomahawk Kit. There's no word as yet on a time frame for delivery.