A CAR is often essential for business and it is the main way of getting from A to B for many people. But the choice of makes and models, not to mention countless trim levels, means that automotive manufacturers have to come up with new ideas to make sure car buyers are kept interested through inventive technology. Always on the ball, Business Link has taken a look at what sort of motor gadgetry is here and what is on the horizon.

Look, no hands!

‘Platooning’ may be the new way of travelling on motorways in as little as ten years time – and the EU-financed SARTRE project has carried out the first successful demonstration of its technology at the Volvo Proving Ground in Sweden.

Vehicle platooning is a convoy of vehicles where a professional driver in a lead vehicle drives a line of other vehicles. Each car measures the distance, speed and direction and adjusts to the car in front. All vehicles are totally detached and can leave the procession at any time. But once in the platoon, drivers can relax and do other things while the platoon proceeds towards its long haul destination.

The tests carried out included a lead vehicle and single following car. The steering wheel of the following car moves by itself as the vehicle smoothly follows the lead truck around the country road test track. The driver is able to drink coffee or read a paper, using neither hand nor foot to operate his vehicle.

Platooning is designed to improve a number of things: Firstly road safety, since it rules out the human factor that is the cause of at least 80 percent of the road accidents. Secondly, it saves fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions with up to 20 percent. It is also convenient for the driver because it frees up time for other matters than driving. And since the vehicles will travel in highway speed with only a few meters gap, platooning may also relieve traffic congestion.

The technology development is well underway and can most likely go into production in a few years time. What may take substantially longer are the public acceptance and the legislation where 25 EU governments must pass similar laws.


Talking tyres

Tyres capable of monitoring themselves, road conditions and ‘talking’ with a vehicle’s electronic systems will be available within a couple of years, heralding a revolution in traction technology, according to one of the world’s leading automotive sensor developing companies Schrader Electronics.

The development is a quantum leap forward coming just a few years after tyres relied entirely on their mechanical and physical properties for their contribution to a vehicle’s driving dynamics. Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) introduced the concept of combining electronic sensors within a vehicle’s tyre and have proven to make a significant contribution to safety and fuel efficiency; all cars will be fitted with this technology by law from 2012.  But the arrival of the ‘talking’ tyre will push back the boundaries of technology further.

It centres on a sensor mounted within the inside of the tyre rather than on the valve or wheel rim as with current direct TPMS. It then transmits information wirelessly to receivers mounted in the vehicle’s wheel housing and via the car’s ‘brain’ – the ECU – to the driver. This enables a raft of previously unobtainable data to be relayed to the vehicle’s ABS, ESP and other electronic systems. Information about the tyre’s tread depth, pressure and temperature, along with the shape of its footprint and the amount of load it is under, will be combined with precise readings of road conditions, such as the amount of grip available, to optimise control of the vehicle’s dynamics.

The fully intelligent tyre, to be called the ‘Cyber Tyre’ is expected in the marketplace during 2013.


The Volvo App

Volvo’s new App for smartphones reveals the toxic emissions of the four pollutants which impact local air quality and human health:  carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbons and particulates.

It’s these toxic emissions that give theUKone of the highest recordable asthma rates in the world and which the Environmental Audit Committee predicts will contribute to 50,000 premature deaths each year.

The Volvo App splits toxic emissions into seven bands – Band A includes cars with toxic emissions of between 0-275mg/km, rising to Band G cars with toxic emissions of over 600mg/km.  By using the App, the driver can search for their specific make and model of car and a Best-In-Class button immediately identifies the car with the lowest toxic emissions in that sector.

The App is available for the iPhone and has been built by www.cleangreencars.co.uk using data supplied by the Vehicle Certification Agency (www.vca.gov.uk), the Government agency which publishes the official environmental details of all new cars sold in the UK.  The App is available at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/emissions-equality/id389567557?mt=8 once iTunes is downloaded onto a PC.

This data dispels the myth that small is always beautiful from an emissions perspective. For instance a Volvo V70 2.5 petrol manual estate generates 201mg/km of toxic emissions, compared with the 1.2 litre Fiat 500 Start Stop supermini, which at 425mg/km generates more than twice as many toxic emissions as the Volvo.

Volvo’s App shows the ‘dirtiest’ car on sale generates a hefty 2080mg/km of toxic emissions, with a number of others emitting over 1000mg/km. By contrast the cleanest car in theUKis the Skoda Yeti 1.2 105PS which generates 49mg/km of toxic emissions, followed by the Nissan Qashqai+2 2.0 4×2 (71mg/km) and the Honda Insight 1.3 IMA S/SE (73mg/km).

Volvo product performs generally quite well with the C70 2.4 170PS generating the lowest emissions (121mg/km – Band A) in the small sports sector, while the S40 D5 Geartronic sits in Band A of the Compact Executive Sector at 271mg/km.

“We proved earlier in the year that just because a driver is buying a small car doesn’t necessarily mean they are buying a low tailpipe emission car,” explained Volvo Car UK’s managing director Peter Rask, Regional President for Volvo Car UK, Ireland and Iceland.

“What our Emissions Equality programme aims to do is to help drivers make more informed decisions by giving them access to the total emissions data of their car. Ultimately by using the information on our App, drivers can genuinely help improve local air quality,” he added.

Combating vehicle theft is an ongoing challenge and keeping one step ahead is vital in the war against car crime. In response, TRACKER, the UK leader in stolen vehicle recovery,  has launched TRACKER Locate, a ground breaking system immune to GPS/GSM ‘jamming’ and  the ultimate defence against vehicle theft.

As the most advanced tracking device now on the market, TRACKER Locate incorporates GSM, GPS and VHF technology in one unit.  The result is a robust stolen vehicle recovery solution that has three means of location and two means of communication (which means…).  Fundamentally, TRACKER Locate has intelligent signal jamming detection and has been specifically designed for the stolen vehicle recovery market.

Stephen Doran, managing director, TRACKER, explains: “Jamming remains a persistent threat for car owners, police and the motor industry acrossEurope. It involves thieves blocking a satellite signal to a GPS receiver, or preventing GSM-based communication with a tracking device, making it impossible to trace stolen vehicles. Those who rely only on GPS and GSM solutions to help recover stolen assets are probably unaware of the system’s vulnerability, but in truth there really shouldn’t be a sole reliance on this technology.  In fact, theUKpolice routinely find GPS and GSM jammers in stolen cars.

“The new TRACKER Locate system, which combines VHF with GPS and GSM technology, is far more resilient against this form of attack.  Not only does it offer motorists an effective safeguard against theft, it greatly increases the chances of a stolen vehicle’s recovery and exposing the thief to a potential conviction.”

Mark Hooper, head of the ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service adds: “The challenge we face when tackling vehicle theft is from professional criminals who are using readily available and inexpensive ‘jamming’ units that work acrossEurope.  Innovative solutions like TRACKER Locate will force the thief to tackle the entire vehicle locating technology that may be present, which exposes them to additional risk of detection.”

Operated by all 52 police forces, TRACKER can inform the police of the initial location of the stolen vehicle who can then employ the precision of the VHF technology to track a stolen vehicle to its exact location. Crucially, TRACKER Locate will alert TRACKER if there is any attempt to jam any of the communication channels. In addition, the unit is approved by Thatcham TQA, a verification programme of the quality, design and performance of automotive aftermarket devices.

Doran concludes: “TRACKER Locate is part of our ongoing commitment to successfully supporting the police in their ongoing campaign to stop thieves. Meeting all necessary approvals, including Thatcham TQA, TRACKER Locate has already been well received by the market and we expect this innovative unit to help police in tackling vehicle theft and protect the motorist.”

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