Smart technology moves the world
In the fast-moving world we live in, every piece of electronics in our lives already has a smarter counterpart. Light switches, doorbells, coffee brewers, fridges, washing machines, watches, phones. Cars are no exception to this trend and in the past 10 years they have gotten smarter than their drivers, and in many cases – safer and more economical.
Car enthusiasts the world over have been intently following the news around Elon Musk’s company Tesla in the past years, expecting to hear about more revolutionary inventions each time, that could make their electric, self-driving cars even more autonomous.
The history of smart cars began a little differently than most other smart devices. The first smart features of modern vehicles payed homage to safety mostly and less to convenience, starting with the adoption of seat belts as a standard feature in 1958 and the introduction of airbags in 1971. These are arguably the most impressive features of our four-wheeled horses, even by today’s standards, and those that render car travel safer still.
The cars coming off manufacturers’ production lines today are packed with more technology than many of us realise. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS), Electronic Stability Programmes (ESP), Traction Systems (ASR) – all of these have been considered standard features in most European-made cars since 2012. Navigation on a big flat screen, mirror links and built-in media players are also among the commonly expected and sought out features in modern autos. Manufacturers often reinvent existing technology, improve and repackage it, yet the core technology remains more or less the same over the years. So, what is it that makes our vehicles really smart?
The cost of being smart
When it comes to automobiles, higher budgets equal more features, and better features. Convenience, safety and security are among the features most users can justify splurging on. Sharing a car with your partner can be a bit of pain sometimes – no one enjoys manually adjusting the seat, steering wheel and mirror positions several times a week. You can buy a second car to solve this or buy one that comes with driver memory functionality. All you’d need to do is unlock the car with your own personalised key and your car will take care of adjusting the settings for you by the time you take a seat inside. Ladies who are having to rummage thought their massive handbags to find their car keys each time will appreciate the feature that helps them gain keyless entry and starts their engines remotely.
No more parking problems
If you ever had trouble parking your car in a tight spot, you should probably have a look at cars that feature self-parking functionality. Just press the button, sit back and your smart car will take care of the rest. You can even watch the entire process from a birdeye’s view thanks to the set of cameras capturing your car’s surroundings at 360 degrees.
"Let there be light," and there was light
Bi-xenon headlights have been on the market for a while now and automatic light height adjustments no longer impress anyone. How about the adaptive lights with a corner function, which automatically follow the curve as you swerve? Still not impressed? Perhaps Ford has something that could intrigue you – a spotlight system featuring pedestrian and animal detection. Sounds really fancy, doesn’t it? This system is basically a combination of an infrared camera, powerful LED lights and of course, AI. The camera monitors the distance in front of the car and if AI recognises an object that could be a human or a wild animal, it will focus the LED beams on it at once.
Pedestrian detection and autonomous braking
People get distracted on their daily commute all the time – thinking about work or dinner, talking on the phone (and not always hands-free), doing their makeup and even eating cereal out of a bowl during morning traffic (true story). How often do you see pedestrians crossing the road with headphones in their ears and eyes on their displays, completely oblivious of the fact that they are on the street?
Drivers are only human, though, and may just spot pedestrians too late. The reaction time for spotting danger and hitting the brake is approximately 3 seconds for the average driver, which is not fast enough, and is the main reason engineers came up with the combination of pedestrian detection and autonomous braking technology. A camera placed on your windshield and a radar placed on the bumper monitor your surroundings at all times. When a collision is deemed imminent, the system warns the driver by sounding an alarm and visual signalisation. If the driver doesn’t respond, the vehicle brakes autonomously, preventing many avoidable accidents.
Braking is not the only autonomous function the cars of today possess. You can also enjoy adaptive cruise control and let your car monitor traffic, conveniently keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you, or use a lane assistant to stay in the same lane without needing to use the steering wheel. Modern cars can pretty much drive themselves, although, as shown in some of the latest accidents involving Teslas, we are still years away from safely using AI as our personal chauffeurs.
While you may not yet be able to read the daily paper while your car drives you to the office, you can at least enjoy streaming music from the cloud on your commute. Thanks to internet connections built into smart cars, you can also use online voice-enabled search, browse the net, and get real-time traffic info displayed on the navigation screen. With IoT-enabled devices you can even open your garage door or turn on the AC in your office, all while driving.
Make your old car a bit smarter
There is no doubt that IoT technology makes our cars better, and that doesn’t have to break the bank. You can make your old car smarter by plugging in 3rd party devices into on-board diagnostic ports. These devices provide not only Bluetooth connectivity, but also LTE, GPS and WiFi. To make this tech function properly, you will need to install an Android or an iOS mobile app, through which you can run full diagnostics, tune your engine, check your GPS location on the map, get driving tips to save fuel, and more.
Copywriter: Ina Danova