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Gismos and Gadgets in the Automotive Industry

Posted: 25th July 2013
Category: General Blog Posts

What's happening in the innovative world of the automotive design industry?

As my biggest customer is in the automotive industry, it makes complete sense that I have an invested interest in cars.

I would guess that the design of the automobile has probably seen the most changes in any one product, with new features, gismos and gadgets being announced continually.

From good old electric windows (introduced by Daimler in 1948), to the now ubiquitous and indispensible sat-nav, we have seen scores of new designs and developments to our increasingly more-reliable friends. Even cars that can parallel park themselves.

I am sure 2013 will be no exception to the endless exciting innovations we can expect to see – and here are a few I’ve heard might happen in the near future:

External airbags ... yes you read it correctly – airbags on the outside of the car! Mercedes Benz and Volvo are among car-makers researching external airbags, which would inflate from outside of the car should it sense a crash to be imminent, whether it be with another car, or a roadside object. It would even inflate if the car came into contact with surface water.

Also designed with safety in mind, and avoidance of crashes, the V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) Communication System is currently being developed. This dynamic system is a wireless exchange of data between nearby vehicles. By exchanging anonymous data regarding speed, location and position it can enable a vehicle to sense upcoming threats and hazards.

We’re a little way off from the long-term vision of this product being fitted in all vehicles on the road (these systems can only be 100% effective in avoiding accidents as a cooperative approach), however it’s very exciting and reassuring to think that this new generation of safety system will eventually assist drivers in preventing 76% of crashes on the road!

As one would expect, many new gadgets and gismos in the automotive market are designed with safety in mind. So it’s not surprising that one new piece of technology that has received some criticism for its possible driver distraction element (voice recognition in cars) has been counteracted by another new technology: the ‘driver state sensor’. This invention could significantly reduce the risk of driver error. Voice recognition in cars has come under some disapproval from some consumer groups, safety bodies and motoring organisations, as research was recently released showing that voice-to-text systems can cause as much mental distraction as talking on a hand-held phone. As new technology improves, voice controls will become much more commonplace in cars, and therefore distractions need to be mitigated. Supplier Delphi Automotive is offering the driver state sensor, with the aim to battle all these distractions. A camera in the instrument cluster watches the driver’s eyes, and if it detects that the driver is becoming distracted, the software will begin to lock out features, such as the phone. Delphi predicts we will see the first cars with the system by 2016.

And whilst on the subject of exciting automotive safety innovations, we mustn’t forget Subaru’s EyeSight Safety system ... which uses a pair of cameras placed over the rearview mirror to alert the driver if they aren’t paying attention! From lane-swaying/weaving, lane departure, pre-collision and brake requirement, the driver will receive an alert from the EyeSight system.

A move forward on the rear and side blind-spot detection systems currently available.

What's next I wonder?

Rachel Richardson, 19th June 2013