Spring 2014

Issue link: http://digital.canadawide.com/i/258790

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toolkit: Brave New World High-tech changes are coming faster than ever in the auto industry On the hOrizOn Driverless technology will come to Canada sooner than we think, says one B.C. scientist. Researchers at UBC have been working on advanced robotic technology at the Advanced Control and Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ACIS) since 2006, under the direction of Dr. Homayoun Najjaran. In 2012, Najjaran led a special session on Unmanned Vehicles and Systems at the International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics in Seoul. "It may seem scary seeing a car passing through an intersection with no one in the driver seat," Najjaran said recently. "This unexpected scene will be the norm of our urbanized societies in less than a decade, according to many car manufacturers racing to be the first to capture the market." Even before this is realized, says Najjaran, existing driver-assistance systems are already making a difference alleviating crashes, a major cause of fatalities in the modern era. — P.S. Car manufacturing has come a long way, and it's continuing to evolve to meet consumer demand for improved safety, sustainability, fuel efficiency and convenience. Here's a look at the tech wizardry already available in today's vehicles, plus some futuristic marvels just down the road. SenSor overload It's here: Driving is safer than ever with collision-avoidance technologies like auto- braking, forward-collision warning, lane- departure prevention, blind-spot detection and adaptive headlights. It all works thanks to laser, radar and camera sensors. It's coming: Google gets all the ink for its experiments with a driverless car. Three U.S. states have legalized their testing on public roads and the mini-fleet has racked up half-a- million accident-free kilometres. Large-scale testing is set for Sweden in 2017, with 100 vehicles taking to the streets sans pilot. (See sidebar on local research.) SCreen tIme It's here: Customizable touchscreens for both driving and entertainment systems now deliver info to you instantly. The challenge, however, remains how to use screen technolo- gies without diverting attention from the road. It's coming: Like the heads-up display in a jet fighter, a transparent panel displays driv- ing info while allowing the driver maximum visibility. The key is Organic Light Emitting Diodes ( OLED), an organic compound on a thin, transparent layer that emits light in response to an electric current. veggIeS In your volvo It's here: Car interiors used to be made from some of the worst stuff on the planet, but the push for greener options has introduced plant-based foam and plastics, and reduced toxic off-gassing. It's coming: Bioplastic is made from renew- able sources like vegetable oils, corn starch, evergreen shrubs and even seaweed. Car manufacturers are experimenting with bio- plastic for super-light, environmentally friendly vehicle interiors. Better BodIeS It's here: Super-light composite body parts use high-strength, low-weight carbon-fibre technology. Reducing vehicle weight trans- lates into higher fuel efficiency. It's coming: Interchangeable carbon-fibre body parts. As improved computer-driven manufacturing drives the cost down, you can customize your ride with varied design offer- ings and colour schemes. — Paul Sinkewicz look ma, no handS It's here: Intelligent parking-assist systems use front and rear sensors to 'see' obstacles and a computer processor to calculate steering angles, allowing the vehicle to parallel-park itself. It's coming: Autonomous parking takes it a step further. You simply stop at your chosen destination and exit the vehicle. The car drives on, searching for an empty parking spot and sending you a message with its location once it's bedded down. the (green) age of eleCtrIC It's here: With longer-lasting battery banks, regenerative braking systems that harness energy, and hybrid gas/electric powertrain systems — the age of electric (and more sustainable driving) is officially here. (Find info and resources on electric vehicles at bcaa.com/evolve) It's coming: Commute to your office and plug your electric car into the power supply. The build- ing and the car 'talk' to one another. When power costs are high, the building draws power from vehicle batteries. When it's nearly time to commute home, it sends power back the other way. 38 W e S t W o r l d >> S p R I n G 2 0 1 4 Ford Motor Company, (top right) Jeff Swensen/Google Inc. google's driverless car autonomous parking p38-39_Toolkit.indd 38 14-01-29 11:15 AM

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