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An influx of new safety and connectivity related technology combined with a shift to greener solutions has led to arguably more innovation within the motor industry than ever before.
What Car? And Thatcham has today released their shortlist for 2020 What Car? Car of the Year Awards in the Technology category. Here’s the top 10 innovations that made the cut…
Found In: Various models including BMW 3 Series Saloon and Touring, BMW 7 Series, 8 Series, X5, X6 and X7.
How Does It Work? BMW vehicles featuring this technology use integrated cameras to record video from multiple points around the body, before saving to view later through the central display, or another device that is USB compatible. In the event of a collision the technology automatically saves all footage from 20 seconds leading up to the collision and 20 seconds after.
Thatcham Says: "Dashcams are very popular with drivers - and insurers - as a means of providing proof in collision situations. This trend-setting tech from BMW enables drivers to record events, helping them to refute bogus claims. In the long term, in-vehicle data will only become more and more important as Automated Driving is ushered in.”
Found In: Kona, Santa Fe, Tucson and Nexo.
How Does It Work? A centre console airbag that expands in the space between the driver and front seat passenger in the event of a side on impact. This innovation reduces the potential for head injuries caused by lateral movements between front seat occupants.
Thatcham Says: “This is a genuine step forward in ‘passive’ safety. Around 20% of fatal and serious injuries are caused not by the collision itself but by the resulting interaction between driver and front passenger. Mounting the airbag in the centre console segregates occupants to offer both thorax and head protection in lateral impacts.”
Found In: Mazda3 and CX-30
How Does It Work? The driver monitoring system - part of I-ACTIVSENSE - uses an infrared camera and LED technology to determine driver drowsiness and fatigue by monitoring the driver’s eye width, blink rate and facial expressions. Attentiveness is also measured by monitoring the driver’s line of sight and eye movements. If a driver is found to be in a potentially dangerous position the monitoring system sounds a warning and can slow the vehicle to address the problem.
Thatcham Says: “This is the first of two pioneering Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) in contention for the award. We believe DMS is the next big thing in safety technology. The Mazda system uses infrared cameras to ensure that drivers are not becoming drowsy and are paying attention to the road. That Mazda is making this emerging technology available on an affordable vehicle is commendable. We will see DMS fitment increasing in the coming years, which is great news for keeping drivers attentive and safe.”
Found In: Various models including the new A-Class
How Does It Work? Using map data vehicles fitted with this technology are slowed down to anticipate bends, roundabouts and junctions and then sped-up to pre-set speeds once navigated. Integration with Active Distance Assist maintains a safe distance from vehicles in front.
Thatcham Says: “This is a step forward in Assisted Driving, and uses mapping and information captured by the camera to automatically slow the vehicle down when approach bends, junctions and roundabouts.”
Found In: Taycan
How Does It Work? A significant development that could change the game when it comes to EVs this battery architecture offers twice the normal operating voltage for an electric vehicle. This brings with it faster charging, cooler running temperatures and better acceleration. Currents are halved, which means only half the cable cross-section is required to achieve the same power output. This innovation reduces transmission loss so higher continuous power can be achieved when driving.
Thatcham Says: “Battery technology has been a barrier to the wide adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs). Porsche’s innovation will improve usability and help to convert more people to the benefits of EVs.”
Found In: Range Rover Evoque
How Does It Work? This innovation is the classic rear view mirror with a twist. The mirror becomes an HD video screen at the push of button, which displays live footage from a rear-facing camera mounted at the top of the vehicle. This gives the driver with an unobstructed 50 degree view, especially useful when tall passengers or boot contents block the back window.
Thatcham Says: “With modern vehicle design increasingly offering restricted visibility to drivers, this tech reinstates the idea of good all-round visibility and will help keep drivers, along with cyclists and pedestrians, safe and secure.”
Found In: Forester e-Boxer
How Does It Work? This technology features a dashboard camera that uses facial recognition software that monitors driver’s eye movements. The system can detect if a driver’s gaze is wandering, or if they are displaying signs of tiredness and sounds a warning alert. In addition, the DMS recognises the faces of different drivers and pre-sets seat position, door-mirror angles and air-con settings. Tall people can relate as this will mean no more getting squashed by the seat when you get in the car after your partner’s used it.
Thatcham Says: “This is the second Driver Monitoring System in our top ten. Subaru has a great track record in safety innovation and once again is setting new standards, using technology for the benefit of its drivers. This helpful system can not only keep you attentive during long journeys but can also identify individual drivers and pre-set comfort systems accordingly, creating a more seamless integration of the driver into the vehicle’s operating environment. The car essentially knows you as an individual and is ready for you when you get in.”
Found In: New Golf
How Does It Work? Any Golf produced from 2020 will communicate with all other Car2X-equipped vehicles within 800 metres, exchanging road data, such as traffic lights to warn drivers of upcoming hazards and provide live traffic updates.
Thatcham Says: “Car to car communication will in future offer significant benefits to enable safer, more efficient driving, reduce congestion and even help with finding that ever-elusive parking space. This new tech introduces a clever crowd-sourced approach to collecting and disseminating traffic and hazard information. Offering it with the Golf 8 will help democratise car-to-car systems and bring them into the mainstream.”
Found In: Arteon
How Does It Work? This technology integrates Adaptive Cruise Control, Side Assist, Lane Assist and Park Assist functions to bring the car to a stop in the event of the driver blacking out. Emergency Assist will make attempts to rouse the driver with brake jolts, steering jerks and by sounding an alarm before taking action.
Thatcham Says: “Emergency Assist offers huge safety benefits for all road users in the event of an incapacitated driver situation. Although this may appear to be a niche function, it is essential technology for the Automated vehicles of the future.”
Found In: XC40 P8 Recharge
How Does It Work? This infotainment system was developed in partnership with Google and based on Android Automotive OS. The system embedded within Volvo’s compact SUV features Google services such as Google Maps, Assistant and Play Store for additional apps, while over-the-air updates keep the technology current.
Thatcham Says: “The big IT and technology companies are making significant inroads into the carmaker space. The integration of familiar operating systems is a signpost to the future of vehicle design. This technology allows your car to be updated ‘Over the Air’, just as your mobile phone does today, with software updates, patches and new features. It is also paving the way for greater functionality in voice control, which when introduced effectively, will reduce driver reliance on potentially distracting touchscreens and controls.”
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