Electronic development of cars’ “brains”.
Today range and outlook of devices and systems for driving aid and entertainment.
I remember when I was a child that my father was interested in buying a new car. In the analysis and comparisons between different potential cars he had some valued topics to be taken into consideration. Some of them were:
- Engine size
- Power, Torque and Max Speed
- Carburettor or Injection fuel supply
- Number of valves per cylinder
- Front or rear traction
- Kind of suspension system
It means all of them were purely mechanic and related to the performances and technical equipment of the car. They were important to choose a car. Moreover probably people had deeper knowledge and appreciated them a lot. It was like to have the mechanics of the car on the centre of the choice.
Also the long conversations between young friends in 80s and early 90s were about cars performances. We had to understand if our car was more powerful or had more torque or even if we had a good time from 0 to 100 Km/h.
It seems we are speaking about another historical age.
Today everything is different. It’s not to say that performances or technical contents of a car are not important anymore, but the main features are now electronics and digital functions.
If we pay attention, on promotional brochures of some new cars some characteristics are not anymore mentioned like the engine size.
There is a so wide offer of electronic systems and functions on today cars that their list is under continuous evolution. Time is going ahead very quickly today and we have to take advantages from the benefits of new technical solutions. Today we cannot think to a car without some minimum electronic systems like:
- ABS brakes
- Air conditioning
- ASR system
- ESP system
These are minimum requirements that now became implicit.
Some of them are today even mandatory accordingly to international laws, like ABS, ESP and Airbags.
We try here to provide an overview of what is the status of the art already implemented on cars and what is ready for an immediate future in terms of electronic systems on board.
Cars are today fully connected with multimedia devices like smartphones or tablets via Bluetooth. In few seconds you can connect your phone to the car having immediately all the phone functions on the dashboard screen: phone calls, SMS writing and reading, contacts list, music playing, streaming. The last new phone function is the mirroring. It allows you to have the same phone screen on the dashboard screen where you can use all the apps you have on your smartphone.
The navigation system today has so many integrated functions that it’s now a real driving aid. There are towns and landscapes views in 3D that give the feeling to have the real world around you on the screen. Integration with data network are available through GSM or Radio. They provide in real time traffic situation and they can suggest route adjustment accordingly.
In addition today the GPS systems have uploaded a very large list of addresses of Points of Interest that allow the driver to set the destination without knowing the exact address.
Relating to safety systems the panorama is absolutely fascinating. Some years ago only on top class cars, now also medium cars can be equipped with anti-collision radars, able to detect an obstacle in front of the car and to brake accordingly. They are really helpful both at low and high speed. At low speed they can stop the car to avoid collisions. At high speed they are able to keep automatically the safety distance from cars in front.
Front glass can be equipped with a de-fogging system. A very thin invisible wire net is inside the glass and can warm it to de-fog.
The risk related to suddenly falling in sleep are now mitigated by specific sensors that continuously monitor your eyes and are able to detect if you level of attention is decreasing. In this case they alert with alarms and pictures on the screen.
For drivers’ and passengers’comfort there are no limits to the systems you can equip your car with:
- Electric seats regulations and memories
- Air conditioning system divided into up to four areas
- Automatic air conditioning system remote controlled to prepare the car cool or warm before entering in
- Seats with heating and cooling
- Seats with back massage functions
- Multimedia and video players for passengers
- Automatic rear door opening and closing
Automatic parking systems are today equipping also small cars and are some of the systems promoted the most in the spots. They can easily detect the free space for parking along a road, then take the control of the car and compete the parking operation automatically controlling gas and brakes pedals and steering.
Looking at a not so far future, car makers and systems developers, are going to offer new and new electronic systems. The trend is to increase the integration of the car with communication systems and with special network in the towns.
Cars with autonomous drive are really on the edge between development and large production steps. Some first systems are already available on top class cars but still with limited functions. The supervision of the driver and his controls are still required. Autonomous drive is working mainly on large roads where the “brain” of the car can keep the car inside a lane, adjust the speed accordingly with the traffic and also perform an overtaking in safety.
Tomorrow the autonomous drive will develop furthermore and cars will be connected to town area networks. Applications are a lot. One of the most attractive is the possibility to reach a location (like an airport) and then leave the car going away alone reaching a delocalized parking. Parkings could be done as big vertical silos with a huge space saving because the spaces to open the doors will be not needed anymore. The car reaches the parking silos that informs the car about where free parking spaces are located. The car reaches the free space parking autonomously and send an SMS to the owner informing about the parking space coordinates. It’s just for the owner to know where is his car. When the car will be needed again, the owner will send an SMS to the car that will leave the parking silos reaching a position in an dedicated area (e.g. in front of the airport exit) waiting for the driver.
The connected and integrated future is really close and new possibilities are a lot.
For sure today and in incoming years people will discuss about cars basing not on engine size or speed but on how safe and relaxing are them in reaching a location autonomously while the driver is having a drink inside…