Electric Vehicles - The gadgets on your (next) car

Besides the many Apps available on your smartphone that work together nicely with an EV, there is also more technology being poured into our cars. What has this to do with the electric vehicle? A lot of the technologies are a lot easier to implement in an electric vehicle than it would have been when applied to a vehicle with a combustion engine. It is much easier for a computer system to control an electric motor than it is to control the exact rotations in an internal combustion engine. Don’t get me wrong, it is possible, but the link between the computer and the electric motor is far easier and therefore more robust to control. Examples of these technologies are adaptive cruise control, park assist and autonomous driving to name a few. These are all aimed at making our drive safer and more comfortable.

20110712-212503.jpg Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control is when a car is in cruise control, but keeps checking the distance to the next car in front of you and if that distance gets too small for whatever reason (the first car braking for example, of slowing down), the adaptive cruise control notices this and adapts your speed to avoid a collision. Where this technology really shines is on long trips at the highway during which you can tire quite easily and where a car that is slowing down in front of you even just a little bit is not percieved as quickly as you’d wish. Also works wonders in situations where you have less visibility, though since it uses radar it won’t work that well to prevent collisions in fog; just drive safely and keep an eye out!

20110712-212749.jpg Park Assist

Park assist has been featured here in comercials of Ford in the Netherlands, a car that parks on its own. The dread of quite a number of drivers and a technology that scans a potential parking space to measure if it is big enough to fit in. If the system measures a spot that is big enough, it can be switched on and like magic, no hands at the wheel, the car parks itself in the targetted spot. The obvious plus is that people who have trouble parking their car can now get their car parked for them. The only downsides I can think of is that you will no longer train your parking skills if you use this and that the system will probably have a safety margin. People who have excellent parking skills can probably squeeze their car in smaller spaces than the system can. On the other hand, you also need to be able to squeeze out again and if you are too close parked to other cars, how much faith are you going to put in the other drivers not to damage your ride?

Autonomous driving really hit the news after the ‘Google Car’ that can drive autonomously on the highway. This is a technology that started catch momentum under the flag of DARPA, where there was a yearly contest in which many universities (and probably some companies as well) entered. The task was simple, have a car move through a mock-up urban area and have it get from one location to another without causing accidents. Simple enough, right? The future for this technology is not crystal clear yet, but for now mostly this technology is implemented in more or less closed systems and not on the public roads. Think of cars that come pick you up in the morning to work, either you drive or the car drives to work and when at the office you get out while the car deals with parking. At the end of the day, you signal the car to come pick you up and the process repeats itself. It would also a great tool to prevent drunk driving; if you went to a party and had a drink too much, just order the car to drive you home.

All in all, there is a lot happening and a lot to be expected still in this field of the automotive market. Cars that prevent collisions while you drive, cars that park them selves and even cars that drive for you if you don’t feel like driving. Autonomous driving cars would also be ideal for the elderly or kids to get around.