Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Cars of the Near Future

The world is increasingly more congested as more and more people join workforces in major cities, many of them having to battle traffic to get to and from work. As such the cars we drive become like a second home; a fact that developers are taking into account as they strive to make cars smaller, safer and more useful.

The Future, According to Ford

Ford is looking forwards and working on in-wheel electric motor technology. The eWheelDrive research car, designed in partnership with Schaeffler, is a rear-wheel hatch with electric motors in each rear wheel. The design is based on the current Ford Fiesta, but its creators believe that the new technology will enable the manufacturer to build smaller cars that will be much easier to park.

The eWheelDrive doesn’t have an engine under the bonnet which, potentially, frees up more space; meaning that a four-seater could become the size of a two-seater in the near future.

What is certainly the best news for women around the world is that the eWheelDrive steering system could enable the little cars to move sideways into parking spaces; removing the difficulty in parallel parking.  Sheryl Connelly, global trends and futuring manager at Ford believes that: “We face challenges that will have to be addressed through time, thought and investment. “It is by starting to look at how we might meet those challenges through research projects such as eWheelDrive, that we ensure that we embrace a future of choice and not a future of constraint.”

Andrew English, writing for The Telegraph, reports that the current Ford Fiesta’s SYNC voice-activated technology is quite possibly the forerunner of the diagnostic dashboard doctor. Far from being a science fiction pipe dream, the system allows drivers to access their smartphone apps using voice control.  English reports that many of these apps are health related. One example is an app that allows asthma sufferers in the US to get the latest pollen counts whilst driving.

Let the Doctor Take Your Pulse

Ford is also working on a driver’s seat that can monitor the electrical pulses of the driver’s heart. The project is still in the early phases of development and designers are experiencing teething problems like the fact that the seat can be fooled by the driver’s position and physical size.

Let Your Cadillac Get You There

Cadillac is working on its new Super Cruise project which is designed to be a semi-automated driving system. Super Drive uses GPS map data, radar ultra sonic censors and cameras in order to pilot a car in certain situations. The creators do point out however that the system is only semi-automated; meaning that drivers do still need to pay attention.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Super Cruise is designed for use in hands off driving situations like on the highway for example. The system will be able to keep the car in its designated lane, control the vehicle’s speed and maintain a following distance.

John Capp, GM’s global safety-electronics boss, told the paper that: “Super Cruise is designed to give the driver the ability of hands-free driving when the system determines it is safe to do so. Before we introduce this capability on a production vehicle we must put the system through rigorous testing and technology refinement”.

Whilst most of this new technology is not available as yet, apart from Ford’s Sync, their developers are confident that they will soon become part and parcel of the design of new vehicles.  It would certainly seem that the Jetson style cars of the future are becoming a more immediate possibility. 

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Pippa Green is a London-based blogger who recently had reason to search for car towing services on Assist247 after hitting a pot hole on a rainy night.