Gadgets for car of the future at Frankfurt show
15 September 2005, FRANKFURT - Semi-robotic cars that largely control themselves on long highway drives used to be the stuff of "tomorrow's world" newspaper columns, but most of the gadgets already exist today.
15 September 2005
FRANKFURT - Semi-robotic cars that largely control themselves on long highway drives used to be the stuff of "tomorrow's world" newspaper columns, but most of the gadgets already exist today.
At the Frankfurt Car Show this week, the buzzword is 'integration': Valeo for example is showing a suite of safety items that are all hooked up into a system code-named V360.
Valeo's system not only includes a device to regulate a safe distance from the car in front, assist in parking and lane-guidance and give warnings from a driver's 'blind spot' but also an infra-red night-vision system and automatic headlight dipping.
"We are spinning a safety cocoon around the automobile," said Martin Haub, Valeo's research manager, in the suppliers' hall at the fair. Also on display at Valeo's and other stands: headlights that are entirely made up of light-emitting diodes.
The LED is so efficient that it gives off no heat, yet is more compact than a bulb lamp and remains good for the lifetime of a car.
TRW of the United States, which supplies the safety system for DaimlerChrysler's S-class Mercedes limousines, is not to be outdone: its integration concept includes smart brakes that operate to prevent crashes using data provided by a car's radar.
The system even tightens up the seat belts just before a possible impact. The vehicle's electronic brain constantly adjusts the brakes, airbags and seat belts in expectation of what may happen in the next second.
The 'smart car' that keeps its driver out of trouble is thus closer than we think.
Also in the pipeline are computers that save fuel, bringing the promise that today's petrol and diesel engines can cut consumption and perhaps survive the challenge from fuel-cell engines.
Thierry Morin, chief executive of Valeo, said a combination of the new hybrid engines, which back up the engine with an electric motor, and electronic control of engine valves could achieve savings of 40 per cent.
The electronics replace the camshaft which controls the valves in most of today's cars.
Morin said he did not expect engines without camshafts to be on the market before 2008, since the whole 'architecture' of the engine would have to be revised at the same time.
"Thanks to improved efficiency, the internal combustion engine has years of life left in it," Morin forecast.
Another Valeo technology on show in Frankfurt is code-named StARS and saves fuel by automatically switching engines off while cars wait at traffic lights. That alone can reduce fuel consumption by 10 to 15 per cent in town-cycle driving tests, yet the cost is low.
Installing the system would cost only one fifth of what it takes to put a complete hybrid power train into a car for a fuel saving of up to 25 per cent.
Subject: German news