The automotive industry has been seeing incredible innovations coming up from both startups and well-entrenched transport vehicle manufacturers more so in the last few decades than ever before.
Vehicular Communication Systems
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), an advanced application, provides innovative solutions to modes to transport and enables the transport network to be more efficient. Advanced Vehicular Communication Systems is one such solution which has been developed under the Intelligent Transport Systems. Vehicular communication systems have the principal responsibility of reducing traffic collisions while improving safety on the roads and in spaces with reduced visibility like parking lots. It works as a connecting network between the modes of transport and roadside/wall units which communicate and share information using dedicated short-range devices. One of the prime examples of this technology in action is Intelligent Intersections. The approaching vehicles provide and receive vital information from the intersection including drivers, riders and pedestrians. Thus, with the vehicles being pre-advised, this safety feature is able to prevent and reduce accidents at intersections.
Having accurate information fast is critical to being able to inform and enable vehicles to “see” their way forward (or backward). This is enabled by sensors – cameras and radar. While current radar technology is largely ultrasonic and lang-range, the future of autonomous vehicles will be seen in the developments in Lidar – Laser Radar. Currently restricted to high end models, efforts are on where the cost is rapidly falling and the devices are being miniaturized – which makes it more of a reality, sooner rather than later, to be found in all modes of transport.
Speaking of dropping costs, the surge in options related to alternative fuel vehicles is impressive as it is focussed on fuel efficiency and regenerative energy. That said, emissions are a key area of concern even with regards to vehicles long before they hit the road.
Porsche has developed a proprietary methanol-to-gasoline process that is a synthetic e-fuel, which, it claims, is just as emissions-free (well-to-wheel) as an electric vehicle (manufacture and use). According to remarks by Frank Walliser, vice president of Porsche motorsport and GT cars, “Synthetic fuel is cleaner and there is no byproduct and when we start full production we expect a CO2 reduction of 85 percent”. Electric Mobility remains the highest priority with Porsche, however and E-Fuels are considered a complement to electrification, not competition.
Solid State Batteries
Decarbonization of the automotive sector has also led to the research in innovative battery materials. Introduced by Toyota, Solid State Batteries (SSB) offer a trip of around 500 km on a single charge and a full recharge from zero within 10 minutes. SSBs employing solid electrolytes which offer higher energy density, increased safety and wide operating temperatures will prove to be game-changing innovation in the battery materials segment.
Hardware safety innovations like those brought in by SSBs are also supported by information technology solutions like Transparent Hoods – a visual surround system which has four satellite cameras and a control unit. The driver can now even see the area under the hood, giving a more accurate picture of terrain and obstacles – reconstructed and displayed to the driver.
The advent of publicly available & cost efficient technology as well as wireless networking, have driven interactions between the various shareholders in the automotive industry – manufacturers, suppliers, drivers, vehicle occupants, the government authorities and the pedestrians – to achieve optimal comfort, safety, efficiency and reduction of costs. There are indeed better things ahead than we ever had before.
By Lennold D’Almeida