Archive for October, 2010

Link of the week: MB SL drivers, count your tickets!

Monday, October 25th, 2010

SL 65 AMG Black Series (R230) 2008

The LA Times recently posted an article about the cars most and least likely to be pulled over. The winner? The Mercedes-Benz SL-class is 4.04 times more likely to get you a speeding tickets versus the average. Unsurprisingly, a Buick model was least likely to be ticketed.

Link of the Week: Smart(er) Cars

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Recently reviewing this link from Forbes:
Beyond the KM reflects on the significant technological improvements on the last few years…
No doubt, the features that actively improve safety deserve great acclaim. In that vane, one has to appreciate the achievements of the active cruise control system now available in most high-end luxury sedans. The technology uses radar in the front of the vehicle to throttle and brake the vehicle if it senses that you are too far or too close to the vehicle in front of you.

For several years now Mercedes has also included technology that senses when you are falling asleep behind the wheel of your Benz. If it believe your eyelids are getting heavy, the system will jiggle you in your seat and wake you with loud chirps and indicate to you that you should pull over and catch some “Schlafen”.

A less obvious choice for this category uses a very old technology indeed. BMW and subsidiary company Rolls-Royce have now integrated thermal cameras into their vehicles which assist drivers in recognizing animals or people on the road in front of the vehicle in low-visibility conditions.

Advanced airbags. 25-year-old airbags just exploded in your face, potentially injuring you. Newer technology still protects you, but it does it better because it is sensitive to the severity of the crash, position of the occupant, baby seat-aware, and the size of the passenger as well. Porsche’s Cayenne has this feature. Automakers are also adding more airbags, some vehicles having 8 or more!

Blind-spot assistance is nearly commonplace today as well. Sensors in the car know when another vehicle is in your blind spot, and will notify you with signal in the cabin or on the side-view mirror.

Other smart, but less safety-conscious features include assisted parallel parking (in case your car is too big to easily fit into that spot!). This technology, which involves little or no input from the user to get your car, parked properly without scrapping the paint off your bumper. Available from many automakers now including BMW, Lexus, Ford, and the list goes on…

Self-closing or soft-closing doors and trunks/boots are now de rigueur in many German cars, including the Mercedes and Maybach lineup, the Rolls-Royce lineup, and BMW, just to name a few.

Rear parking cameras. They appear in just about any car these days, from the Toyota Prius to the Lamborghini Gallardo. Never again will you have to worry about backing over you small child. Similarly, it makes parallel parking much easier, especially in larger vehicles.

Flexible fuel cars. This is current and future technology. Some supplier are developing systems to allow cars to run on any of 4 types of fuel, including biofuel, petrol, diesel, and natural gas. Hydrogen will eventually follow.

What’s next?

Inter-car communication. While this has already been attempted by several car makers, we can expect that the future of inter-car communication will include features such as accident avoidance and even vehicle pacing, which would reduce breaking/acceleration, and therefore increase fuel efficiency.

A couple of things, first, Mercedes has already announced they are testing an underbody airbag for their cars. The airbag would deploy in the event of an inevitable crash and by using massive friction, it would slow down the vehicle just a little bit extra – in a crash every millimeter counts!

Autonomous driving vehicles. Audi has been testing a version of the Audi TT, which actually has the ability to run on its own volition and even compete in hill climb racing events. What is next in this area? Well, for one, user acceptance must be achieved. No doubt many people will feel uncomfortable with a computer taking control of their vehicle. Google, too, has been testing a vehicle of this type, which uses a highly computerized Toyota Prius to navigate it around any city street.