Satellite navigation, integrated hands-free telephones, electronic parking aids and even on-board email systems are now starting to become commonplace in today’s motor vehicles.
But researchers claim this is just the beginning of a new high-tech automotive revolution which will help to reduce accidents, ease congestion, cut journey times and open up a new generation of broadband communication services for motorists.
Over the next three years, a new British initiative, part of the Government-funded, Foresight Vehicle programme, aims to develop and demonstrate a multi-purpose system which will turn many of the potential benefits of this ‘new wave’ technology into low-cost reality for new car buyers.
The research could lead to radar-based collision avoidance and road recognition systems becoming standard on every new car within a decade and advanced short-range sensors to improve pedestrian protection.
Eventually broadband systems hope to be linked with radar systems to turn new cars into mobile communication centres. The technology will help to transform road systems into new wire-free highways, allowing both drivers and vehicle occupants, using powerful speech recognition systems, to access a range of services from traffic congestion information, web browsing and video conferencing to online shopping.
The joint industry, education and Government research project, called SLIMSENS, marks a milestone in the successful SMMT-led Foresight Vehicle programme. It is the 100th project to be started under the Government-funded initiative, aimed at maintaining Britain’s position as one of the high technology leaders in automotive design and development.
Nigel Priestley of e2V Technologies, the company leading the Foresight Vehicle project, believes the project has huge potential: "We’re building on pioneering research already undertaken in Britain through the Foresight Vehicle programme but also developing new and innovative technology," he explained.
"The benefits will be felt throughout the British car industry from component suppliers to manufacturers and we anticipate that around 80% of the systems finally produced will go to export markets in Japan, Europe and the USA."
Some of the first 100 programmes have included: new recyclable car chassis, microwave plasma technology to reduce engine exhaust emissions, engines which can automatically switch between two-stroke and 4-stroke combustion to give the benefits of improved performance and economy as well as reduced emissions and using radar to improve road vision by identifying and differentiating between objects and the road.
More than 400 UK companies and universities have been involved in the new initiative. For more information go to www.foresightvehicle.org.uk