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From smart phones to smart cars

From smart phones to smart cars

Driving is a chore in today’s time-starved society, but in places where public transport doesn’t exist, drive we must.

But what if we didn’t have to?

What if our cars could drive themselves?

Imagine sitting in your car, naming your destination, and your trusty, artificially intelligent transport whisking you there. On the way, you could take a nap, read a book (displayed on a screen in the car, of course) or even enjoy a meal using both hands. For those who grew up in the eighties, it would be like having your own KITT, of Knight Rider fame.

This isn’t any pipedream; technology has now enabled us to make better use of our vehicles than just being driven along. There is something for everyone: the environmentalists, the tech geeks, and even the lazy. Read on to discover the latest innovations in vehicle technology!

Fuel-cell cars

Consumers are no longer blown away by the idea of a battery-operated car, because there is a better alternative out there in the form of fuel-cell-powered vehicles.

A fuel-cell vehicle requires no charging at all. It uses oxygen from the environment and hydrogen (which has to be filled) to run the car. This is an environmentally-friendly option, as the only by-product produced is water, and it saves up on scarce resources such as fuel.

The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are hybrids we see in Pakistan. Recently, Toyota have also put their Mirai Fuel-cell vehicle in limited production for Japan and California, United States. Only a matter of time, then, that we’ll see this tech on our roads.

Adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning

Have you ever seen an accident where a car crashes into the one ahead simply because it didn’t maintain adequate distance? Do you have problems adjusting while driving at night? Are you guilty of driving that way?

Please meet adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning options.

Adaptive cruise control ensures the distance between your car and the one in front is maintained no matter what the speed. The car automatically brakes and increases or decreases the speed depending on the car in front while maintaining a constant distance.

Forward collision warning provides drivers with audio and visual alerts if it detects an imminent accident or collision with any car in front.

Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Toyota and Honda are all providing adaptive cruise control bundled with forward collision warning in cars as add-on packages and as standard options in some.

Driver-assist technology

You are a driver that loathes parallel parking (don’t fret, many of us hate it too!) but is forced to park that way in the city. Or you are a driver who is stuck in a traffic gridlock on a bridge, having to control your brakes, clutch and accelerator all at the same time.

For drivers like us, there is now a driver-assist technology that includes a wide range of features, such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear view cameras for reversing, self-parking and even auto steering and braking. This technology has become standard in cars across the world, so this is also something we should be seeing here pretty soon.

Self -driving cars

You are not a driver, never have been and never want to be either. Like many of us, you too are waiting for the self-driving car, one that will make your role as a chauffeur nearly redundant.

Self-driving cars are in extremely high demand in the US and Germany, with car manufacturing companies spending millions to develop such technology. Tesla, a car manufacturing company in America, has planned to unveil the first self-driving car by the summer of this year.

The promise of such vehicles is that they will revolutionise the way we travel, they will make out roads safer, and there will be a much better utilisation of road space. It will save several people from accidents and in turn save many lives. Now all you need is a nifty soundtrack and you can star in your own TV show!

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 3rd, 2015

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