Self-driving cars have been the talk of the automotive industry in recent times, with some major car-makers now setting dates for the debut of these vehicles in the marketplace. The latest glimpse into this autonomous future comes from Carnegie Mellon University, where researchers have loaded a Cadillac SRX with an array of sensors that allow it to manage highway traffic, congested roadways, and even merging on and off ramps.
The Carnegie Mellon team, led by Raj Rajkumar, outfitted an average-looking 2011 Cadillac SRX with an array of radars, which are subtly hidden within the car. The SRX was chosen because “GM has been a long-term partner and sponsor,” Rajkumar tells Gizmag.
Utilizing automotive-grade sensors and radars, rather that more exotic and expensive devices, helps make the vehicle more manufacturer friendly, as well as cost effective. Though not all of the radars are certified as automotive-grade yet just yet, “they will be soon, and are known to be very reliable,” Rajkumar says. “They are placed all around the vehicle for 360 coverage.”
Like other autonomous cars, the modded SRX’s system controls general driving functions like steering, acceleration, and braking. Using the radar system, this vehicle also senses and avoids roadway hindrances, like pedestrians and cyclists. “Our Cadillac also supports V2V and V2I communications,” Rajkumar explains. This communication allows the SRX to connect with designed traffic lights and other vehicles that are equipped with the technology, making driving adjustments that much less strenuous on the radar system.
The main goal of the CMU research team is to reduce accidents, but catching up on reading during commutes has its perks as well. “The car’s electronics are simply more reliable than people and will protect drivers from their own bad behavior as well as those of others,” says Rajkumar.
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General Motorls will offer consumers the option of wireless charging for mobile devices in some of its automobiles, Bloomberg reported this week. Select GM models will be equipped with Powermat wireless charging surfaces, which will require compatible devices that either have wireless charging capabilities built in or are paired with a wireless charging case. The collaboration was confirmed by Powermat Technologies CEO Ran Poliakine, though GM has so far declined to comment.
“The car is a major part of life for everyone with a smartphone,” Poliakine said in an interview. “And this is taking care of that part of life.”
Powermat’s Duracell chargers are already in place in some Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York Starbucks locations. In declining to comment on the Powermat CEO’s comments, a GM spokesperson did confirm that the automaker is at least working on wireless charging technologies.
“We continue to work with Powermat to bring their technologies to GM products, but for competitive reasons we’re not discussing specifics at this time,” the spokesperson said. “The technology continues to move forward.”
Wireless charging is currently featured in a number of high-end smartphones, but the technology has yet to take off, due in part to competing standards. In addition to Powermat, there is also the Qi wireless power technology, which is featured in a number of mobile devices. Qi’s technology is also built into the 2013 Toyota Avalon.
AT&T Inc. is scoring a win over rival Verizon Wireless as it takes over the contract to supply wireless connections to cars with General Motors’ OnStar service.
Verizon Wireless and its predecessor companies have supplied the network for OnStar since the service launched in the 1990s, but AT&T will take over with the 2015 model year, AT&T and GM said Monday.
The news comes as cellphone companies are jostling to connect non-phone devices to their networks. Now that nearly everyone has a phone, the phone companies have to look elsewhere for growth. Dallas-based AT&T has been particularly aggressive in this area, garnering, for instance, the contract to connect Amazon Kindle e-readers.
AT&T will connect OnStar cars to its new “4G LTE” network, which can supply much higher data speeds than current OnStar connections. That means GM could deliver car software updates wirelessly, instead of making owners take their cars to the shop. It could also enable video streaming for passengers, in-vehicle Wi-Fi “hotspots” and give GM a better view of what’s going on inside a car, and whether it needs maintenance. Owners might even be able to call up views from their car’s cameras, remotely.
“They’re basically smartphones on wheels,” said Glenn Lurie, head of AT&T’s “emerging devices” division.
Verizon has an LTE network that delivers speeds similar to AT&T’s, with wider coverage. Lurie said that by the time AT&T takes over the contract, its LTE network will cover 300 million Americans, or 96 percent of the population. It also has older, slower networks as a backup.
Verizon Wireless said it was looking forward to continuing to provide service to current OnStar customers.
AT&T and GM made the announcement just before the opening of Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest wireless trade show, in Barcelona. The companies didn’t reveal financial terms. The 6 million current OnStar users pay $19 per month or $199 per year, plus per-minute calling fees. Turn-by-turn GPS navigation costs extra, too.
British automotive research firm SBD believes that 100 million cars worldwide will have built-in wireless capabilities by 2015
Technologies being developed to aid in communications between cars may be affected by the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to increase Wi-Fi spectrum.
Bands reserved since 1999 for car-to-car communication may become collateral damage in the FCC’s search for more wireless spectrum, and potentially puts the future of self-driving vehicles at risk.
A letter from automotive trade associations has been sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in protest of the plans, reports Bloomberg. Parallels were drawn with the LightSquared wireless broadband network proposal, which was at first approved by the FCC, before it was discovered that the signals affected GPS equipment. By opening nearby spectrum to other devices, the possibility of crosstalk or interference with the allocated-to-automotive bands could effectively cause an accident to occur.
The systems currently being developed allows cars at short range to communicate automatically, with data such as speeds, changes in direction, and other important details being transferred between the cars, with the ultimate goal of reducing collisions and vehicular accidents. Currently undergoing testing in Ann Arbor Michigan inside 3,000 vehicles, the technology is said by automakers to cost as little as $100 per vehicle to install, both from new and as an after-market option.
The FCC will be voting on the Wi-Fi proposal on February 20th.
Each one of these high-end cars has an unusual and unique tech feature that sets it apart from most of the others on the market, as you’re about to find out…
1. 2013 Volvo S60
Winner of top safety awards, the Volvo S60 is full of cutting edge technology. As you drive, the car displays road signs in the dash to help you identify yields and speed limits. A new queue assist tech for the adaptive cruise control system means that, when the car automatically adjusts for the speed of the car in front of you (now up to 31mph/50kmph on city streets) and brings you to a full stop, the car won’t resume with a sudden jolt automatically if you’re paused for more than three seconds. The S60 is one of the few cars on the road that can detect pedestrians crossing your path and stop the car, too.
2. 2013 Lexus 600hL
The flagship saloon/sedan from Lexus, this high-end car uses a unique temperature control system that coordinates the air-flow controls, seat warmers and cabin temperature. There are infrared sensors that monitor the temperature for all passengers and make subtle adjustments as needed. The LED lighting system glows bright as you approach the car, then dims as you enter the vehicle and start the engine. A driver attention monitoring system knows if you are getting drowsy.
3. 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-450
This much-improved vehicle for 2013 now has an active parking assist feature that takes control of steering when you parallel park. But that’s just the beginning of the new automated steering controls. When you drive around a tight corner, the Mercedes GL-450 will make subtle corrections to the ride to ease you around the corner. If a gust of wind blows onto the road on a mountain pass, a crosswind stabilisation system will also correct steering for you and keep the car straight.
4. 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3
You might think the highest-end BMW would be the company’s flagship luxury saloon/sedan. But this smaller, more affordable hybrid is the one that’s outfitted with the latest tech enhancements. The car can parallel park automatically, dip the headlights from high-beams for approaching cars, and beep at you if you get too close to another car when parking. Those are fairly standard features on a luxury car. But the ActiveHybrid 3 also supports BMW apps such as a new parking spot finder, offers Google Search in the sat nav system, and has a head-up display (HUD) that shows the current posted speed.
5. 2013 Infiniti JX
Another surprise on this list, considering most of the high-tech cars on the road are luxury saloons/sedans, the JX rounds out our list because it has a wholly unique feature. While some cars have a back-up assist that can warn you about an imminent collision, the JX will intervene and stop the car for you. The luxury 4×4/SUV also has typical Infiniti high-tech features, such as a lane departure intervention system that bumps you back into your lane, and an adaptive control system that works even from long-range.
NFC-enabled smartphones have the potential to replace nearly everything else in your pockets, so why not your car keys? Hyundai is working to do just that, with an embedded NFC tag that allows you to open your car, start the engine and link up to the touchscreen with a simple swipe.
Hyundai outfitted its i30 compact hatch (aka the Elantra in the States) with NFC technology in its “Connectivity Concept” recently shown at its European headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. The idea is simple: Nix the key fob and let your smartphone handle it all.
According to the Korean automaker, the driver can swipe their phone across an embedded NFC chip to unlock the car, and once inside, the place the phone in the center console, allowing the car to start, while an inductive charging plate keeps the juice flowing without needing to plug in.
“With this technology, Hyundai is able to harness the all-in-one functionality of existing smartphone technology and integrate it into everyday driving in a seamless fashion,” says Allan Rushforth, senior vice president and COO of Hyundai Motor Europe.
But unlocking and starting the car is only part of a wider connectivity solution for Hyundai.
Because the system can recognize different smartphones, it can customize the in-car experience to suit each driver’s seat, mirror and infotainment settings.
Once the phone is in the console, it links up with the 7-inch touchscreen mounted in the dash, and Hyundai is employing the Car Connectivity Consortium’s MirrorLink standard to automatically import contacts, navigation destinations, streaming audio and apps.
Despite forging dozens of automaker partnerships, MirrorLink hasn’t caught on with many manufacturers yet. That’s mainly due to concerns about driver distraction and how certain apps would be ported to the integrated screen, modifying the user interface to suit a more driver-focused experience. But that’s about to change as MirrorLink begins gaining momentum.
Hyundai and its connectivity partners at Broadcom are working to get this NFC- and MirrorLink-driven technology to market in its next generation of products, with the automaker claiming to have many of these systems in place by 2015.
Apple’s voice assistant developed for iOS products like the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 has many great features and allows users to do things like create messages, make phone calls, create reminders, set alarms, perform searches and all this just by using their voice.
Obviously there is the potential use for Siri in cars as a means to interact with our phone without having to look at it or touch it at all. This feature is also known as “Eyes Free” which was announced at the WWDC keynote and was part of Siri’s update in iOS 6.
GM has announced that they will be the first of nine automakers to incorporate Siri’s Eyes Free feature into its vehicles come 2013. The vehicles that will have this feature first integrated will be: the Chevrolet Spark, the Sonic LTZ and RS.
What the Eyes Free feature does is it integrates a button into automobiles in which drivers simply have to press in order to activate Siri without having to reach for their phone. Once Siri has been launched, users will be able to perform the same tasks that they normally are able to.
The remaining eight partners expected to introduce Eyes Free to their vehicles include BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda.