With cars becoming more technically advanced, it’s not just the standard professions that are called on to work on our vehicles. Electronics and related technology are a huge automotive development area, and some companies operating in other arenas – such as consumer electronics – are entering automotive development.
Similarly, specialist startups are focusing on specifics of car tech and are responsible for several innovations that can greatly enhance our driving experience.
Here are five examples.
- Self-driving technology (Cruise Automotive)
Cruise Automotive can install an autopilot system to a car for around £6,000. It’s not quite the full self-driving solution that Google is at the forefront of, but neither is it the ‘inch by inch’ approach currently in the marketplace.
Radars and cameras sit in a sensor pod on the roof and transmit data to a small computer in the boot which in turn controls actuators under pedals and in the steering wheel.
- GPS based diagnostics, navigation and driving (Zubie)
By connecting your car to the Internet, this app provides a whole raft of motoring-related functions. Items include engine diagnostics, trip tracking and navigation, monitoring driving habits for safety and information, accessing help easily such as roadside assistance and creating a mobile Wi-Fi environment in the car.
It’s a whole ‘car communication’ system all on your phone.
- Smart screen display (Navdy)
Another piece of tech working in conjunction with a smartphone, this uses a small pod mounted on the dashboard to display information on the windscreen glass. It’s similar to existing heads up displays, and the driver doesn’t have to glance away from the road to their phone screen.
- Electric cars (Tesla)
Not one single piece of car tech, but this Californian-based firm is at the vanguard of the rush to produce an electric car with its Model S. Tesla started up by developing an electric car with an impressive range of more than 200 miles per battery charge.
Their goal was to fully commercialize electric cars; the first step was the Tesla Roadster between 2008 and 2012 and followed by the Model S. The next phase is the introduction of other mainstream models such as a SUV.
Tesla’s success in developing electric power technology shows how a small, new manufacturer can compete with the multi-nationals in bringing a new technology to the market. While the market is new, opportunities exist and Tesla’s technology is a good example of this.
- Preventing drink driving (Sober Steering)
Breathalyser units have been widely available for personal use for some while, but this remarkable innovation from Sober Steering detects through your physical contact with the steering wheel if you’ve had too much to drink.
Sounding like something from a science fiction film, biosensors installed in the steering wheel detect gases containing alcohol given off through the skin. The car is immobilised for a short while to give someone else a chance to take over behind the wheel.
For fleet management purposes, it will link to dispatch centres to inform them a vehicle cannot be driven because the driver has too much alcohol in their bloodstream.
What will they think of next?
Many of the above examples are related to technology already in existence. For example, the drink-drive prevention system is related to sensor technology that detects when drivers may be tired behind the wheel, but it just shows how niche products and systems can be developed by smaller concerns.
All of these things are fresh, but all have the capacity to become mainstream quickly. It’s not hard to imagine that the process of learning to drive could soon include the need to master much of these pieces of technology, alongside steps to memorise the rules of the road when taking on the theory test. After all, a trial involving sat nav systems is already underway.
There’s no doubt that driving is changing but the importance of it isn’t. Our reliance on our vehicles and our love of technology are creating the perfect environment for advancements in this field and that’s something that has been fully embraced by start-ups.