Your car is judging you

Here’s how, and why, that’s a good thing

What’s the smartest piece of technology you own? Next to your smartphone, it’s probably the car you drive. Semi-autonomous and driver assist technology in modern vehicles is advancing at a rapid pace. And although it’ll probably still be a few years till most of us use a fully autonomous vehicle every day, Ford is aiming to make one available for ride-sharing and ride-hailing services as early as 2021.

The kind of semi-autonomous and driver assist features already available in modern cars is designed to detect less than ideal driving conditions, and step in to help – before you even realise you need it. Below are five of those features which make your time on the road safer and less stressful. Bear in mind, the specs vary from make to make, and even model to model, so always refer to your owner’s manual for details.

Driver Alert System
The situation: Your car is veering between lane markings.
The judgment: This driver may be distracted or dozing off.
The action: Warns you of your faltering vigilance level.
How it works: The Driver Alert System judges your vigilance level by measuring your car’s position within the lane and the yaw (or rotation) rate of your car. If the vigilance level falls below a certain level, due either to fatigue or distraction, a ‘Rest Now’ warning may be displayed, accompanied by a chime.

Collision Warning Technology
The situation:
You’re in fast-moving traffic, there’s the potential for a collision with the vehicle in front, and you’re not acting to prevent it.
The judgment: This driver needs help to brake in time to prevent a collision.
The action: Warns you to enable faster braking.
How it works: This technology continuously monitors the traffic conditions ahead. When it senses a high risk of collision with the vehicle in front, and that you are not doing anything about it, the system will alert you with audio and visual warnings. Some cars are also equipped with brake support to provide faster braking performance when necessary.

Active Braking Technology
The situation:
You’re driving in heavy traffic or at slower speeds, and don’t step on the brakes quickly enough to deal with situations like a car in front suddenly changing lanes or stopping for a red light.
The judgment: This driver is approaching the vehicle ahead too quickly and the distance is critically reducing.
The action: Autonomously applies the brakes.
How it works: Active braking technologies are designed to trigger the brakes when they sense that the required braking force to avoid a collision is escalating, and you haven’t taken action yet. As an example, Ford’s Active City Stop technology does this by using a sophisticated light- and range-detecting sensor that scans the road ahead 50 times a second when you are driving between 3.6 and 50km per hour.

Electronic Stability Programme
The situation:
You swerve quickly, causing your car to lose traction.
The judgment: This driver needs help regaining control of their car.
The action: Automatically applies the brakes and adjusts engine torque to help you regain control.
How it works: Most modern cars come with some version of an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), which can help you maintain control in adverse driving situations or when you are making quick manoeuvres. When ESP senses that your car is losing traction, it automatically applies the brakes to individual wheels, and adjusts engine torque to improve your vehicle’s stability and help avoid skidding. If the ESP light in your instrument cluster is flashing, it’s indicating that your ESP has activated. As skidding is one of the main causes of accidents, avoiding it is really important.

Lane Keeping System
The situation:
You are drifting out of your lane and are not indicating.
The judgement: This driver is unintentionally changing lanes.
The action: Warns you of the lane departure and steers you back to your current lane if you do not respond.
How it works:
When you start to leave your lane without indicating, the lane keeping system is designed to see it as an unintentional lane departure, and helps warn you through a vibration in the steering wheel. If you do not respond to the alert, the system may go a step further by applying steering torque to keep you in your current lane.

Can Electric Vehicles go the distance in South Africa?

By Kobus van Staden – Account Manager: Automotive Industry at T-Systems South Africa

The ever-increasing fuel price is one of many factors making electric vehicles an attractive option. Another one is their ever-growing availability, as more car manufacturers produce their own version of the economic, green vehicles. However, with less than 900 electric vehicles sold in South Africa since they were introduced to the market five years ago, current local uptake and interest doesn’t bode too well for the viability of electric cars on home soil.

Slow going

Lack of infrastructure, and an unrefined policy around the technology, could be the reason for the slow adoption.

Electric vehicles form part of a complex ecosystem which includes infrastructure like charging stations, practical considerations such as charge time, and having the right policies in place to both drive uptake and ensure sustainability. Even things such as battery waste needs to be taken into account.

A few shopping malls and office buildings have made efforts to provide charge stations for electric vehicles on their premises, however, charge stations are not yet readily available. While the dependency on fuel-driven and hybrid vehicles is still so high, chances are that implementing charge stations nationally is likely to take at least 10 years.

The outlook isn’t all bad, though. The South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), together with the Electric Vehicle Industry Association (EVIA) and the South African Smart Grid Initiative (SASGIA) are working on proposals and strategies to prioritise the development of public, private and commercial charging networks in South Africa.

Legislation and standards will help to drive uptake. Currently, there is little basis around which to build a charge station, as the charge points and vehicle charging times are not standardised and vary between manufacturers. Legislation around vehicle standards, emissions taxes and possible rebates for electric vehicle owners will definitely promote increased electric vehicle uptake as well as infrastructure provision.

Vehicle manufacturers get involved

Electric vehicle manufacturers are playing an active role in creating practical solutions for customers, encouraging their buy in. While the infrastructure may not be wholly in place yet, manufacturers are looking for ways to make electric vehicle more attractive. For example, BMW’s i3 and i8 allows drivers to sync their car with their GPS and calendar to calculate the nearest charge points based on where they will be during the day.

Manufacturers are also working in tandem with battery manufacturers to develop longer running, lower charge batteries. In the meantime, hybrid cars offer the best of both worlds, allowing for fuel engine use while the car’s batteries charge. However, the possibility remains that while hybrid cars are available, they may also delay the urgency for a fully electric vehicle grid support system.

New market potential

The advent of an electric vehicle world may well herald the end of fuel-based driving and with it, the slow shutting down of a highly profitable market sector. However, there is scope for new markets to open up, thereby closing the fuel engine gap.

The private sector will play a role in driving the building of infrastructure as private companies build their own charge stations, with the potential to make these publicly available for a fee. Energy providers may emerge to work hand-in-hand with Eskom to supply alternative energy as the demand for charge stations increases.

From a car servicing and battery perspective, the industry will surge as options for recycling batteries and ‘drive-thru’ type service stations arise. I believe we will start seeing entire new industries emerging, as quick thinkers and early adopters cotton on to the electric vehicle trend – a trend which is likely to become a lifestyle.

The future?

There is no doubt the move to electric vehicles will change the South African motor industry in its entirety, despite the long-predicted timelines.

Three major shifts are likely to occur.

Firstly, parts departments and component suppliers are likely to feel the pinch in the initial phase of electric vehicle uptake, as fuel-based vehicles become less popular. We will, however, see a co-existence of fuel and electric ecosystems for a long period of time, making this a very slow process.

Secondly, South Africa’s entire road infrastructure landscape could be changed in as little as fifty years. There are roads in the United States that are being built with wireless charge capabilities for electric vehicles. It’s a matter of time before we explore similar technologies and work them into our still-developing road infrastructure build phases.

Lastly, we will see a growth in new technologies geared towards electric vehicles. For example, we are seeing Formula E vehicles now capable of completing an entire race on a single charge. This is only one of many predicted advancements which will fuel the electric vehicle market.

While we consider electric vehicles as the way forward, we may ask the question: are they the future, or a precursor to a more advanced type of vehicle?

MySpace was originally considered the future of social media but was quickly overtaken by Facebook. Electric vehicles may look like the future now, however, electricity is still largely dependent on fossil fuels with finite availability. There are many advancements being made in the likes of hydrogen and even nuclear fuelled vehicles, however there are still many questions around sustainability, safety and the impact on global markets that form the backbone of most countries. It will be interesting to see whether electric vehicles go the distance, or simply be the first of many iterations in alternatively fuelled cars.

Audi SA Introduces Google Earth Navigation

Audi South Africa is pleased to announce the introduction of Audi connect on-line services. Audi connect includes navigation via Google Earth Imagery and Google Street View, integral WLAN hotspot for internet access on the move and a Point of Interest Search for quick navigation services.
Audi connect services will be launched in South Africa with the introduction of the new Audi A4 range. Audi connect will also be available in the Audi A5 range, Audi A6, Audi A7 Sportback, Audi A8 and the Audi Q7. Connect services are planned for the Audi A1 and Audi Q3 at a later stage.
Audi has been collaborating with Google since 2005, and, as a result of this fruitful partnership, has set new standards in Internet use in the vehicle. With Audi connect it is now continuing to build on this foundation and is expanding its product range to include new forms of networking. In the process, Audi connect is encompassing the fields of online vehicle connection, networking of the car and its owner and networking of the car with the infrastructure and with other cars.
Audi connect brings the benefits of an increasingly networked world into this vehicle. This term brackets together all applications and developments that connect up to present-day and future Audi models with the internet, the owner and the infrastructure.
Audi connect services take communication, information and entertainment to a new level. They make it easy for you to search for any particular points of interest on Google using the MMI, check news headlines or call up the latest weather forecast for your navigation destination. Data transfer is by means of the UMTS module of the Bluetooth car phone online, which has to be ordered as an option for the MMI navigation plus.
The WLAN hotspot is a world first. It enables front and rear passengers to retrieve important information, data and e-mails just as conveniently and securely as in their office or home. Communication with the internet is via the roof aerial, through the car’s own UMTS module.
These connections make a wide array of useful applications possible, such as the unrestricted integration of Google Earth into the navigation system’s map display, which makes orientation significantly easier. In addition, due to being connected to the Google search engine, the driver has instant access to a huge number of up-to-date points of interest.
Thanks to the integrated W-LAN hotspot, up to eight mobile devices can be linked to the Internet and rear passengers have full internet access when the vehicle is in motion. Audi customers will be able to use Google Street View as a new online service, and will be able to view the navigation destination on the MMI display from the pedestrian’s perspective in a 360-degree radius.
Thanks to the new Audi connect technologies; driving an Audi will be even more enjoyable, efficient and safe. And in spite of all of the networking, the technology will play a supporting role and will never overrule the driver.