by Dr. Iain Corness
Safer vehicles - or just
more things to go wrong?
I am typing this on someone else’s computer. Mine has decided it doesn’t want to
play and I am unable to download anything. No self-diagnostic program available
to help me. Computers are never my favorite toys right now, or is that “write
Researching this article left me with the feeling that very soon, my mobile
phone will be driving my car, and not me. In fact, VW has a system which allows
you to park your car from the outside, using your mobile phone like the remote
control for your TV set.
So here’s what is in store for the motorists in the next decade. These examples
are not “concepts”, but the technology is here now. For many OEM’s, the
integration of the new technologies is the only item slowing its adoption. That
and the price, of course. In the competitive marketplace of today, the base cost
is always a dilemma. The answer, however, is to make all the new technological
applications delete options. And since the new car buyer is not really aware of
what is coming, this makes it easier for the automaker.
If your car is equipped with a form of emergency brake assist, it already knows
when it is too late for late braking. The technology is simple. It is easily
programmed into the vehicle for it to appreciate how much traction it has, as
well as how many meters it is going to take to brake in time to avoid an
accident. However, if you are still too fast, further braking is too late. But
this is where Emergency Steer Assist (ESA) comes in.
In this mode, the system does not take over and steer for you. Designed to
compliment emergency braking systems, ESA works with your electric steering rack
to vary the torque by direction, thus very convincingly “suggesting” the proper
steering wheel motion. Suppose you need to swerve left - the torque in the
clockwise motion is greatly increased (resistance), but it is very easy to turn
the wheel counterclockwise. Similarly, during the maneuver recovery phase (you
may know this as a tank slapper), the inverse is true, the steering working in
tandem with ESC (electronic stability control, mandatory on all cars in Europe)
to control the after effects of the swerve.
The future sees the automakers bringing apps to your dashboard. Continental
showed its AutoLinQwith partners such as Navteq, Navigon, Shazam, Pandora and
more lined up to bring the perks of your smartphone to your car.
Intelligent Tyre System/Fill Assist:
A new type of tyre sensor, mounted on the inner tyre tread (as opposed to the
wheel), measures tyre pressure, temperature, g-force and load. It weighs only a
few grams. When a heavy load is detected, for example, the system can notify the
driver that more air pressure is needed to optimize gas mileage, handling and
safety. The sensors also communicate with ABS and ESC, so that these systems can
optimize for a given tyre pressure or vehicle load. Very much F1 technology
brought to the daily traffic situations.
Select Your Drive Mode:
Continental is offering up a fully LCD interface to better broadcast differing
personas. Sample modes are Eco, Comfort and Sport, but carmakers will be able to
customize these profiles. Also, users will likely be able to create their own
when the system goes on sale. Like current cars, just about every system is
affected with each button push, including throttle mapping, suspension damping,
steering feedback, and more.
The difference here is that the actual look of the instrument cluster changes as
well - for example, in Eco mode, there is a four-leaf clover that can be
“filled” green by driving economically. When all four leaves are green, the
driver can head to the dealership for a reward. This, the company hopes, will
not only encourage green driving, but will also drive online customers to
physical dealerships. Also, the navigation will search for the most economical
route, rather than the fastest or the shortest.
In Sport mode, red gauges and an accelerometer replace the green layout, and in
Comfort, only the speedometer and relevant functions are shown. The system also
works with the new Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal.
Yes, smartphone is going to dictate our lives in the future. Throw the old
Motorola ‘brick’ away (it has been sold to China anyway), go Android and sit
back and let Ann Droid drive you safely to your destination.
And here is an unsafe vehicle
The Green Monster.
One of my favorite characters in motor sports Art Arfons. He
was the “designer” of a series of vehicles, which were all called “Green
Monster” even though some were red, white and blue!
His most famous Green Monsters were powered by jet engines, normally powering
airplanes, with one powered by an ex-F-104 Starfighter General Electric J79 jet
engine, producing 78 kN static thrust with four-stage afterburner. The engine
was purchased from a scrap dealer for $600 and rebuilt himself, over the
objections of General Electric and the government, and despite all manuals for
the engine being classified top secret.
After the rebuild, he tested it by tying it to trees in his garden, a procedure
which drew complaints from his neighbors.
Nissan builds 400 BHP 40 kg three cylinder engine
Electric Le Mans racer.
Nissan has built a 1.5 liter three cylinder turbo gasoline
engine that produces 400 horsepower from a 40 kg engine. That is a better power
to weight than a Formula 1 engine.
The engine is destined for Le Mans in Nissan’s electric ZEOD RC but the
accompanying internal combustion engine is set to revolutionize standards of
performance and efficiency.
The Nissan ZEOD RC will become the first entry at Le Mans to complete a lap of
the Circuit de la Sarthe under nothing but electric power in June. A single lap
of each stint (a fuel “stint” lasts approximately one hour) will be electric
powered. Then, the new Nissan DIG-T R 1.5 liter three cylinder turbo engine will
The incredibly small engine weighs only 40 kilograms but produces an astonishing
400 horsepower. The base engine is only 500 mm tall x 400 mm long x 200 mm wide.
Not quite hand luggage, but close!
Revving to 7,500 rpm, the Nissan DIG-T R produces 380 Nm of torque. At a ratio
of 10 horsepower per kilogram, the new engine actually has a better power to
weight ratio than the new engines to be used in the FIA Formula 1 World
Championship this year.
With the entire concept of the Nissan ZEOD RC focusing heavily on downsizing and
efficiency, Nissan turned to new lubricants partner Total to help develop the
engine. The French lubricants manufacturer has worked closely with Nissan
engineers to develop fuel and lubricants to maximize the potential of the
The Nissan ZEOD RC will occupy “Garage 56” at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, an
additional entry reserved by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest for new and ground
breaking technologies never previously seen at the classic French endurance
Lessons learned from the development of the revolutionary racecar will also be
used in the development of Nissan’s planned entry into the LMP 1 class of the
FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015.
“Our engine team has done a truly remarkable job with the internal combustion
engine,” said Darren Cox, Nissan’s Global Motorsport Director. “We knew the
electric component of the Nissan ZEOD RC was certainly going to turn heads at Le
Mans, but our combined zero emission on demand electric/petrol power plant is
quite a stunning piece of engineering. Nissan will become the first major
manufacturer to use a three cylinder engine in major international motorsport.
We’re aiming to maintain our position as industry leaders in focusing on
downsizing. Lessons learned from the development of the engine will be seen in
Nissan road cars of the future. Our aim is to set new standards in efficiency in
regards to every aspect of the car: powertrain, aerodynamics and handling. For
the powertrain, we have worked closely with the team at Total to not only reduce
friction inside the engine but within all components of the powertrain. Friction
is the enemy of horsepower, and tackling that has been one of the efficiency
targets we have concentrated on heavily.”
Both the gasoline and electric power plants run through the same five-speed
gearbox that transfers power to the ground via Michelin tires.
The Nissan ZEOD RC will undergo an extensive test program over the next four
months prior to it making its race debut at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours on June