Coming to a car near you

* The future of driving * Safety and comfort systems * What will it cost the motorist?...

24 February 2009
Coming to a car near you

Coming to a car near you
Despite the 10 years or so that it usually takes for the latest technology to trickle down from the most-expensive to the most-affordable cars, hopefully all of us will be able to benefit from the technology sooner.

Volkswagen and other manufacturers are working on technology that allows cars to communicate with each other and virtually anything, which could drastically reduce accident rates.

Early warning systems
We could automatically be warned about hazards on the road ahead by other cars, long before the naked eye or even radar could pick them up.

A new communications standard would need to be developed, so each car would speak the same language. Yet VW's technology expert, Hartmuth Hoffmann, doesn't think that's too far away: 'We'll see this technology evolve in different steps. The first stage will be a connection between your car and the internet, say in the next year. From 2015, we'll have the second step, with direct communication between individual cars.'

Cars that talk to each other
Volvo believes this car-to-car communication, and automated technologies such as the City Safety braking system on the XC60, could have an enormous impact on safety.

'Collisions are not inevitable,' says Jonas Ekmark, head of preventative safety at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. 'We need to focus on technologies that predict and prevent accidents from even occurring a large number of today's accidents could be avoided.'

When cars can detect the environment around them, steer themselves and brake to avoid collisions, could we see the end of all accidents? Yes, says Volvo, but the company's first goal is to ensure thatno-one is killed in a Volvo by 2020.

Volvo's head of safety, Jan Ivarsson, said: 'Continuous research will be essential for a collision-free future. If people die in an aeroplane crash, there's a thorough investigation and changes are made to prevent similar accidents happening in the future, so why should we regard car accidents as inevitable?'