Expert Blog

The Inside Track, V11

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Here at Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, we’re so enthusiastic about the future of motoring that we spend each month scouring the Internet for articles about electric and autonomous vehicle technology that you might have missed.

Here’s our reading list for the past month:

  • Imagine if your car could tell you when the traffic lights will turn green. Pretty useful, right? Well, that’s exactly what Audi’s Traffic Light Information system will make possible. Certain new models will be equipped with the technology, which effectively allows them to talk to the traffic lights – receiving real-time data telling them when the lights will change. Initially, this feature will only work on the streets of Las Vegas, but Audi is working to bring it to more cities in the future and to expand its capabilities. The plan is that cars will be able to tell you what speed will let you hit a number of green lights in a row, saving the time and fuel wasted in stopping and starting at reds.
  • In recent editions of our Inside Track series, we’ve focused on the strides towards driverless motoring made by Uber (V7) and Tesla (V10). But what about that other tech giant of Silicon Valley, Google? They’ve been working on self-driving cars for eight years behind the closed doors of their research facility, ‘X’. But now they’re stepping that project up a gear and bringing it into the open, in the form of a new company, Waymo. Outside the secrecy of Google X, we should soon get a better picture of where Waymo stands relative to its competitors.
  • And Waymo’s competitors certainly aren’t hanging around. Having started tests of driverless taxis on the streets of Pittsburgh in September, Uber has just rolled out a new trial in San Francisco. However, the Californian authorities haven’t been as welcoming as Pennsylvania’s. As the New York Times reports, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles declared the trials illegal and ordered Uber to stop them ‘until it receives an autonomous vehicle testing permit’. This is a reminder that, as we’ve highlighted previously, driverless motoring will need to overcome not only technological challenges but legal and societal ones too.
  • Autonomous cars may seem less like science fiction – and more like science fact – as each day goes by, but what about cars controlled by brainwaves? German carmakers Opel appear to be heading in that very direction. Whilst it’s true that their Astra cannot be driven with by mindpower alone, you can start the ignition just by thinking it, so long as you’re wearing a special headband with an in-built sensor. The BBC reported on the demonstration that took place at the recent Paris Motor Show. In reality, the technology doesn’t read the user’s thoughts, but merely detects electrical activity in the brain. As the BBC notes, ‘thinking the words “Start the car” in the Opel tent could have just as easily turned on the radio, or the windshield wipers, or a coffee maker in Calais.’ Still, it provides a captivating example of how new technology could change the way we interact with our cars in the future.
  • Finally, a lovely article that’s not about the cars of the future, but those of the past. The New Yorker has an extract of the foreword to a new book of photographs by Langdon Clay of cars in New York City between 1974 and 1976 – along with a selection of his images. As writer Luc Sante describes, ‘They unashamedly flaunt their dents, their rust spots, their mismatched doors, their liberal applications of Bondo, their repairs effected with masking tape—but then some of them revel in Butch Wax jobs like you don’t see anymore, gleaming like the twilight’s last sigh.’ Cars have changed a great deal since then, and will change a great deal more in the years to come, but hopefully they’ll still possess the charm and character displayed by the Sables and LeSabres in Clay’s photographs.

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