Where is the new auto technology? Where is it? We have it now, shouldn't we use it to reduce the 42,000 deaths in automobiles per year? We seem to be getting the shaft on all this new technology which could save lives in automobiles and seem to be a little behind Germany even though much of the technology has come from our own MIT genius kids here.
This is because the Big Three are trying to shave costs to compete and now we see with the dollar down and the Euro up that now the foreign car makers are also cutting their safety features on many models for instance: Volkswagen to cut costs and reduce investment. Volkswagen said it would cut costs and reduce investment after profits more than halved last year and sales of its latest Golf V hatchback got off to a weak start.
Meanwhile it’s parent company Audi is busy testing some new radar assisted driving and anti-collision products in proving grounds in AZ.
I recently had the opportunity to have coffee with the head engineer from Audi and he explained the problem of getting the technology into American cars is that they were worried about class action lawsuits and cost so they were not going to put in the newest ECS devices:
What is most unfortunate about this is that 42,000 people die a year in auto accidents in this country now. We can fix that, of course this new technology will become victim of class action law suits. We need to immediately kill all the attorneys, Shakespeare was right, Caesar said it best, then we can move forward to save lives.
In Germany on many of the Audi models they have radar assisted following devices. For every 1 kilometer per hour the car is back half that distance so at 60 KPH the car is behind the car in front of it by 30 meters. Works great and several new cars have assisted white right line following also. Also they have a system that if a car is parked in front of you in the lane, your car lets off the accelerator and slightly tightens the seatbelts like the Honda SmartCar and then the steering wheel puts pressure to go around the obstacle, as your reflexes then take over.
The new ESC also interfaces with this system but it needs to be an all-wheel drive car for it to all work. This would help in Winter Weather safety too. We have also seen the weather is changing consumer buying behavior for all wheel drive vehicles on passenger cars as well as SUVs, so people will not be bothered with putting on chains on their cars. Due to the desire by car buyers to have a “go-anywhere, do-anything” capable car after the recent SUV trend we see that consumers have developed an affinity for this freedom in all their car choices.
Automakers are also seeing this it appears and are ready to satisfy the shift in preference by selling more cars that transfer engine power to all four corners - commonly called all-wheel drive, not four wheel drive although that too is way up in demand, all-wheel drive also shifts control around the car as you drive and is a SmartCar Technology. By 2006, car buyers who want All- wheel drive will have their choice of some 42 models, according to Industry Analysts and the website Gurus? This a 2/3 increase from the 2003-2004 model year. We have even heard estimates that by 2008, the number of all- wheel-drive cars on the road will double by today's count, well at least this is what Ford’s Visteon Corp., unit is saying and of course they hope so since they are a supplier of all- wheel-drive technology and other SmartCar electronic systems. For automakers, the rising demand for all-wheel-drive cars means greater profits and higher costs on cars for such options. All-wheel-drive systems now cost up to $1,500 as optional equipment.
The growing interest in all-wheel drive is obvious after checking out the Detroit Auto Show prototype cars. All these cars will have superior handling and better cornering for those 10 PM to midnight canyon burner runs at Mach 2, which if you are a real car lover you fully understand. Automakers with only rear-drive models cars may find this a challenge since the consumer now has a choice of All-wheel drive as well as manufacturers who have bee spending years convincing consumers that front-wheel drive is better on bad roads. Now consumers can have it all, those confused consumers will most likely opt for the both or All scenario. All-wheel drive essentially offers the best of both worlds.
Just over 50 percent of American women and 55 percent of their male counterparts surveyed said they prefer All wheel for safety and/or performance, along with the obvious benefit of better traction. Smart Cars are making friends and influencing people and the safety benefit to all is very incredible. SmartCars and Intelligent transportation.
If we look at the history of smart car type technologies we will see that this is always how it starts. It wasn't more than a decade or two ago that we sought and anti-locking braking systems, or ABS. At first, this was the safety benefit and only an option and only available on the high-end cars. Recently we've seen GPS navigation systems available as an option, now many the luxury cars, it comes standard. We're seeing this trend also on midrange cars and SUVs. It wasn't too long that airbags came onto the seen at first a safety item and an option later became standard on most of midrange and high-end vehicles, now airbags are on nearly every car, at least for the driver. About 50% of the models in Europe have the ESC options with all-wheel drive and in the US about 6% do to the need to cut the costs and still sell the cars.
In 30 years fatalities in Germany are down about 70% in the US per mile driven about 20%, which is good, but we can still do better. Remember when th big news came out about Firestone? Well actually only 3% of fatal rollovers were from tire wear, the rest from driving conditions and pilot error. Loss of control of about 20% of these accidents could have been prevented by ESC and it will be mandatory on 8-15 passenger vans by 2006.
These figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Arlington, VA. In a German study Mercedes reduced the loss of control accidents by 21% by adding ESC to all their models. Interestingly enough you cannot get ESC on a Ford Explorer since that option does not exist until you get to the Expedition or Excursion SUVs. 4-Runner by Toyota has it available here in the US. There is an interesting article on this in Business Week, April 28 2003 by Christine Tierney which is true even more today than the day she put pen to paper.
When we discussed these issues with our Audi Engineer friend; he said that on the A3 through A8 Audi there was an option for $3000-4000 for the radar following devices, and in Europe you can order your car your way. As a matter of fact on an A3 the most basic model there are 350 possible combinations for bumper configurations, between types of fog lights, color, design, etc. Also and unfortunately the German government has found a way to put infrared picture cameras which will send you a ticket in the mail for speeding, once again we did perfect the German radar in WWII and they have used their military technology for civil use to collect fines from speeders with this new infrared devices. We are seeing more and more camera red light unmanned devices on our road ways and automatic ticket cameras in the United States now.
Luckily the radar assisted following auto-pilot does not work under 20 mph so in the city or stop and go on the Belt Way, Boston Tunnel, 405 FWY, I-5 in Seattle or I-10 in Houston it will not work. Also the hands free cell phone hooked to the radio is not an option but a must as the ticket is 80.00 Euros if you have your cell phone on while driving unless hooked-up. And for GM and all the wonderful hotshots that think they are going to own the China car market you might want to think again the Audi A6 for China market is already made there. Surely eventually once they ramp up it is highly likely they will emerge market winners, but at this early stage they are behind the gun. Also realize that in the larger cities, they cannot take anymore cars, the traffic is insane, better off to walk or bicycle around.
In Beijing there is a 100% in one-year growth rate for additional cars. Talk about traffic you would be better off to catch a cart, moped or walk. Although the A6 in China is bare bones and nearly without suspension to save money, it is their foothold into the Chinese market. Currently being tested is a Diesel car is not connected to any drive train. It runs a steady 1800-2000 RPM and the most efficient for the least amount of pollution which charges batteries while driving or parked and runs 42 volts electrical system, which is hooked to each wheel with a motor to turn the wheels, likewise all the power steering, and other components runs on the electricity. They also have out now an Audi A8, which puts out 330 HP and an R56 which puts out 450 HP. The interesting thing getting back to the electric-diesel hybrid is the efficiency and cleanliness. It is a really good system. So Ford is also on the move lately: FORD LAUNCHES INTELLIGENT HIGHWAY REVOLUTION:
Eventually, almost all municipal vehicles could be outfitted with the new wireless sensor technology.
All in all you have to be a little more impressed with what Audi is really doing than what Ford is planning on; I am not sure if this is of value to you, but I met the head engineer from Audi working on the A' series A4 A6 A8 etc. from Germany, I think he was on his way to the Proving Ground in AZ and he was talking about the radar assisted following devices they use in Germany. Had some interesting things and doing some secret tests. How these devises would be installed for $3,000 US as an option once the tort laws were reduced and they would be hitting the dealerships as soon as that happened. The car follows half the distance of the speed. 50 miles per hour 25 feet. Their all wheel drive system would hook up to it and if the car was stopped in the lane and no cars in beside it, it would go to the next lane providing there was no solid line. Also integrated was the auto-pilot technology of following the line on the right. Too many lawsuits for finish products liability has slowed progress but with partial class action lawsuit reform we may see more risk taking with these new technologies.
Audi did some work in the United States in the ITS arena during not to long ago at DENSO - i.e. car navigation systems/GPS. Some of the thoughts of the programmers of these systems were that people fail to realize that if you keep a vehicle in motion it actually emits less tailpipe emissions. Constant idling, and stop and go are the worst conditions for emissions, so the savings is also to the health of the public and might even reduce health care insurance. Now then there are other companies working on this stuff in the US too. This is absolutely wonderful technology you are working on. An interactive SmartCar. The issues is with economies of scale and price. With the Big Three cutting costs, we are not getting the technology we should in the states. The problem I see is with ABS and All-wheel drive or ESC it is hard to get full value out of all the other technologies.
I spoke with Honda about the seat belt tightening and letting off the accelerator and believe this is of value, I am glad you are working on this. Now, then as the Audi guy was telling me they are testing a car, which runs a certain speed all the time so it does not pollute at optimum. And then it charges batteries, which run all wheel drive on a system, which has all the best technologies. They are running this thing 7000 hours.
The guy I met from Germany had been cruising the country talking to people. If the little and smaller engine runs at 1800 RPMs to 2000 and is quiet like an Onan Generator it could run quiet on diesel and charge the batteries and run at the 42-volt system? Power steering, ABS, each wheel has a motor. If a motor goes out you feather the props on the motor across from it and it becomes two-wheel drive until fixed by using a small centrical clutch. All runs net-centric. Works for me and is much better for all the HUD displays, portable business office WiFi, email, GPS, Internet Faxing, CD, DVD, movie and video systems. It is making a better and smarter car on a similar platform in looks but the guts are totally re done. Just building smarter, more efficient and better cars, it makes sense for the 42,000 who die each year in auto accidents.
With stop and go traffic, Diamond car pool lanes, toll booths all messing up traffic flows the issues of environment are almost as good as the 15% less accidents that are fatal per year. Mercedes showed 15% with ESC alone, imagine all this technology we are speaking with now. But the price is the selling point to US Manufacturers and of course if people keep their cars 3.2 years on average but finance them for 8 years other issues ensue. Also long term rentals will need GPS and Satellite RFID ping finding devices; Enterprise Rent a Car rolls out long term rentals and we believe this may in fact be good.
Let’s face it cars are getting smarter and people are getting dumber. I guess Audi is going to do this on their Pasat, A4, A6 and later the A8. So the Smart US Big Three need to stay heads up. And you bet they will as the new technologies are sure to heat up the car sales competition amongst consumers. 40% of consumers are said to rank auto safety their number one or two priority in choosing their next car.