If you’re like those of us in Florida who aren’t required to learn how to parallel park when getting our drivers licenses, street parking won’t be a problem for much longer. Many of today’s new cars can park themselves. While systems like Ford’s Active Park Assist and Lexus’s Advanced Parking Guidance System are making parking safer, other types of sensor technology is making driving safer, too.
One popular sensor technology installed in cars today is called Sensorfusion, developed by e2v Technologies, and used by Ford, GM, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Volkswagen, Volvo and more. Sensorfusion operates much like circuits of the human brain, wherein various sensors work in tangent to process information from all sides of a vehicle where it’s installed. Utilizing this information from multiple sensors (between 22 and 35 individual sensors) and cameras, the system can assess various situations and react appropriately. Whoever coined the term “smart car” definitely wasn’t kidding.
What can this technology do?
- Crash prevention. This is the foremost example of these systems working in tangent for passenger safety. “Sensors can detect the relative distance and speeds of objects in its range, while the camera allows the object to be classified or ‘recognized’ to add real perception to the system when critical decisions need to be made in crash prevention type scenarios,” says Omar Hentati in his Whitepaper about Sensorfusion. These systems can alert the driver to impending accidents through audio and visual alarms, automatically brake the vehicle, tighten seat belts, make automatic steering adjustments (Toyota’s Lane-Keeping Assist), and even detect the driver’s level of drowsiness (Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist).
- Parking assist. Tight squeeze? Parallel and reverse parking are no longer a problem. Using a combination of sensors, cameras and sometimes sonar, the car determine the location of other parked cars and obstacles, the size of the parking space and the distance to the curb. Many of these systems require the driver to control the brakes, but will steer themselves into a given spot. Check out Edmunds Inside Line for a comparison of Toyota and Ford’s self-parking systems.
- Air quality control. Air recirculation has become standard in most new vehicles, allowing drivers to shut off access to (the sometimes not-so-fresh) outside air by recirculating cabin air. Cars equipped with air quality sensors monitor air quality inside and outside to automatically regulate air quality.
What does this mean for the future? Will cars soon work on autopilot, with drivers’ acting as passive guests in vehicles completely controlled by sensors and cameras? The technology doesn’t seem too far off.