Vehicle Innovation: 3 Intriguing Developments


Automatic braking, lane control, backup cameras … we’re all familiar with vehicle innovations such as these. But what about the lesser-known developments in vehicle technology? What other innovations are brewing out there right now? Here are three contenders.

Generate power with your tires

Your tires create friction as they move over the pavement at high speeds – that’s why they’re warm to the touch afterward, of course. But did you know they can also generate static electricity?

That’s an idea on which the Japanese tire manufacturer Sumitomo Rubber wants to capitalize. Its engineers are working with university professor Hiroshi Tani to develop a system that generates electricity and feeds it back to the sensors that monitor tire pressure and the like. “Any electricity saved will mean the electrified powertrain’s battery pack suffers less load and boost its performance and potential range between charges,” Tu-Auto said.

Turn a VIN into your car’s DNA

Vehicle identification numbers (VIN) have been around since the 1950s, introducing a standardized way to identify a vehicle and replacing the problematic use of engine serial numbers for that purpose. (Those worked fine, up until you needed to replace the engine.)

But VIN may be in for a phase change. With the advent of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), insurers want to know a lot more about a car than just its engine size, door count, and weight. It’s also important to have a handle on the automatic technologies that are in play when the engine starts up.

Here’s where VIN can help. By including data on all the car’s safety features, it can close the info gap and provide insurers with a comprehensive code for that vehicle: a kind of DNA, if you will.

Once again, however, standardization is the rub. Paul Stacy at LexisNexis told Tu-Auto, “Every manufacturer calls their ADAS different things, they feed back to their driver differently, some of them take over control of vehicles while some of them don’t.” So adding a bit of ADAS nomenclature to the VIN is easier said than done.

Teach your car to know your face

If you like facial recognition and keyless entry, you’ll love this. “Porsche has developed a facial recognition system for owners to access vehicles simply by approaching them,” Tu-Auto said. Cars using this system require both your face and your phone before they’ll unlock.

There are challenges baked in, however. What if you want a friend to run grab something from the car for you when it’s not practical for you to go get it yourself? What if your phone falls into a river? What if you have privacy concerns around facial recognition, which, like any personal data stored digitally, can be hacked? It will be interesting to see how Porsche overcomes hurdles such as these.

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