Well, when we started looking at the features you can get on an electric vehicle (ev) we had to go and lie down in a darkened room. They are really mindblowing – especially if your current car is a few years old. I can’t go through the whole list of features as they are being added to all the time, but I will cover some that I’ve come across. Please note – not all these features are available on all cars – you will have to look at the sales brochures to see what’s available.
This feature allows your car to monitor the traffic in front of your car, normally using radar. If you get too close to the car in front, then it will give you a warning and prepares the brakes ready for an emergency brake. If you don’t brake hard enough then Front Assist will boost your braking to try to avoid a collision. And what if you ignore the warning and don’t brake? Well, you’ve probably guessed it by now, Front Assist will perform an emergency brake for you!
This normally works in cities at lower speeds and frequently works along with the Front Assist feature. Basically, when it identifies the right conditions eg it has warned you about a potential collision, which you’ve ignored, it will perform an emergency brake.
Normally you can set the cruise control system to set the speed at which you want to travel. The Adaptive part means that the car monitors the car in front (usually by using radar) and reduces or accelerates automatically to keep you a safe distance from the car in front.
If you are using this type of system the road in front of you will be monitored – normally for white lines at each side of the lane. Most cars will have a speed at which this feature is triggered, in many this will be around 40 mph. If you indicate that you want to change lane – the feature will be happy. However, if you don’t indicate the system will try to gently steer you back into your lane.
This is big brother (or sister) watching you. Imagine: you’ve had a long day and are now driving your car. You’re a bit sleepy and are losing concentration. You might be straying outside your lane, or are making erratic steering wheel movements. Well, the car identifies this and suggests that it may be time for a break – sometimes through sounds and messages.
This is the feature that really freaks me out. It sounds fantastic – but one of those things you hope you’ll never have to use. As soon as your car senses that there is no driver activity eg steering, braking or acceleration, then it will start the emergency assistance. First, it will try to wake the driver, but if that’s not possible then a whole range of other measures kick in. This will depend on the car but these are a few things it might do: steering jerks to wake the driver and to warn other road users, keeps the car in lane, activates the hazard warning lights and takes the car to a stop.
We’re all aware of blind spots when we’re trying to change lane. Where this type of system has been installed it normally monitors the areas at the side and behind your vehicle, normally by radar. Then, if you try to change lane you will be warned if there are any vehicles which will pose a danger.
So, you’ve driven into a parking space and now you’ve to reverse out of it – safely! A rear Traffic Alert system will monitor the area around your vehicle and will warn you if there is a car coming towards you. In some systems, if you ignore that warning the car will stop.
You might see this described as Over The Air Updates. Well, as someone who’s worked in IT all my life this fills me with dread. But, by the time we get our EV, it should be a smooth process (fingers crossed). Yes, this is what you think it is – when the manufacturer has an update to the software that either runs the car or the infotainment system they will send this to the car by the mobile network.
When I was looking through all the features one question that kept niggling at the back of my mind was – are driverless cars closer than I thought? You see, I always thought that much of what we were hearing was techy fantasy and they probably wouldn’t be around in my lifetime. But. Amalgamate all the above features together and you have a car that: keeps itself in lane, controls speed according to road conditions, takes avoiding action in emergencies and can stop the car safely if something happens to the driver. Now – is the driver really there just to keep the legal side and insurance companies happy? Are we now just one stop away from full driverless cars?