Full autonomy won't happen for a long time, but pieces of the puzzle will continue to hit the market in 2012. Ford rolled out lanekeeping capabilities in 2011, enabling vehicles to "know" if a drowsy driver is wandering outside the lane markers. Park-assist features, which arrived with luxury automaker Lexus in 2006, are growing more commonplace. Now, many automakers are laying the foundation for autonomous technology with the addition of electric power assist for vehicle steering. Soon, we'll also see more adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance capabilities. General Motors engineers predict that fully autonomous vehicles will start to hit the road in 2020. "We believe that the world (of driving) will be autonomous on demand," says Alan Taub, vice president of global research and development for GM. "There will still be fun-to-drive situations. People do enjoy driving, but not all the time." The Buick LaCrosse, shown, will employ GM's eAssist technology, which enables the vehicle shut off fuel to the engine during deceleration and boost fuel economy by 25 percent.
(Source: General Motors)
Great wrap up on what to expect this year in automotive technology advancements. One thing that strikes me with all of this sophisticated processor, wiring, sensor, and vision system additions is that doesn't there now need to be some sort super software management program that will control, report on, and manage all of this data? In many ways, the modern car becomes a big-time, back-room network server, which then opens the door to a host of management requirements. Any thing happening on that front??
The big question with the technologies aimed at gas and hybrid vehicles is whether the U.S. auto industry can reach the holy grail of a 55 MPG CAFE (fleet with 54.5 mpg). It's possible in theory with current technology but the big stumbling block is whether it can be done in a cost-effective manner (both on the production end and creating cars consumers are willing to buy). Tough questions which will get illuminated a little more to some extent in 2012. For more, see "How Do We Engineer Autos for 54.5 MPG?"
I didn't have time to wade through 9+ pages of comments on the blog you referenced, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone look at it this way: the automakers who agreed to meet the 54+MPG target MAY have considered this as a "supply vs. demand" opportunity! Think about it: the giovernment has very little power to repeal the laws of economics, despite their continuing efforts to do so. IF the demand for larger vehicles (e.g. full-size pickup trucks, together with large SUVs) is relatively inelastic (as it would be for those whose egos/incomes allow them to exercise that preference, combined with the large numbers of businesses and individuals who NEED those vehicles to earn their living), then if meeting the target means severely restricting production volume of those vehicles, then there is a HUGE opportunity for greatly-enhanced PROFIT margins. Especially given the recent travails oof the industry, that may indeed represent the (maybe temporary) salvation of the industry! Just a thought.....
I will be watching (and waiting) with great interest to see the implementation of these technologies. I just can't, however, see automakers reaching the 55 mpg mark without an outrageous price tag - not for several years, anyway. For the standard to truly be effective, these autos need to be available to everyone, sooner rather than later.
Nice wrap-up, Chuck. While EVs are getting plenty of coverage, the multicore processors look like they may deliver promising results. We may find that a very smart traditional engine delivers more significant environmental advances than EVs that are essentially powered by coal burning electrical plants.
It is always a fight between what is mandated by those making decisions based on emotions and those making decisions based on marketing and customer demand. Of course, marketing does tend to prmote those choices that deliver the most profit. On the other side, it makes little sense to build products that customers don't want, and will not buy.
There is always a fight between safety, performance, emissions, and economy. We do know that safety does not sell, it never did, except for Volvos. Nobody would buy airbags if they were an extra cost option, nobody bought them when they were. The same for the stability control, the next option being forced on us.
So the result will be very interesting, since the vehicles that got the better mileage were not as big sellers as the larger vehicles that did not get such good mileage.
The best choice would be for our lawmakers to find a way to make the more fuel efficient vehicles more attractive, while not placing penalties on those who buy the big vehicles. One simple change would be to make the yearly license plate fee dependant on vehicle weight, like it was back prior to 1970, instead of taxing them bythe original purchase price, which is how it has been done in Michigan for many years now. That would be a simple change, not needing any technical breakthroughs at all.
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