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The modern automobile has been in constant metamorphoses over the years and 2011 seems to be no exception to this generalisation although the global economic crunch is still a fresh memory. The concept of vehicle propulsion is heralding all major efforts into automobile research and as such seems poised to be at the fore front throughout 2011. Automobile propulsion technology under development includes gasoline as well as electric and plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles, hydrogen cars, bio-fuels, and various alternative fuels. On the one hand scientists are looking to drain more power out of the conventional internal combustion engine while developing new means of powering vehicles.
Research into future alternative forms of power include the development of fuel cells, Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI), Stirling engines, and even using the stored energy of compressed air or liquid nitrogen. Although some of these concepts may seem farfetched and beyond the control of even cutting edge technology but investigation is nonetheless under pursuit for newer avenues.
New materials which may replace steel car bodies include dur-aluminum, fibreglass, carbon fibre, and carbon nano-tubes. Telematics technology is allowing more and more people to share cars, on a pay-as-you-go basis, through such schemes as City Car Club in the UK, Mobility in mainland Europe, and Zipcar in the US. Communication is also evolving due to connected car systems and the use of navigational aids is becoming more and more commonplace than just a few years ago. Given the massive build up of traffic on roads, navigation aids are quintessential to extricating one from maddening traffic jams.
There have been several projects aiming to develop a car on the principles of open design. The projects include OScar, Riversimple (through 40fires.org) and c,mm,n. None of the projects have reached significant success in terms of developing a car as a whole both from hardware and software perspective and no mass production ready open-source based design have been introduced as of late 2009. Some car hacking through on-board diagnostics (OBD) has been done so far. The automobile world too is therefore heading to an “Android Car”.
In 2011 the car technology was dedicated to finding new safety features. One of the problems, and a major factor in car accidents was driving & texting. A very high number of car accidents happen because the drivers aren’t careful on the road when they are texting. So the car companies came with a solution: your phone will be connected (via Bluetooth or USB) with a speech recognition system built in the. And the driver could easily send text messages through this system. Another safety feature that came in 2011 is the new cruise control system. The car is equipped with cameras and sensors and can notice the objects surrounding the car, such as, vehicles and pedestrians. When the car in front of you is slowing down, your car is able to slow down or even stop if necessary, in order to avoid a collision. It’s the same with pedestrians, if a pedestrian crosses the street, and you don’t see him on time and stop, the car will automatically stop, and avoid hitting the pedestrian.
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