Cool car-tech coming soon

With an app on his smartphone, a driver can "teach" his vehicle where to park using GPS, sensors and cameras mounted around the car.
With an app on his smartphone, a driver can "teach" his vehicle where to park using GPS, sensors and cameras mounted around the car.PHOTO: CONTINENTAL

The Continental TechShow demonstrated next-generation systems for cruise control, automated parking, car audio and vehicle interior lighting

German automotive giant Continental produces much more than tyres, which account for about a quarter of its total sales revenue.

Most of the company's activities are actually centred around the development and production of automotive components, electronics and software.

Every two years, the company holds the TechShow to display and demonstrate its latest technologies, some of which are still in the prototype stage. This year's Continental TechShow focused on connectivity, automated driving and electrification.

Here are four promising innovations showcased at the event.

Cruising Chauffeur Cruise control systems maintain a car's pre-set speed automatically. More advanced systems can vary the cruising speed based on the distance to the vehicle in front or even steer the car to keep it within its lane.

Continental's Cruising Chauffeur can do more than that. It can also regulate a car's speed based on signposted speed limits, which should further reduce the risk of speeding tickets.

Because this new technology is currently configured only for expressways, it prompts the driver to take over when the expressway ends. Should the driver fail to do so, Cruising Chauffeur can bring the car to a halt, safely, on the road shoulder.

This could be a life-saver if, for instance, the driver has suffered a heart attack and is unable to control the vehicle.

Trained Parking Various parking assist systems help motorists reverse-park and parallel-park their vehicles.

Trained Parking lets drivers "teach" their vehicle where to park. Using GPS, sensors and cameras mounted around the car, the system records the exact driving distance and manoeuvres (I am told it can be programmed to negotiate several turns en route) needed to park the vehicle in the owner's garage.

The system can do it on its own the next time the car is to be parked at the same place. Trained Parking can also be used to "summon" the car out of a garage.

Currently, the driver still needs to exit the car and control this function via an app on his smartphone. However, I was told that it would be possible to make this feature respond to voice commands.

Wouldn't it be cool to alight, tell the car "go park" and walk away without a worry?

Speaker-less Audio Can a car without loudspeakers, tweeters, subwoofers and amplifiers still produce great sound?

Continental thinks so. To prove it, I was put in a test vehicle which had its roof lining, seats and door panels fitted with acoustic actuators, which transformed these areas into "speakers". I was asked to listen to several songs in the vehicle.

Although it has not been perfected, the technology "sounds" like it works.

The company claims that its Speaker-less Audio is lighter and less complex than a conventional high-end car audio system.

I am no audiophile, but the sound produced was definitely punchier than expected. I can imagine this technology being used for home theatre systems - you wouldn't need bulky speakers anymore.

Smart Surfaces Mood lighting has become an increasingly common feature in car cabins. Most of these lights are usually LED strips along the ceiling and door areas.

Continental's Smart Surfaces turn entire cabin surfaces, such as the dashboard and seats, into mood lights. This would allow carmakers to offer a greater scope of interior personalisation.

The secret behind Smart Surfaces is Acella Hylite, a translucent material that resembles and feels like regular interior fabric, but actually has the ability to function as a display screen.

Beyond in-car mood lighting, Continental also intends to use this technology as a safety feature. For example, the entire dashboard can be programmed to flash red to alert the driver that the car in front of him has suddenly decelerated.

•The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Cool car-tech coming soon'. Print Edition | Subscribe