Safety tech

Volvo cars become road maintenance probes

Many automakers and governments are developing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, which lets cars instantly communicate safety information to traffic in the immediate vicinity, but Volvo puts a uniquely Swedish spin on the tech with a new pilot project. Its cars will communicate data from wheel-slip sensors to not only alert other cars to icy road conditions, but also to road maintenance authorities.

Volvo announced that 50 cars would participate in the pilot program, and that the "fleet would grow considerably" for next winter. The program is being run in conjunction with the Swedish Transport Administration and the Norwegian Public … Read more

Nissan wants to improve the rearview mirror with cameras

Every concept car designer dreams of the day when your car's unsightly rearview mirror will be replaced by slick hidden cameras. Nissan brings us one step closer to that day with the new Smart Rearview Mirror feature.

At the touch of a button, driver can change the Smart Rearview Mirror's display from a conventional mirror to an integrated LCD that shows a video feed from a high-resolution, 1.3-megapixel camera located at the vehicle's rear end. Where the rear camera in your current car can only be used while reversing, Nissan's Smart Rearview Mirror will be … Read more

California court: Drivers can use smartphone maps, for now

Texting or chatting on the phone while driving is illegal in California, but the law seems still to be catching up with technology when it comes to other aspects of smartphone use behind the wheel.

A court of appeals has reversed an earlier court decision that ruled map reading on a cell phone was taboo under the law, according to the Associated Press. The 5th District Court of Appeal said the law currently applies only to talking and texting on mobile devices and doesn't yet have legal language for app use.

The case came about in January 2012 after … Read more

iPhone breathalyzer doesn't ensure accurate results

The police use breathalyzers to test drivers' sobriety, so why shouldn't you have the same capability? That's the thinking behind the Breathometer, a personal breathalyzer device that determines your blood-alcohol level, showing if it's safe and legal to get behind the wheel after a night spent staring at rows of half empty bottles behind a bar or confessing your deepest desires to just-met strangers.

Actually, personal breathalyzers are not uncommon -- during a quick search on Amazon I found a variety, ranging from keyring-size to handheld models similar to the kind the police use. Breathometer's gimmick … Read more

Power steering shifts to electric

If you buy a car today, it will likely have a major difference in the power steering than cars from 10 or even just 5 years ago: The steering system will rely on an electric motor instead of a hydraulic piston for power boost. The majority of new cars sold today use electric power steering.

I've seen -- and felt -- this change in cars ranging from Toyotas to Porsches over the years. My own car, a 1999 BMW, is firmly in the hydraulic boost camp. But I've grown to appreciate the precise response and linear boost in … Read more

Test driving the Audi ERL tech of tomorrow, today

This week, we paid a visit to Audi's Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in northern California. Rather, it paid a visit to us, bringing along its Audi Urban Intelligence Assist demo vehicle to San Francisco and taking me for a spin.

The Audi Urban Intelligence Assist (AUIA) vehicle is, essentially, an Audi A6 3.0T that has been outfitted as a test bed for a variety of technologies being developed by Audi ERL and its partners at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at San Diego, and the Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies at USC. During … Read more

Nvidia K1 chip sees the open road

LAS VEGAS -- Driver assistance systems that will enable the autonomous car rely on radar, lasers, and cameras to see the road, but all that information also needs to be analyzed and understood. Nvidia demonstrated how its new K1 graphic processor, announced at CES 2014, can recognize street signs, lane lines, and other vehicles.

At its booth, Nvidia fed a test bed fitted with the K1 chip a recorded video of a drive down a road from a single camera. Using image recognition libraries, the chip analyzed the video and highlighted speed limit signs in red, other vehicles in blue, … Read more

ZTE, Nuance hit the road with eyes-free, hands-free biometric voice command

Phone manufacturer ZTE and Nuance Communications, provider of a wide range of voice recognition software, are teaming up at CES 2014 to announce an updated and enhanced Car Mode application for ZTE's Android devices.

The ZTE Car Mode app will provide an eye-free, hands-free way to interact with these phones on the go. Nuance is providing new voice biometrics tech for the screen unlock, enabling the hardware to recognize a voice command from a specific person's voiceprint to activate and access different functions and modes without physical contact.

For example, as part of a new feature called Music … Read more

Ford highlights V2V safety tech with daredevil drivers

LAS VEGAS -- I'm sitting in the passenger seat of a Ford Taurus as the driver accelerates toward a green light. Suddenly, a red warning light flashes on the windshield and an alert tone sounds off. The driver hits the brakes, and another car goes flying by, across our path at the intersection.

While this was a demonstration at a fake intersection, with Ford drivers piloting each car, we were traveling at speed and there was certainly the potential for a crash. It was a recreation of a real-world situation that happens everyday at intersections.

However, the reason why … Read more

Magellan's latest dashboard navigator has built-in dashcam

Magellan one-ups Garmin's announcement of updated GPS navigators and a new dashboard camera with its announcement of a GPS navigator with a built-in dashboard camera.

On the backside of the Roadmate 6230T-LM DashCam, you'll find a 120-degree wide-angle camera that watches the road ahead waiting for the integrated G-sensor to detect sudden motion or speed changes. In the event of sharp braking, rapid acceleration, excessive cornering, or sudden impact, the camera automatically captures video of the event. Because the camera is constantly recording on a continuous loop, it is also able to grab video from the moments preceding … Read more