Your technical guide to the latest vehicle technology

By: Bill Savidan


Motorhome reviewer Bill Savidan takes a look at the latest technology helping to keep us safe on the roads

Vehicle technology is evolving so rapidly it’s hard to keep up with the new acronyms and terminology listed on a spec sheet. In past issues, we’ve looked at some of new systems and devices designed to make vehicles safer. This month, with increasing talk of autonomous vehicles, we look at some of the innovations paving the way toward the driverless future.

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ETP – electronic throttle pedal

Under ETP, otherwise known in the aviation industry as Fly by Wire, the mechanical linkage from the accelerator pedal to the throttle is replaced with an electronic connection. Often this connection is via the vehicle’s electronic control box, where the throttle setting can be modified. Making the lower throttle settings less sensitive and the higher settings more sensitive makes the vehicle passage smoother.

LAC – load adaptive control

Ideal for vans and motorhomes, load-sensor systems calculate the centre of gravity of the vehicle as it is loaded and unloaded. This allows the vehicle ESP system to adjust its intervention parameters to match the revised load conditions and better assist the driver to deal with handling emergencies.

AEB – autonomous emergency braking

As an add-on to an active cruise-control system, ABE applies the brakes if it senses an object that is getting too close, too soon. Audible and visual warnings allow the driver to take control. Most systems work at all speeds, but some are just high or low speed.

Variable speed limiter

Active limiters stop the vehicle exceeding the limit set. Most systems allow multiple speed limits to be established and can be ‘passive’, i.e. only alerting the driver when the pre-set speed is exceeded.

CWA – crosswind assist
ROA – roll over assist

Swerving, whether avoiding obstacles or reacting to wind gusts, can cause the driver to lose control. Mercedes’ CWA system assesses vehicle-steering angle, load weight/distribution and speed when assisting the driver’s response to wind gusts in crosswinds. If the lateral force sensor in the ESG system detects excessive vehicle roll, it will attempt to reduce it by applying the brakes or reducing the engine torque.

TSR – traffic signal recognition

This device on the instrument panel displays traffic signs, e.g. stop, give way etc. The signs are recognised by a specially-made camera, giving the driver early warning. This is part of Ford’s autonomous vehicle development.

High-beam recognition

At last, an automatic dipping system that lowers a vehicle’s headlights from
high to low beam when an oncoming vehicle is detected and raises them when
it has passed.

Safety exit assist

This Hyundai development provides an extension of the blind-spot monitoring system and temporarily prevents rear-seat occupants opening back doors when vehicles and bicycles are approaching from behind. Once the danger has passed, it lets the doors open.

Facial recognition software

A Subaru development that uses a camera to measure a driver’s level of alertness and gives warning of the situation. It also alerts when it senses the driver not paying attention. Signals vary from a buzzer to vibrating seats.

None of these systems will prevent accidents in every instance. While we humans are in charge, we will always manage to manufacture situations that are beyond the capacity of the programmes described.

Common sense

So the tried-and-true precautions still prevail. Keep your brakes in good condition. Same, too, for your tyres and ensure they are correctly inflated. Don’t overload your RV, and drive to the conditions. Electronic safety aids can be an angel on your shoulder, but there’s no advantage in pushing your luck.

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