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Friday
Apr182014

Volvo’s Inflatable Child Seat

This is one of those, slap your forehead kind of inventions. Lawrence Abele, Design Manager at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Los Angeles, was tired of hauling around bulky car seats whenever he wanted to take his two toddlers somewhere. It didn’t matter if it was in the car, through airports or in a taxi, the child seats made traveling with the kids a problem. Inspired to make things easier without sacrificing safety, Abele came up with a rearward-facing, lightweight inflatable child seat that inflates in 40 seconds and weighs less than 11 lb. It can be used in busses, taxis, and act as a high-mobility safety seat when your kids are in the care of grandparents or sitters.

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Friday
Apr182014

Land Rover’s Transparent Bonnet

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Land Rover launched its Discovery Vision Concept in concert with Virgin Galactic on the deck of the USS Intrepid on the Hudson River, just prior to the start of the New York Auto Show. In production, this vehicle will replace the Discovery, and there will be three other members of the Discovery family that follow, including the Discovery Sport. That vehicle will replace the Freelander/LR2, and come in five- and seven-passenger versions. These SUVs also will be joined by a more focused off-road model. Virgin and Land Rover say their tie-up is part of a plan to “push the boundaries of travel” in the next generation. However, it doesn’t hurt that those high-value consumers purchasing a ride on Virgin Galactic’s space plane will be driving to and from the earthly destinations in a Land Rover.

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Friday
Apr182014

Interior Coating Shrugs off Dirt, Spills

Car interiors take a beating. Things gets spilled on them. People slide across them. Dirt gets ground into them, and they build up static that gets discharged when you touch something metallic. Johnson Controls claims to have an answer for these problems, having developed a coating that repels dirt, liquids and that protects passengers from microbes and static electricity. They’ve even given it a trendy name, FreshPer4mance, and claim it can be applied to all fabrics.

For optimum performance, Johnson Controls says the coating should be applied to both sides of the fabric to make it spill-repellant, stain-resistant and both antistatic and antimicrobial. If applied correctly, the coating allows stubborn dirt to be removed easily, without leaving any residue or marks. Because it makes seats easier to keep clean and odor free, the company recommends FreshPer4mance is recommended for seat covers in commercial vehicles (airport shuttles and school busses would be prime markets), and those with a number of drivers, like rental cars, car-sharing and pool vehicles. According to Johnson Controls, this coating also should allow automakers to expand their interior trim choices to include lighter colors. However, with increased commuting time, reliance on meals on the go, and more extracurricular activities, FreshPer4mance sound like a great way to protect the interior, and resale value, of family vehicles. — CAS

Friday
Mar212014

Audi's Le Mans AWD

When Audi won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its all-wheel drive e-tron quattro LMP1 cars, it had traditional rear-drive racers on track, just in case. Not so in 2014. It’s all-wheel drive or nothing.

The rules governing both the 24 Hours and the World Endurance Championship limited use of all-wheel drive to speeds above 120 km/74 mph, eliminating the technology’s low-speed traction advantage. This rule has been dropped for 2014, and Audi has adopted a new Motor Generator Unit (MGU) to take advantage of the change. The MGU and its integrated differential sits between the front wheels where it captures kinetic energy under braking. This energy is transferred to a flywheel storage device located in the cockpit next to the driver. Under acceleration, the flywheel returns the stored electrical power to the front wheels.

“We’ve developed the entire hybrid drive from scratch again for 2014,” explains Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport. “Specifically, it’s become even lighter and more efficient than before.” It also uses a new engine/drive system strategy. The electronic powertrain controller has new computer code to take full advantage of the championship’s new efficiency regulations. — CAS

 

Friday
Mar212014

Volvos Magnetic Solution

Volvo Car Group and the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), recently completed a project that used magnets embedded in the roadway to help self-driving cars accurately determine their position. Unlike GPS and in-car camera systems, the magnets are unaffected by poor weather and physical obstacles. “The magnets create an invisible ‘railway’ that literally paves the way for a positioning inaccuracy of less than one decimeter (3.937 in.). We have tested the technology at a variety of speeds and the results so far are promising,” says Jonas Ekmark, preventive safety leader at Volvo Car Group.

The team created a 328-ft. track at Volvo’s test facility just outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. Round, 1.6 x 3.9-in. ferrite magnets were located nearly eight inches below the surface, and the test car was equipped with several magnetic field sensors. The idea was to determine detection range, reliability, durability, cost and effect on road maintenance. Though not a prerequisite for autonomous driving, the team discovered that the technology is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement, reliable, and may have unforeseen benefits. These include preventing run-off road accidents, more accurate and less costly winter road maintenance, and increasing current road space by making roads narrower. The next step in the program comes with tests in real-life traffic. — CAS