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IAA Frankfurt Motor Show: Car makers prepare for automated driving

IAA Frankfurt Motor Show: Car makers prepare for automated driving
Tristan Honeywill

Behind the scenes at the Frankfurt motor show, one topic kept recurring: the growth in safety assist technologies. Everybody says the technologies will make vehicles even safer and will lay the foundations for automated car journeys. But will they take the fun out of driving?

The big worry is that the technologies will interfere at the wrong times. Winding country roads would be a lot less enjoyable if the car is constantly asking you to slow down, to stay neatly in the centre of your lane. That’s not how it’s going to happen, however. Most automated driving will happen first on motorways.

In general, the technologies will focus on the moments when nobody really wants to drive. A good example is Traffic Jam Assist. It will let the car crawl along without bumping into the one in front. Meanwhile, the driver could be free to send a text message or email that they’re running late.

The general expectation is that most drivers will not want to turn off the systems. When ABS and ESC first launched, cars came with simple buttons to deactivate them. These days consumers have far more confidence in electronic support. When it comes to safety, they no longer want an off-button.

It seems safety engineers are learning a lot of lessons from hybrids. When they were first introduced, hybrids were boring and economical only when driven carefully. It took manufacturers a little while to understand how to use the technology to make cars more powerful and more enjoyable. The number of hybrid supercars on display at Frankfurt shows how quickly things have evolved.

The same will happen with driver assist technologies. A mixture of legislation and NCAP-testing is going to encourage all cars to have systems that perform to a certain standard. The best will work intuitively with drivers, supporting the way they drive.

Some of the engineers I spoke with at Frankfurt were a little uncomfortable with the speed of change in safety, but not all. A significant number were already looking beyond Euro NCAP’s requirements. They see some really interesting ways to use the technologies to make every driving situation better. Nobody wanted to be too specific, but I got the impression that the road to automated driving will be anything but boring.

Traffic Jam Assist will let the car crawl along without bumping into the one in front. Meanwhile, the driver will then be free to send a text message or check emails

 

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