Tag Archives: Smart Cars

This 1971 video shows one of the earliest self-driving cars

“Look, no hands!” While it may be hard to believe, this driverless car is from 1971. 

Though autonomous vehicles may be all the rage as of late, the idea isn’t all that new. Just take a look at this video from 1971 — which is among a series of newly-released archive footage by the Associated Press and British Movietone — that shoes a mysterious driverless car being studied at Britain’s Road Research Laboratory.


The commentator introducing the futuristic technology claims the automobile is “the shape of things to come in highway travel,” and speculates that it will be part of everyday use by the year 2000.

According to the video, the system consisted of “computerized electronic impulses that are relayed to the car through a special receiving unit fixed to the front. Signals picked up from the inlaid track were interpreted by the unit to change the car’s course or its speed.” The narrator goes on to compare it to the autopilot system used in planes.

Impressively, the researchers at the lab developed the self-driving car without most of the technology readily accessible to automakers today. And while they may be 15 or so years off in terms of their timeline, the prediction was pretty darn accurate. Today, autonomous vehicles are being trailed on a 32-acre test facility at the University of Michigan, while Google has already been experimenting with cars of their own in California.

Driverless cars to hit Australian roads as soon as November

The ARRB Group has announced its first on-road trial of driverless cars.

The possibility of driverless cars in Australia is now one step closer to becoming a reality with autonomous vehicles set to hit the streets of Adelaide in November as part of the country’s first-ever road trials.

Automotive_monochromatic blurry car

Led by the the national road safety research agency ARRB Group, the pilot will be a collaboration between Telstra, Bosch and Volvo, who will be supplying its next generation XC90. For its initial test, the self-driving SUVs will be traveling at speeds of up to 62 mph on closed sections of the highway. Upon observation, the researchers will be able to better understand what it is that will be required to make this technology safe for Australian roads.

ARRB group managing director Gerard Waldron said automated vehicles are far from science fiction, but rather a short-term reality that the country needs to be prepared for.

“The trials in South Australia this November will be the first of many trials nationally, with discussions underway in a number of jurisdictions. We’re seeking technology and automotive industry partners to assist us in Australia’s driverless vehicle innovation,” Waldron explains. “Driverless cars have a range of benefits that could significantly improve road safety and the quality of life of everyday Australians, add to the nation’s economic competitiveness and help relieve rapidly growing congestion that is crippling our infrastructure and creating productivity deficits in our capital cities.”


The agency’s latest initiative puts Australia right behind the UK, U.S. and Sweden as global leaders in automated vehicle research. The trials in South Australia later this year will be the first of many nationally, with discussions already underway in a number of other jurisdictions.

“ARRB will establish how driverless technology needs to be manufactured and introduced for uniquely Australian driving behaviour, our climate and road conditions, including what this means for Australia’s national road infrastructure, markings, surfaces and roadside signage,” Waldron adds.

Volvo Australia managing director Kevin McCann believes that the technnology will deliver a wide range of benefits, even with a human behind the wheel, including improved traffic safety and fuel economy, reduced congestion, as well as the opportunity for better infrastructure planning.

Hosted by the South Australian Government, the pilot is expected to coincide with a Driverless Vehicle Conference on November 5-6th. Other partners supporting ARRB’s efforts include the RAA, Adelaide Airport Limited, Flinders University, Cohda Wireless and Carnegie Mellon University.


Volvo isn’t the only car manufacturers vying for the market, though, as Audi has its sights set on a a driverless A8 available by 2017, Nissan with plans of their own by 2019 and Ford by 2020. Aside from that, the University of Michigan recently opened what they’re calling “Mcity,” the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless cars.

So when it comes to Internet-enabled automobiles, it’s not so much an “if” it will happen as it is “when.” And with reports calling for one in five to be connected by 2020, not to mention new revelations around security, design will surely play an integral role in the process of bringing these cars mainstream.

Remotely control your Range Rover with your smartphone like James Bond

Jaguar Land Rover’s new system lets drivers use their smartphone to back up out of a parking space and make their way around obstacles.

James Bond’s remote-controlled car from the blockbuster hit “Tomorrow Never Dies” has become a reality. While it may not be an Ericsson phone in command, Jaguar Land Rover has unveiled a new prototype SUV that can be driven via a mobile app.

While it may seem a bit absurd at first glance, there are some practical use cases for it. Think about those times where you’ve been jammed in a parking spot and were unable to open the door because someone else was too close. Or, perhaps a time when it would have been much safer to be guided through a series of off-road obstacles when you weren’t inside. While a vast majority of the conversation on autonomous cars to date have been focused on the driver being behind the wheel, not as much has been centered around the user being outside of it.


In pretty the same fashion as a child would play with their RC toy car, Jaguar Land Rover’s latest system lets a driver turn a virtual steering wheel image on their smartphone’s screen, using their fingers to control maneuvering, accelerating, braking and ever gear shifting. The app, which employs the same sensors that its vehicles currently rely on for their autonomous parking features, enables a user to walk alongside their car at the top speed of 4mph, and within a range of about 30 feet.

Take rock crawling or bad weather, for example. Drivers can continually check ramp, approach and departure angles and allow precise positioning of the vehicle, as well as traverse slippery areas covered by ice and snow. The remote control function will only operate if the smart key can be detected, and will stop the vehicle if the driver ever moves out of range or gets too close.


Meanwhile, a second prototype was also revealed that is capable of doing its own 180-degree, multi-point turns. This should come as great news for those not so great at maneuvering their vehicle, especially on busy or narrow streets. According to the automaker, this driverless SUV could extricate itself from the most difficult situations by taking over gear selection, steering, braking and acceleration to complete as many forward and backwards movements necessary to get the job done. This is accomplished through a set of embedded sensors that assess the available space and avoid pedestrians or other objects in its way.

“Research into technologies like these won’t only help us deliver an autonomous car. They will help make real driving safer and more enjoyable. The same sensors and systems that will help an autonomous car make the right decisions, will assist the driver and enhance the experience to help prevent accidents. Autonomous car technologies will not take away the fun of driving,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover Director of Research and Technology.

The company has even revealed a range of new road safety research projects that are being developed to reduce the number of accidents caused by drivers who are stressed, distracted and not concentrating on what lies ahead. By adopting technology typically used throughout sports, medicine and aerospace, the vehicle will be able to monitor a person’s heart rate, respiration and levels of brain activity through sensors embedded within the steering wheel.

What’s more, the UK-based team is looking into innovations that would diminish the amount of time the driver’s eyes are off the road while driving, and how to communicate with the driver via pulses through the accelerator pedal. The basis of this project is to see if a car could effectively read the brainwaves that indicate a driver is beginning to daydream, or feeling sleepy, whilst driving. An on-board computer will then assess whether someone is alert enough and emit vibration or warning sound accordingly.


“If brain activity indicates a daydream or poor concentration, then the steering wheel or pedals could vibrate to raise the driver’s awareness and re-engage them with driving,” Dr. Epple adds. “If Mind Sense does not detect a surge in brain activity following the car displaying a warning icon or sound, then it could display it again, or communicate with the driver in a different way, to ensure the driver is made aware of a potential hazard.”

Beyond that, Jaguar Land Rover is in the process of devising medical-grade sensors that will be hidden within the front seat, particularly for the Jaguar XJ luxury sedan. Monitoring the physical health of the driver could not only detect the onset of sudden and serious illness that may incapacitate them, but will enable the car to monitor stress levels. This would let the car help reduce stress, for instance by changing mood lighting, audio settings and climate control. And in future cars with self-driving capabilities, it could sense whether someone was having a seizure or a heart attack, and automatically take control of the wheel.

GoFar will help you save money on gas

This smart device will help you improve your car’s efficiency and improve road safety. 

While electric and even solar cars are gradually making their way to the market, for the vast majority of drivers, they are simply too expensive to justify — even despite the money that they may end up saving on gas. Fortunately, one Australian startup has devised a new solution that aims to reduce fuel costs, diminish carbon emissions and ultimately enhance driver safety, all without having to trade in that older ride.


Recently launched on Kickstarter, GoFar is a smart device that is installed on a dashboard and provides users with intuitive, real-time feedback so that they can find the most sustainable way to drive their vehicle. This is accomplished by identifying a car’s sweet spot — in other words, the optimum throttle position that maximizes power yet minimizes gas guzzling.

Aside from the aforementioned gadget (called Ray), the system is comprised of a dongle and an accompanying mobile. The dongle is plugged into an OBDII port, powered through the car’s battery and provides output on engine diagnostics. Meanwhile, Ray is situated on the dashboard and paired with a smartphone over Bluetooth Low Energy to receive the data, which is also logged in the cloud.


Embedded sensors precisely track and calculate an engine’s sweet spot and offer real-time metrics through subtle lights. For instance, blue means you’re saving while red means you’re not only burning fuel but money as well. This feature was inspired by Formula One racing, where drivers rely on a dashboard LED light display to determine the right shift points for the car so that they can achieve optimal speed.

Aside from improving vehicle efficiency, this latest smart solution brings that older car into the Internet of Things era with actionable analytics. So much so that GoFar technology can inform drivers of how much their aggressive acceleration, harsh braking and touch-and-go maneuvers actually cost them. Wondering which way to work is the fastest? The team will make it super easy to conduct experiments to test various routes or decipher which fuel type gets more miles for less.


So how much savings are we talking? According to its creators, it can be well over $500 per year for everyday commuters. Want one for yourself? Race over to its official Kickstarter campaign, where GoFar is currently seeking $50,000. Shipment is slated to begin this fall.

Fuel Book turns your car into a smart car

This plug-and-play device provides fuel analysis, social territory mapping, self-diagnostics and more.

Who recalls the Seinfeld episode when Jerry and the gang are in search of Kramer’s car in a multi-level parking garage of a shopping mall? Most likely, you too have experienced a similar situation. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an easy-to-use system that could help identify the whereabouts of your whip instead of having to navigate around countless levels that all look alike?

Over the next five years, there will be millions of connected cars on the road capable of consuming, creating and sharing web-based data. But what about those older automobiles that lack Internet enablement? Fortunately, one Chennai-based startup has developed a plug-and-play device that can transform any ‘dumb’ vehicle into a smarter ride.


The idea first came about after its creator, Deepak John J, ran out of fuel and wished his car had properly notified him before it went completely dry. With that in mind, Fuel Book was designed as a self-installable unit that, along with its accompanying app, can create a smart vehicle right through its diagnostic port. Once connected, a user simply launches the app and syncs the device over Bluetooth to open a new world of possibilities. Using the Fuel Book, a driver can interact with a wide-range of features such as fuel analysis and mileage tracking, among a number of others.

Thanks to the pint-sized gadget, a driver will have the ability to easily locate the nearest fuel station, unlock the door with a knock on their phone, and stay one step ahead of the game with self-diagnostics. Hate traffic? Trying to decide whether you should get off the next highway exit? Luckily, users can transform their horn into a smart sensing apparatus that can find out exactly what the hold-up is by sending a message to the driver in front — a feature which will surely come in handy for ambulances to notify users in its path to make way.


Beyond that, Fuel Book features a social territory mapping capability that informs a driver 10 seconds prior to a bump in the road. A built-in accelerometer also measures and tracks a vehicle’s speed, which can be pretty useful in the event of an accident or if pulled-over. The device even immediately alerts a registered emergency number along with the appropriate GPS coordinates through SMS or another Fuel Book via its “tag mode,” which enables a user to share its location with others (especially for those traveling in a caravan).

What’s more, Fuel Book is equipped with a backend driver analysis feature called AI Engine that collects and sends user behavior data. In other words, the gadget will know based on user history if a driver will make a turn, or at which point in time they will accelerate and hit the brake. With access to this information, the AI Engine can provide a smart caution notification if trouble awaits.


Built around an Atmel | SMART Cortex-M3 MCU, the compact gizmo is equipped with a three-axis accelerometer, a magnetometer and temperature sensor, and features both Bluetooth and RF connectivity along with NFC for pairing. Its mobile app is compatible with most newer iOS, Android and Windows smartphones, as well as Android Wear and Pebble smartwatches.

Want to bring that old 2005 Chevy Cavalier into the Internet of Things era? Head over to Fuel Book’s official Indiegogo page, where the team is currently seeking $50,000. Shipment is expected to begin in November 2015.