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What Important Equipment Should I Keep in my Car?

Summer can be a prolific time for maintenance related breakdowns, what with the extreme temperatures around the country. Although we pray we’ll never find ourselves in a situation where we require roadside assistance, it’s wise to make sure that you are prepared for anything that could go wrong. Today we’ll cover some of the most important equipment you should keep in your car.

 

Dash cam: An increasingly common sight in vehicles across the board, dash cams are an invaluable item to record events on the road. In the event you find yourself in an accident, dash cam footage will prove crucial evidence as part of your insurance claim.

GPS: Although many cars these days will feature a built-in GPS, if yours doesn’t, then it is wise to invest in a standalone one to make your life a whole lot easier

First aid kit: Keep an up-to-date first aid kit in your car at all times. That might not be enough, however, as it also pays to be trained in administering first aid

Fire extinguisher: If you encounter a fire, even though your first actions should be to call emergency services, you may also want to have a fire extinguisher at hand as a precaution

Safety triangle: If you break down, safety triangles should be set up behind your vehicle to serve as a caution to other motorists, which also goes some way towards protecting yourself as well

Tyre kit: Flat tyres and punctures can be a major frustration, however, this is actually an easy job to tackle yourself. All you need is a spare tyre, and a tyre kit, which includes a car jack, wheel brace, tyre sealant and inflation pump.

Charging cables: Given everyone now depends on their mobile phone, you will want to ensure that you have charging cables at hand so that you don’t find your battery suddenly run flat

Spare tools: It is beneficial to have a basic took kit at hand, as well as water and coolant, spare petrol tank and pump, duct tape, jumper cables and more

Comfort items: Some of the most useful items you should keep are actually comfort items, including a blanket, umbrella, raincoat, sunglasses and the like. These are not only useful from one day to another, but in the event of a breakdown.

What to do After an Accident

A traffic accident might be every driver’s worst nightmare, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean you can always avoid it. Even if through no fault of your own, many drivers will find themselves in a bingle of some sort across their driving years.

Given how unexpected such an event can be, often we’re not entirely prepared for how to respond. For some, panic and anxiety starts to set in after a car accident. Emotions will be running high, which means that sometimes we are not always thinking in a rational and coherent manner.

Here’s what you need to do after an accident on the road.

 

 

Remain calm and preserve safety

Assuming that you are uninjured, the first thing is to focus on the here and now. While it is easy for the mind to begin wondering and thinking about potential difficulties that might lie ahead, it is important that you manage to retain a sense of calmness and avoid fear or panic kicking in.

You will need to activate your hazard lights in order to bring awareness to other road users. If the car is obstructing traffic, and there is no immediate danger, move it off to the side so that it does not endanger yourself and other motorists. If there is an immediate danger, you should call emergency services straight away and take primary care. Once you’ve moved the car, remove the keys from the ignition.

As you prepare to exit the car, double check for any injuries that could have been masked by adrenaline rushing through your body. If you are uninjured, you should check on the wellbeing of the other parties involved. If injuries are present, dial 000 for emergency services. The police must be called if injuries are present, a party fails to exchange details, or there is a likelihood that a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. More often than not, most drivers will still call the police to make a record of the accident, assuming it is more than just a fender bender.

 

Exchange details with the other party

Once you have your evidence, you must exchange details with the other party. Gather as much information as you can, with a particular emphasis on the other party’s full name, address, phone number, plus vehicle registration and details. It is also beneficial to pick up other information regarding the specific make, model and colour of the vehicle they were driving, and if possible, their licence number and insurance details. These however, are not necessarily obligatory to hand over.

You should also provide the relevant information to the other party. If a driver does not provide you with their name, address, vehicle registration plus information to identify their vehicle, you may report the accident to police.

 

Don’t admit fault

While you might be inclined to apologise for contributing to an accident, that is as far as you should go in discussing the events. Even if you know that the accident was your fault, never admit this to the other driver. It will be left to the professionals investigating the accident to conclusively determine whose fault it was, and any admission could compromise that investigation and your insurance coverage.

 

 

Collect evidence

An important part of your insurance claim will rely on the evidence you present to the insurer. As such, you will want to take several photos of the accident scene, including damage to both vehicles. The scene should extend to the nearby surrounds like any hazards or road conditions that may have contributed to the accident.

If you have a dash cam recording, it is important you save and retain this footage. You will also want to make notes of any other observations relating to the crash scene and even the other party. Speak to any witnesses in the vicinity and ask for their details if you anticipate their version of events will be required.

 

Contact your insurer

First, you’ll want to check what condition your car is in. If it has been involved in a major accident, it is likely that it will be unroadworthy and require towing. Police at the scene would confirm this. If it is a minor accident, you may be able to drive home or to your insurer’s assessment centre.

Contact your insurance company and provide a full account on the accident. They will help you walk through all the necessary steps to lodge your claim, and if required, can offer assistance with towing the vehicle. Leave it with them to investigate and at all times make sure that you cooperate honestly with regards to any details.

 

For All Mobile Phone Users

At last a serious move has been taken to nab the drivers using mobile phones illegally while driving.  New South Wales, Australia is the first place in the world to introduce mobile phone detection cameras, and these will be mounted without any warning signs saying that they are operating in the area.  The technology was invented by a University of Melbourne engineering graduate, Alexander Jannink, after a cyclist friend of his was killed in late 2013 by a driver suspected of being on a mobile phone.

During a three-month trial of the new camera at two locations in Sydney, 100,000 drivers were detected using a mobile phone illegally.  These motoring offences valued more than $34 million in fines.  Those caught in the trial were found to be browsing Facebook, text messaging and one driver was also caught allowing his passenger to steer the wheel.  Distracted drivers are very much a factor in motoring accidents, and placing the high-tech mounted cameras on our roads is a wonderful way to combat the habitual mobile phone actions of those who just can’t seem to leave their phone alone when behind the wheel.

It’s unsettling to notice drivers coming in the opposite direction with their eyes downward while on their phones.  The new cameras have been developed with sophisticated software that automatically detects if a driver is handling a phone.  The filtered images are then checked by a human eye before the weighty fine is issued.

I totally get what the NSW minister for roads and transport, Andrew Constance, recently remarked while on radio: “We want to create the same environment that we have around [random breath testing] because quite frankly using a mobile phone is equivalent to driving drunk behind the wheel.”  Other Australian states are to follow the NSW lead.

The law states that fully licenced drivers are not allowed to use any physical function of the phone while driving.  Making or receiving a call, playing audio, or using navigation maps can be done while the vehicle is parked and the engine not running.  Voice controlled smartphone mirroring apps such as Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which uses the vehicle’s infotainment technology makes things a little safer.

The reality is that nobody wants to share the road with a driver who isn’t paying attention.  When we’re driving, our focus should be on the road and getting everybody in the car to the destination safely.

Here are the mobile phone fines currently enforced in Australia:

NSW mobile phone fines: $344 and five demerit points, $457 and five demerit points in school zones, points doubled during double demerit periods.

Queensland mobile phone fines: $1000 and four demerit points from 1 February 2020, currently $400 and three points. Repeat offenders receive double demerit points if caught again within 12 months from the previous offence.

Victoria mobile phone fines: $496 and four demerit points.

Australian Capital Territory mobile phone fines: $480 three demerit points for handheld phone use, $589 and four demerit points for driver using mobile device for messaging, social networking, mobile application or accessing internet.

South Australia mobile phone fines: $554 and three demerit points.

Western Australia mobile phone fines: $400 and three demerit points.

Northern Territory mobile phone fines: $500 and three demerit points.

Tasmania mobile phone fine: $336 and three demerit points.

What the New Mandatory Data Sharing Law Means for Motorists

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently took aim at car manufacturers. This time it wasn’t in relation to any specific mechanical controversies like the Dieselgate saga. Instead, it was about the after-purchase period concerning maintenance and repairs, where a lack of data sharing with independent mechanics has been said to ‘hurt’ everyday motorists. 

 

How did we get here?

Before we try to make sense of it all, let’s take a step back to a few years ago. In 2014, auto-makers agreed to a voluntary system where data sharing would be placed in the hands of manufacturers. Provisions were put in place that were designed to help independent mechanics access computer codes and calibration data among other information.

However, the voluntary nature of this program meant there were no formal obligations or requirements to comply with the intended aim of the program. More recently, in 2018, the Federal Government paved the way for a more structured approach to data sharing. Despite the matter being earmarked as part of ‘priority’ sector reform, it was largely overlooked amid more pressing issues until late last month when the Australian Government announced a mandatory data sharing law.

 

Why did it take so long?

For most of this discussion period, car manufacturers have continually expressed concerns about the idea of being compelled to comply with data sharing requirements. As such, you can imagine they were firmly opposed to any measure that would force them to provide your local independent mechanic with technical information about their vehicles.

Representatives regularly cited safety reasons for their reluctance to share data with independent mechanics. One of the key concerns was providing independent mechanics with access to complex information that may prompt them to undertake repairs beyond the scope of their training, or where they may otherwise be without the appropriate tools.

 

What impact might the new law have?

Independent mechanics have pointed to the increased sophistication in today’s cars to reinforce the need to access vehicle data. Jobs that were once a simple and easy fix in years gone by, have become increasingly complex if you believe the words of many independent mechanics.

In the eyes of the ACCC, this means motorists have been getting a raw deal on their servicing and repair costs. They estimate that drivers have been paying as much as $1 billion per year more than necessary on account of independent mechanics not having access to data that would make their jobs easier.

Meanwhile, in backing the call for greater data sharing, the Australian Automotive Aftermarkets Association (AAAA) noted that the US and European markets have established programs in place to facilitate data sharing. In the US alone, these measures are estimated to save motorists US$26 billion per year. It appears the government has the notion of consumer savings in its sights, which could help drivers save a pretty penny. However, will it prove wise to dismiss manufacturers concerns?

Should Dash Cams Become Compulsory?

We’ve previously documented the rise of dash cams, which are now a common sight on our roads. After all, technology plays an ever increasing role in addressing the day-to-day aspects of our lives, so it was only natural this would transition to our commuting habits as well. Who can look past the various online communities that have sprung up around the country with a hotbed of dash cam footage for every curious observer to take in?

Now however, it would seem the fanfare for dash cams has extended further, with many drivers calling for the equipment to become compulsory. Whereas these items were once considered a luxury, their affordability has now made them an accessible option for the majority of motorists.

 

 

What do motorists have to say?

In a recent survey by Smiths Lawyers, nearly three quarters (72%) of respondents are calling for dash cams to be a permanent fixture. To clarify, these motorists are advocating for the cameras to be recording at all times. Perhaps more pertinently, around 40% of drivers are in favour of dash cams being fitted to all vehicles, while a slightly smaller portion (34%) feel that the equipment should become a compulsory fitted device in all new vehicles sold across Australia.

You’re probably thinking that many of these respondents are those who already own a dash cam, instead trying to justify the measure to other motorists. Surprisingly however, just 26% of those surveyed own a dash cam, far less than the number calling for their roll-out. Leading the way in this area are Queensland drivers (30%), slightly ahead of those from NSW (26%) and Victoria (22%).

In what is perhaps the most interesting observation to come from the study, there were some particularly stark differences in opinion among different age groups. While elderly drivers aged over 65 were prominent advocates of compulsory dash cams – with 40% of respondents in favour – and nearly half of respondents aged 18-24 also backing the technology, it was one other group that took an unlikely stand. Among 25-34 year olds, 38% of respondents were against the notion of dash cams becoming mandatory.

 

 

Where we are at in terms of mandating dash cams

With drivers seemingly in support of mandating dash cams, are we actually likely to see the move go ahead? The utilisation of dash cams have made incident investigation a more effortless process for insurance purposes, helping drivers prove their claims and reducing burden on the courts. Arguably, there has even been an increase in driver awareness and education as a result of dash cams. But while there may be merit on an individual level, the notion of a mass roll-out has other considerations.

The primary obstacle is that government and manufacturers have not signalled any indication to mandate the technology in new cars. On the one hand, depending on how the data were to be stored, an integrated solution could give rise to privacy concerns. But beyond that, it’s an added cost that would be hard to pass through via higher car prices. Not only is it easy for drivers to access external dash cams, but the cost to auto-makers would still be high enough to eat into their margins when apportioned over a high volume of cars. For theses reasons, don’t expect a change in legislation any time soon.

Are New Cars Becoming Too Easy to Steal?

As more new vehicles come to the market boasting the latest and greatest technology, manufacturers are looking to simplify the driving experience. This means getting you up and running with easier access to your car. So, what’s one of the prominent solutions?

Well, this has translated into keyless entry and push-button ignition becoming commonplace across the latest models. That’s not to say it was ever difficult to use a key, but clearly the boffins behind this technology thought that was getting all too cumbersome. So with the traditional and trusted key now looking lonely on the outer, is everything actually all fine and well?

 

The risk associated with keyless entry

Not everything may be as it seems. In some corners there is a growing chorus of industry experts suggesting that today’s new cars are becoming too easy to steal. How, you might ask, as you look quizzically down at your keyless entry remote. Well, that very device is among the design aspects that some have reasonable grounds to be concerned.

This new generation of remotes transmit wireless signals that are automatically picked up within a proximity of the vehicle. As these transmitters work in much the same way as any other device that emits a code over a certain frequency, they are not necessarily immune from interference. And while it may not sound the easiest workaround, the risk remains, a device configured to pick up and read these frequencies has the ability to mimic the remote and replicate those very codes to the same effect.

How realistic is the problem?

Sure, you can lock your car, but a keyless entry remote will continually transmit a code in anticipation that you will return to your car at some point and access the vehicle without retrieving the remote. Some manufacturers have embedded additional safety features, such as PIN-activated ignition, a motion-activated fob that is immobilised when no longer moving, or a remote that broadcasts across a wider range of frequencies.

Now if you’re thinking all this sounds highly preposterous and a convoluted way to steal a car, you may want to pause on those thoughts. Check out this field test from What Car, or this one from Which. In what is likely to be surprising news to many drivers out there, some of the market’s most premium vehicles are susceptible to being ‘stolen’ in under 30 seconds.

For now manufacturers are continuing to work on refining and improving the technology, but it’s important to understand, the latest tech does not necessarily mean the greatest tech. In the meantime, you may want to consider requesting your dealer disables that keyless entry remote, or you take to buying a Faraday Bag to shield the remote from emitting electromagnetic signals. Sometimes keeping it simple truly is better.

 

2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The Tesla Model 3’s middle specification car. There is the “entry level” Standard Plus, the car tested called the Performance, and the Long Range AWD to top the range.What Does It Cost?: The Performance has a starting price of $93,900. There are the usual government and delivery charges on top. Our review car came in a lovely multi-layered Pearl White, There are four other metallic colours and they are a $1,500 cost option. It’s also almost completely ready to drive autonomously with the “Autopilot” facility as standard. the full self drive is $8,500. All up, the review car prices out at just under $120,000.

On The Inside It’s:A mix of stark minimalism, hi-tech, and whimsy, with plenty of comfort. The Performance has the Premium Interior which is sumptuous black leather clad seats that are heated and powered for plenty of positioning options. There’s the same wood strip for the dash and the 15 inch landscape oriented touchscreen that has Google well and truly as its heart. This controls everything the car does; from steering wheel and mirror adjustment to tracking vehicles around the Model 3, from providing audio options such as TuneIn and Spotify (with the first year’s subscription free if you don’t already have it) to providing hilarity from the “Gas Emissions” tab in a entertainment submenu, and will even allow a name to be given to the car. The whimsy inside Tesla is highlighted by the “caraoke” option. You read that right. It’s exactly what you suspect and is intended to be used when the car is stationary. We can attest it will provide access when the car is stopped, but will play whilst underway. There is also access to Netflix, YouTube, and Tesla instructional videos.

The touchscreen is, oddly, the weak link in the chain.It’s a solid sheet of glass with a metal surround. As such, it becomes a heat sink and on warmer days readily absorbs heat to the point the bare finger gets singed. Perhaps a vent behind the screen or an embedded loop would do the trick.

When not barbecuing fingers, it’s a high resolution display, with the default being a monochromed look Google maps, with the option of displaying the satellite image, and the graphics that the car’s cameras and ultrasonic sensors read to show surrounding vehicles. The lower section has icons for menus, which then bring up the audio options, the entertainment options, the settings for the vehicles. Compared to the Standard Plus, the entertainment goes up a notch, with Netflix, YouTube, and Tesla instructional videos being made available.The steering wheel is devoid of anything bar two roller dials and the Tesla logo, and the dials manipulate some of the information provided via the touchscreen.One of the small yet user friendly things about Tesla is how the doors are operate. Here there are small tabs on the top of the door grip which are pressed to release the doors. And unlike the pricier Model S and Model X, there is no remote key fob with which to remotely open the doors. Everything is operated via a smartphone app. This remotely opens the charge flap, releases the charge cable, can summon the car, or prestart the air-conditioning system which includes dog mode. This allows those that wish to keep Poochie cool and stay in the car to do so, plus it flashes up on the screen a note to advise of this function being operated. Should the car need to be moved without the owner, a Concierge card is provided.

There is also the sound system. There are 14 speakers spread around the cabin, with the front setup not unlike a soundbar for a TV. It’s loud, punchy, clear as crystal. It’s that attention to detail that really appeals. USB ports? Four, thank you. Embedded information about charge locations? Indeed. Safety features? Lacks for nothing.On The Outside It’s: A condensed version of the larger Model S. Slimmer in all dimensions, and sitting slightly lower than the Standard Plus, it nonetheless has a very strong family look to the other two models, not unexpectedly. The windows, profile, the lines that join front and rear, a line over the hip, are all common for the Model 3, Model S, and Model X. The Model S and X have similar looking headlights, whereas the Model 3 goes its own way with a design that evokes Porsche. At the rear the tail lights are essentially identical. Michelin supply the Pilot Sport tyres and are 235/35/ZR20. Wheels on the car supplied were subtle looking alloys in a ten spoke design. Dry weight is not unexpectedly hefty. It’s 1,847 kilos. Boot capacity is 542L and of course there’s “frunk”. This is the front trunk, also accessed via the smartphone app, and provides extra space up front.Out On The Road It’s: Delightful in many ways. It’s rapid, in both standing start and overtaking. Intoxicating, endearing, stupid grin inducing rapid. But it’s this sheer muscle car power that makes it safer than people expect. Think coming up a merge lane to a freeway and the car that is oncoming behind you has the room to move right but doesn’t. A quick check of available space, a gentle press on the go pedal, and tomorrow is in front of you. Tesla quote 3.4 seconds for the sprint from standstill to 100. There is absolutely no reason to disbelieve that at all.

The starting procedure is simple. Foot on the brake, pull the right side steering column lever downwards and check that D is highlighted on the touchscreen. Floor the pedal. Take a breath because you’ll need it as suddenly your spine is somewhere in the back of the seat’s padding.Energy harvesting can add a bit more to the expected range, as the brakes have two settings. The standard is more than enough and in some situations mitigates needing the foot to hit the brake pedal, such is the power of the system. In some circumstances it’s enough to bring the car to a stop by itself and on a downhill run will grab the brakes and slow the car here solidly.

There’s also little to quibble about when it comes to the ride quality too. It’s up there with some of the better suspension combinations for suppleness, confidence building, and strikes an ideal balance between grip, sportiness, and dialing out intrusive road imperfections.A key selling point is the ability to drive autonomously. Most of our drive was done manually, and more so to fully enjoy the ability of the Model 3. To engage the self-drive, the car must first be able to clearly read the roadside markings and will show a grey steering wheel on the screen. A couple of gentle tugs on the right hand lever and this should then make that icon blue, indicating self-drive is engaged. Under no circumstances should the hands be fully removed from the wheel.

The steering on its own is spot on. It’s beautifully weighted, has only minimal feeling of being artificially being assisted, and is ratioed for two turns lock to lock.

At The End of the Drive. The Performance should be the pick over the Standard Plus for those that like to fully exploit a car’s abilities. The extra urge from the twin motors, the extra range, and perhaps even the extra entertainment features for some, make the Tesla Model 3 Performance a winner. Sure, it’s $120k in price but currently there are no other fully electric cars that come close to delivering what this car can: an all round powerhouse Performance.

 

Speed Limiters Will be Heading Down Under

Those driving trucks will already be all too familiar with speed limiters, but it looks like the rest of us could well be confronted by the same prospect. You see, the European Union earlier this year sought to introduce new legislation that would make it mandatory for new cars to come with a series of safety aids previously deemed optional.

Some of these measures would be no surprise to Australian drivers. The likes of autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning are slowly becoming more commonplace in the latest vehicles. Other features however, would be raising a few eyebrows.

Take alcohol interlock installations for example. Many Aussies would view these as much a punitive measure and infringement of our rights, than a precautionary safety aid – even though it could go some way to reduce alcohol related road trauma. And then you have speed limiters. While in theory the premise that speed kills has been discussed extensively, there is argument in some quarters that this type of intervention might not have the desired impact.

 

What’s happening

Changes are not expected to unfold for some time, however the leading indicator will be the European market. With legislation set to come into effect in May 2022 – and 2024 for vehicles already on sale – it provides manufacturers and motorists with ample time to facilitate the changes.

The Europeans aren’t going it alone mind you. They’re actually taking heed of the suggestions being put forward by the United Nations, which is surprisingly taking a lead in this area by putting forward a proposal for such technology.

By now you’re probably thinking, so what, Australia has its own road rules and governance initiatives in place. That may be the case, but we are part of a working group helping the UN tackle this ‘issue’. Let’s also not forget that shared testing practices are common between jurisdictions, as is the case with ANCAP and EuroNCAP. This extends to the mandatory inclusion of AEB and lane-departure warning for a 5-star safety score.

Behind the scenes, what you may not also be aware of is an initiative that ANCAP has been undertaking for some time. They have been engaging in telemetry to assess the accuracy of speedometers in new cars. The thing is, one barrier standing in their way is provisions in the law permitting manufacturers to calibrate speedometers as much as 10 per cent higher than your actual driving speed. On top of this, speed sign recognition and GPS precision are hardly foolproof.

Aside from the concerning implications this sort of technology could have during overtaking conditions, particularly in rural areas, and the regulatory overreach that will aggravate many road users, something else is clear. Speed is a definite factor in accidents, but we already have a variety of initiatives to tackle this. Even if we become compelled to follow in the EU’s footsteps, as it appears will be the case, we’re certainly nowhere near ready.

When is it Time to Give Up Driving?

While millennials appear to be abandoning vehicle ownership in favour of ride-sharing transportation, an ageing population means that more and more Australians are dependent on transport solutions to remain mobile. Naturally, having driven for most of their lives, it means elderly Australian motorists are clinging onto their driving routine and taking up the seat behind the wheel of their car.

With this however, we’re seeing a higher incidence of accidents and road fatalities than years gone past. For example, since 2007 road fatalities for drivers aged between 65 and 74 has grown 2.3% per year as measured across the nation. Among those drivers aged above 75, the figures point to an increase of 1.2% per year. Drivers aged 65 or above remain the only age group to see an increase in road fatalities across that period, while also recording a 9% rise in “road-related hospitalisations”.

 

The predicament

With a wealth of advertising and education directed towards younger drivers – who do statistically account for a higher number of accidents and fatalities – an absence on the part of all the state governments across the country to tackle a worrying trend is concerning. But how should we manage community mobility to optimise safety for all road users? Just when is it time to give up driving?

Truth be told, there is no simple answer to this predicament. While each of the states have their own road rules governing elderly drivers, having accessibility to a car remains a vital component to the independence of said individuals.

Nevertheless, for couples and families, it is best to discuss and monitor the health of loved ones to ensure they remain in good condition to take to the road. Regular health check-ups become an essential part of validating this, although remember that age in itself shouldn’t be viewed as the only measure of ability when it comes to driving.

Keep in mind as well, certain lenders will have their hesitations extending finance to those individuals who have retired from the workforce and are currently relying on their pension.

 

State rules

As mentioned above, each state has different rules when it comes to requirements for elderly drivers:

  • NSW: annual medical review (aged 75-84); annual medical review and practical driving test (85+)
  • VIC: no annual medical reviews, albeit referrals may be made by doctors, family and police
  • QLD: annual medical review but no practical driving tests (75+)
  • SA: medical assessment but no practical driving tests (at 70)
  • WA: medical assessment (from 80); medical assessment and practical assessment (from 85+)
  • TAS: no annual medical reviews
  • NT: no annual medical reviews, albeit referrals may be made by doctors, family and police

 

The Perfect Form of Transport???

Here at Private Fleet, we keep an eye on trends in car design and the way things are shaping up.  At the moment, I reckon there are three biggies: fuelling systems, autonomous vehicles and sensors.

Let’s start with fuel.  We all know that the supplies of crude oil aren’t as big as they used to be and the ones that are left are frequently in places that are very hard to get at or are located in politically volatile countries.  This means that if we can cut down our dependence on non-renewable fuels, we’ll be able to keep on trucking the way we’re accustomed to.  We’ll also help cut down on greenhouse gases, which is supposed to stop global warming or climate change.

In our quest to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we’re trying a bunch of different things, all of which are getting a lot of attention in the automotive world.  Electricity is the hottest one at the moment, with a major push towards EVs and hybrids that use both electricity and petrol.  However, that’s only one of the three.  Just as well, as one has to ask where the electricity is coming from and how it’s being generated.  If it’s being pumped out by coal- or gas-fuelled power stations, then EVs aren’t the perfect green solution.  The other hot topic in fuel is to look for other things that can be used to make diesel and petrol that are renewable – biofuels.  The trick here is to find something that can be grown without taking land and water resources away from what we need to feed a hungry world.  Lastly, there’s the hydrogen fuel cell option, which doesn’t produce much in the way of waste but is a little on the fiddly side to produce and transport, although they’re working on that.

All in all, this suggests that the perfect transport of the future should be able to run on something sustainable that’s easy to get hold of, and that it should produce minimal waste, or at least waste that can be useful for another purpose.

The second hot topic is the all the innovations being added as active safety features and driver aids.  There seems to be a new one out every time I turn around.  Temperature sensors for automatic climate control, 360° vision and reverse parking sensors are old hat. Now we’ve got side impact detection and avoidance, lane change assistance, autonomous braking, even systems that detect when the driver is getting tired or annoyed.  They’re working on getting the car to listen to you, with voice activated commands for all sorts of things.

This suggests that the perfect transport of the future should have a ton of sensors for all sorts of things, should be able to react according to the input of those sensors without the driver having to do anything, and should be able to interface with the moods of the driver.

Lastly, we’ve got the topic of autonomous cars: ones that will steer themselves, pick the right speed, pick the right part of the road and all the rest of it all by themselves.  This is closely related to the improvements in sensors and driver aids.  If autonomous cars reached their full perfection, you’d be able to hop in when well and truly under the influence, tell it to go home and then nod off until you find yourself parked outside the front door.

If we all of these factors together, we can get an idea of what the designers are trying to come up with.  Let’s imagine what it would look like: something that runs on plant-sourced fuels and produces biodegradable waste that can be converted to fertilizer; has ultra-sensitive sensors for temperature, mood and upcoming hazards in practically a full circle; is voice activated and even does voice-activated acceleration and parking; and can think for itself even when the driver is exhausted or drunk.  Natural materials for the upholstery and a cheap production method would be an advantage as well.  It already exists: when I was a child in a rural town, we called this a HORSE.