For the Auto Industry, the Future is Now


Detroit Free Press

Technology that saves lives – and fuel – is getting better and cheaper and more available, and not just for high-end luxury vehicles anymore.

Get the details on life-saving technology that is here and now.

Cameras that check around the car for pedestrians. Radar that stops you from drifting out of your lane. An engine able to turn off automatically at traffic lights to conserve fuel.

Technology that saves lives — and fuel — is getting better and cheaper. That means it’s no longer confined to luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo. It’s showing up in mainstream vehicles like the Nissan Rogue and Ford Fusion.

“What we see today as slightly elitist technology is changing very, very fast,” said Steven Lunn, chief operating officer for TRW Automotive, which supplies electronics and other parts to carmakers.

TRW says its newest radar is a quarter of the price of the model it sold 10 years ago. Its cameras are smaller and cheaper, too, making it easier to put multiple ones on each car.

High-tech options can still cost a few thousand dollars more, but those costs will come down as technology improves and automakers add them to more and more vehicles.

Here are some up-and-coming features that drivers can expect on their next cars:

  • Collision warning with automatic braking
  • Advanced cameras
  • Lane Centering
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Stop-start

By 2025, new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon of gasoline, up from the current 30.8 mpg. One feature will almost be a must-have: A stop-start device that shuts off the engine at a stop light and automatically turns it on when the driver releases the brake.

Alex Molinaroli, a vice president with Johnson Controls, which makes batteries that power the systems, estimates they raise gas mileage by a minimum of 5%.