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Making roads safer and driving more fun

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By Pinky Concha Colmenares 

With the smart car of the future already here, what’s next?

The answer is “smart mobility.”

SAFER VISION--The Mitsubishi eX Concept features an augmented reality (AR) windshield, which displays vital information such as route guidance from the car's navigation system, the car's distance from other vehicles, and traffic signs acquired by the car's road sign recognition, in the driver's field of vision for safer driving. (Mitsubishi-motors.com)

SAFER VISION–The Mitsubishi eX Concept features an augmented reality (AR) windshield, which displays vital information such as route guidance from the car’s navigation system, the car’s distance from other vehicles, and traffic signs acquired by the car’s road sign recognition, in the driver’s field of vision for safer driving. (Mitsubishi-motors.com)

Car makers and urban planners define smart mobility in many ways, but all have one aim to use communications, energy and environment technologies to make the roads safer and driving more pleasant.

It will not take long, with the speed in the development of communication technologies, when the full impact of smart mobility will make our roads safer – when vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-road and vehicle to pedestrians will be “talking” to each other. Automotive manufacturers have developed many technologies to make tomorrow’s smart mobility arrive earlier than planned.

I’ve had the privilege of viewing the demonstrations of the technologies developed by Mitsubishi Motors and Toyota Motor Corporation in my trips to the Tokyo Motor Shows in the past years.

Mitsubishi Connect
Less than a year ago, Mitsubishi demonstrated to a group of Filipino journalists MitsubishiConnect which it prides to be “innovation that connects you to the world around you.”

The heart of that system is Artificial Intelligence (AI) that connects to Cloud and the internet, giving the driver and passengers a variety of information – from road conditions ahead, the weather forecast, time to a destination, and even news that will interest him, such as a film showing at a theater nearby. (AI’s voice will ask: Do you want to purchase tickets? And with an affirmative reply, in a short time, the voice will say: Tickets purchased.)

In fact, the demonstration also showed that if the driver is running late for a dinner date, AI will suggest another place for the date. And the voice will also remind the passengers of bad weather ahead. Thus, safety is ensured by the car’s AI which provides travel information not only from Cloud, but also from the vehicle’s systems,
and from the road infrastructure.

Unexpected car breakdowns will truly be a thing of the past with the system’s AI informing the driver of any abnormality or breakdown it detects so that repair and maintenance
is done early. The developing MitsubishiConnect technology of course offers the choice – to drive or to leave that to the car. AI’s voice will ask: Do you want me to drive? And if the driver chooses to, he can turn the driving to the MitsubishiConnect technology — and later take over the control of the wheel, and back to good old manual driving.

Meanwhile, information on road conditions are given by a voice as well as by icons on the car’s monitor — like a vehicle decelerating ahead, a stalled vehicle on a lane, and it will even ask if the driver would like to over take a vehicle.

The car, incidentally, has a self-valet capability. The driver alights, the car leaves and seeks a parking space – all guided by vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Later, through his smart watch, the driver can “call” the car to meet him at the driveway.

Toyota Smart Mobility
Two years ago, Toyota Motor Corporation demonstrated its vision on Smart Mobility at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Toyota presented a vision of a not-too-distant future where mobility incorporates societal and lifestyle factors and driving is more safe, secure and fun.

Smart mobility will be made a reality with the use of road-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-vehicle and pedestrian-to-vehicle communication to reduce the likelihood of traffic accidents.
Toyota’s exhibit on smart mobility presented personal vehicles — to enhance personal mobility — powered by alternative sources of energy to make commuting more efficient while addressing environmental concerns.

The personal mobility options on display were the “Ha:mo,” a next-generation urban transport system that has been under trial in Japan since 2012; the “Toyota i-Road” (personal mobility concept car); the “COMS” ultra-compact single-occupant electric vehicle; and the Winglet, an ultra-compact personal
transport assistance robot that makes innovative use of robot control technologies and a unique parallel link mechanism.

Toyota’s display also presented Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems on automated driving technologies and driving support systems. Toyota aims to ensure safe and environment-friendly mobility while keeping the driver in ultimate control.

And Toyota’s Intelligent Driver-support Systems aims to achieve its ultimate goal of eliminating traffic injuries and fatalities. As an important
step toward that goal, Toyota’s Automated Highway Driving Assist promotes safe and skillful driving by combining Cooperative-adaptive Cruise Control (C-ACC) and Lane Trace Control (LTC), two brand-new features.

C-ACC uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication to adapt quickly to the deceleration and acceleration of other vehicles, while LTC uses sensors
to detect lane lines and steers to ensure that an optimal driving line is maintained.

It will not be long before those developing technologies will be here.

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