What’s the connection between Nasa, Star Trek and the automotive industry? How long will it be before GPS systems turn from navigation aids into in-car speed limit enforcers? You’d be surprised…

What’s the connection between Nasa, Star Trek and the automotive industry? How long will it be before GPS systems turn from navigation aids into in-car speed limit enforcers? You’d be surprised…

’Turn left at the next junction, then prepare for deceleration’

In Britain, cars that automatically control a driver’s speed came a step closer last week. In theory, roads’ respective speed limits will be mapped so that when a GPS-equipped vehicle travels along a specified route, its electronic management system limits the engine’s power.

UK road safety minister David Jamieson announced this at the start of a two-year study of 20 Skoda Fabias equipped with GPS technology that prevents cars from traveling above the speed limit.

The R24,6-million two-year study is being carried out by the University of Leeds, after which the system could be offered as a R12 200 option on vehicles. The British government claims it won’t be mandatory for at least 10 years, but how long will it take before the system becomes mandatory in the European Union, the US, Asia and then South Africa?

CARtoday.com reported last year that repeat speeding offenders in Australia may soon have to install a device on their vehicles that will limit how fast they can go. It’s not as high-tech as the system being developed in the UK, but serves the same purpose.

Australian Transport Minister Steve Bredhauer said he was determined to use any means necessary to bring down the death toll, including speed-limiters. The Austrialian government has also ruled that repeat drunk-driving offenders will have to have alcohol-detecting locks fitted to their cars.

CARtoday.com reported in May that the lock has a portable breath tester wired into a car's ignition. The driver must blow into the device and if alcohol is detected, the interlock prevents the car from being started.

We are the Borg, prepare to be assimilated!

To fans of the cult sc-fi series Star Trek, a group known as Trekkies, the Borg is not a pony-tailed Swedish tennis player of yesteryear, but an evil robotic space race that assimilates other species into its collective.

The Borg drones wear hi-tech headsets equipped with lenses and laser-guidance – and very soon many motor mechanics will have similar gadgets resting on their craniums.

The eye-level gadget projects step-by-step instructions for whatever job the technician is carrying out into his field of vision.

It's the brainchild of German research firm Fraunhofer, which calls it the Handbook of the Future. The device should save extensive training for staff in the car industry. In theory, the worker will see red and green arrows in front of him, informing him what to do next to replace or repair components in the engine bay of a vehicle, for example.

A spokesman told : "The rising complexity of machinery, plus shorter product cycles, means service personnel have to be highly trained. Very good servicing documentation is needed, and the car industry has already realised it won't be able to train people sufficiently in the future."

He added that it was inevitable mechanics would be confronted with tasks they did’nt know about, and that this new system would overcome that problem.

The innovative technique has been borrowed from the aircraft industry, where it has been employed for a number of years.

Nasa puts SUVs on the spin-cycle

A giant centrifuge used by NASA to test spacecraft is now flinging cars through the air to investigate whether they are at risk of rolling over when they go round corners.

The multi-million-dollar rig can spin at up to 322 km/h to create the enormous G-forces that rockets must endure when leaving Earth's atmosphere. But US safety experts have hired the 36-metre-long contraption to see if the latest SUVs can stay upright on a bend.

The centrifuge is based at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, near Washington. NASA won't allow humans to ride the machine, so instead a special dummy packed with sensors sits at the wheel as the car goes round.

Electronic detectors on the vehicle's chassis and body record how the weight of the car shifts on its suspension as the arm speeds up and slows down. Afterwards, a computer calculates the probability that the vehicle will roll over or stay upright during all kinds of cornering patterns. Officials hope the indoor test will replace real-life driving trials on test tracks that can be affected by changes in the weather.

The NASA rig also means that no vehicles actually get damaged, cutting down on development costs.

Original article from Car