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Old 06-20-2002, 23:04   #1 (permalink)
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Cameras watch road in Volvo prototype

Volvo's Safety Concept Car is the result of $10 million worth of research geared toward making driving safer.

CNN) -- Most, if not all, car manufacturers create concept cars -- models you can't find in a showroom -- to help develop technologies for future cars.

Volvo's latest, the Safety Concept Car, is a high-tech prototype geared toward reducing accidents and making driving more comfortable and secure.

"Ten million dollars of research went into this," says Steve Rohanna of Ford Motor Co., Volvo's parent company. "This baby is loaded with features."

Many of those features tackle one of the trickiest traffic problems: blind spots.

Volvo installed a see-through pillar where the windshield meets the door frame, and put cameras and sensors in the side mirrors to alert the driver to nearby vehicles.

The seat, pedals, steering wheel and console all adjust to the position of the driver's eye.


"You can tell when there's a car coming up on you when you're changing lanes," says Rohanna.

Other cameras in the car show the driver what's behind the vehicle, to prevent accidentally running over a child or pet. There's even an infrared camera that projects night vision images onto a screen above the instrument panel.

"At night," explains Rohanna, "you would see people or animals kind of lighting up on that screen so you know that there is something ahead and to be careful."

But couldn't all those extra images create distractions?

"We want to be able to put people in a car and see what kinds of situations they are in, where they could become distracted by too much technology," says Volvo's Daniel Johnston, "and then we start looking at that. Is there a benefit to that, or is it a distraction and then take it out."

The Volvo prototype also has sensors that measure the location of the driver's eyes, then adjust the seat, pedals, console and steering wheel accordingly.


The seat, pedals, steering wheel and console all adjust to the position of the driver's eye.
The information is stored and transmitted through an ultra high-tech remote control unit known as the VPC -- the Volvo Personal Communicator. The VPC keeps track of seat settings, and can even store personal medical information in case of an accident. A fingerprint lock keeps the data -- and the car -- safe from unauthorized users.

Volvo isn't the only carmaker putting high-tech gadgetry into its vehicles. Lexus recently designed a futuristic car for the movie "Minority Report" that also features cameras to see out the back and a retinal-scan entry system.

Such fancy features may get your motor running, but don't go rushing out to the dealership just yet. Cars like these won't be on the road anytime soon. But some of the Volvo safety features will be available in cars over the next five years.


The headlight-monitoring system tracks road speed and steering wheel movements and adjusts the headlights' position and intensity accordingly.

Improved night visibility is being tested in the Volvo SCC with an infrared light enhancer. At night, a black-and-white image of the area that is not lit up well by the headlights is projected onto a glass display in the instrument panel.

The rear-view mirrors contain rearward-facing cameras to supplement the mirrors. Information from the cameras is relayed via video to a monitor on the instrument panel.

Sensors are embedded in the door mirrors to alert the driver to approaching traffic in the blind spot.

Steel construction combined with Plexiglas opens up the "A-pillars" at the edges of the windshield for a better view.

The Volvo SCC also features four-point seat belts help hold passengers more securely.
__________________
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.'So that was nice.

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