Each year the Canadian International Auto Show (CIAS), in Toronto, includes a feature exhibit that focuses on a topical area of vehicle development and technology.
For the past two years, its EcoDrive Showcase has highlighted fuel-efficient and fuel-alternative vehicles and technologies – everything from automatic stop-start systems and advanced engine designs to hybrids and fully electric vehicles.
This year the focus shifts to connectivity – perhaps the hottest buzzword in the auto industry today, with multiple connotations attached.
The CIAS's AutoConnect Showcase covers the gamut from the latest personal communication and infotainment features – such as General Motors first-in-Canada OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity – to Mercedes-Benz's near-autonomous S-Class sedan, which still needs a driver, but not for much.
Mercedes-Benz has set up a full-scale simulator in the exhibit that can convince you you're driving 160 km/h on a German Autobahn while experiencing its many crash avoidance and driver assistance features, including hands-off driving for limited periods.
The primary purpose of AutoConnect is to make consumers aware of the many Advanced Driver Assistance Systems currently available in vehicles all across the price spectrum, and how they are serving as stepping stones to the fully autonomous vehicles of the future.
Things like Ford's automatic Park Assist system, which not only identifies a suitable parking space but takes over all the hard parts of parallel parking, including turning the steering wheel.
Show-goers can not only see it in action but experience it for themselves from inside the car, which is operating in full-electric mode.
Other stepping-stone technologies are on display in vehicles including a Chevrolet Corvette, Infiniti Q50, Jeep Cherokee, Lexus GS 350, Mazda6, Mini, and Subaru Outback.
> Adaptive Cruise Control – which maintains a preset distance behind the vehicle ahead if it is going slower than the set speed.
> Blind-spot Warning / Intervention – which warns, audibly, visibly or haptically of vehicles in the blind spot on either side.
> Lane Departure Warning / Intervention – which warns the driver, usually audibly, if the vehicle wanders out of its lane unintentionally (without turn signal on).
> Lane Centering – which keeps the vehicle in the centre of its lane without the need for the driver to make constant corrections.
> Forward Collision Alert / Intervention – which warns of impending collision with an object or another vehicle and in some cases takes corrective action.
> Cross-Traffic Alert / Intervention – which warns of approaching traffic from either side, when backing or driving out of a parking space or approaching an intersection.
These are just a few of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems currently available.
Impressive as they are individually, collectively they are leading the way to the fully autonomous, self-driving vehicle of the future, which is the key message of the AutoConnect Showcase.