Winning innovations improve performance

by Jim KerrAuto Tech . Feb 10 2017

Styling attracts us to vehicles, but it is the technology they possess that keeps us comfortable, safe and happy. Each year, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada members choose the top new technologies in two categories: safety and innovation. This year, the top three finalists in each category were selected and the winners recently announced at the Montreal International Auto Show.

Here are the finalists:

Best New Technology — Innovation

• Ford Pro-Trailer Assist

Whether you are a novice or a pro at towing trailers, Ford’s Pro-trailer assist on the F150 pickup makes backing up your trailer easier than ever. Using camera-based technology, the system controls the electric power steering while the driver turns a knob on the dash left or right in the direction the trailer is supposed to go. A simple one-time setup process is all that is required. Up to 10 different trailer configurations can be stored in the system memory. Backing up a trailer has never been easier!

• Mazda G-Vectoring Control (GVC)

So subtle that most drivers won’t even be aware of the feature operating, G-Vectoring control enhances the vehicle’s feel of stability and smoothness by controlling engine power in almost imperceptible time frames to shift the weight balance of the car. For passengers, the result is a comfortable and more relaxing ride. For drivers, GVC reduces small steering wheel inputs by almost 50 per cent and provides a feeling of linear control of the steering on all types of roads and road surfaces.

• Mazda SKYACTIV-G 2.5T Engine

Introduced in the new CX-9, the 2.5T engine uses unique turbocharger control to maximize both low r.p.m. torque and fuel economy. Using a control valve upstream of the turbocharger, exhaust gas pulses increase flow velocity to the turbo as they pass the closed valve for increased low r.p.m. power. Paired with an efficient and compact 4 into 3 into 1 exhaust header and 10.5-to-1 compression ratio, the engine needs less fuel enrichment to reduce cylinder temperatures so fuel economy is improved while providing power at the same time.

Best New Technology — Safety

• Mercedes-Benz Pre-Safe Sound

Ingenious in concept, Pre-Safe Sound is the next evolution in Mercedes-Benz Pre-safe safety systems. While existing Pre-Safe features close windows, tighten seat belts and position seats to maximize occupant safety before an impending collision, Pre-Safe sound is designed to help protect occupants’ hearing from the over-85-decibel loud sounds generated during a collision. Pre-Safe sound generates an 80-decibel sound over the radio speakers if an impending collision is detected and this sound causes the muscles in the human ear to contract and protect the ear from louder noises that may damage hearing. Safety is many-faceted and Pre-Safe Sound is a great example of taking safety one step further.

• Toyota Safety Sense P Package

Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS) is an advanced suite of safety features as standard equipment on almost all Toyota models by the fall of 2017. There are two TSS packages. The TSS-C package includes pre-collision mitigation, lane departure alert and automatic high-beam headlamp control. The TSS-P package adds Pedestrian Detection to the pre-collision feature, steering assist correction to the lane-departure warning feature and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control to the TSS-C package. Using camera and radar technology, these features will warn a driver to take corrective action and then provide automatic braking if the driver doesn’t react. There will be 150,000 Toyota vehicles on the road with the TSS-P package by the fall of next year, so this will have significant safety value for many drivers and their passengers.

• Volvo Pilot Assist II, Large Animal Detection, Run-off road mitigation

Pilot Assist II is actually three systems using camera and radar technology to help keep drivers and passengers safe. The Pilot Assist feature can control acceleration, braking and steering up to 130 km/h to help keep the S90 in its lane at speed. Run-off road mitigation keeps the vehicle on the road by applying braking and steering forces if an impending road departure is sensed. Large Animal Detection senses the density of larger animals such as deer, moose and coyotes within about a 200-metre range, determine if they pose a danger, warn the driver and automatically brake the vehicle to mitigate a collision if the driver takes no action. These features are semi-autonomous, giving the driver full control of the vehicle at all times while using automatic control to assist when required.

The winners

Mazda G-Vectoring Control in the Best New Technology — Innovation category; Volvo Pilot Assist II in the Best New Technology — Safety category.

But the real winners are you, the drivers, who benefit from these technologies and the impact they can have on more new technologies down the road.