Technology: Tokyo motor show heads for the smart car of the future

日期:2019-02-28 10:01:02 作者:濮阳椹 阅读:

JAPAN’s mighty motor industry has unveiled its vision of the future – plastic-bodied cars that move at 300 kilometres an hour, propelled by ceramic engines on computer-controlled suspension. Motorists of the future will need neither car keys nor road maps – a car’s locks will recognise the owner’s fingerprints and satellites will tell the driver where to go. All these features appeared in one form or another at the world’s largest motor show, which opened in Tokyo at the end of October. Some car companies already sell navigation systems based on optical discs, similar to compact discs. The system stores maps and follows the car’s progress over them. The trouble with this type of gadget is that the driver must tell it where the car is starting from. The device can also get ‘lost’ when the car’s apparent motion, measured by the number of revolutions of the wheels and the bearing of a compass, does not seem to match the pattern of streets. Navigation satellites will avoid these drawbacks by fixing the car’s position at the beginning of a journey and at any point along the way. They will become a practical possibility for cars next year in the US, when the government’s Global Positioning System of navigation satellites comes into service. Existing systems are unable to fix their position except when satellites are overhead, and they are not accurate enough to place a car in the right street. GPS will give continuous coverage and will beaccurate to within 30 metres. At the show, the Mazda car company demonstrated a satellite system which it said will be available in the middle of next year. A rival company, Mitsubishi, suggested an even simpler approach to navigation in an experimental vehicle: computer-controlled steering which follows the car in front. New materials are proving slow to replace metal in the construction of cars. However, the Isuzu company demonstrated a V6 engine with ceramic surfaces on the camshaft, together with ceramic piston rings, cylinder liner and head liner. Ceramics are lighter than metals and resist heat better. In theory, an all-ceramic engine would need no heating, but no one is close to putting one into production. Another company, Suzuki, announced plans to make panels for the body of a new model from carbon-fibre material. It also demonstrated a piston made from metal reinforced with carbon fibres, which it said was four times as strong as aluminium and 20 per cent lighter. Japan’s largest car maker, Toyota, thinks that the future may lie in two-stroke engines, in which each cylinder fires once every rotation of the crankshaft. Almost all modern cars have four-stroke engines. Toyota displayed two-stroke versions of petrol and diesel engines, which it believes will undergo a revival in the 21st century. Other companies are trying to give a more human feel to their high-technology accessories. On one new model from Subaru,