The automotive world is rife with complex issues — from engineering and mechanical problems to entertainment and climate control concerns. As technology progresses, manufacturers and engineers have taken on these problems, many in a case-by-case basis. This has led to many standard vehicle features that have led to increased safety and better overall performance over the years. From steering wheel designs to sleeker exteriors, the evolution of the modern automobile has been a long series of engineering triumphs over problems of many proportions.
At the root of every automotive issue is usually a simple solution, as is witnessed so often in all facets of life. In the automotive world, most big design and engineering changes start at the concept level, or are integrated in by Formula 1 teams and into high-end super cars. From there, technologies are perfected and passed down to the consumer level where everyday drivers reap the benefits.
Here are five simple and innovative solutions to complex automotive problems that are currently in development or that can be found on the road today.
1. Extendable Jump Seats: GMC
With GMC (NYSE:GM) releasing its new Canyon midsize pickup, it has developed a clever way to account for more space in the back seats of the cabin. For parents, one problem with small and midsize pickups are the small backseats, which don’t offer much room in which to place a car seat. According to Autoblog, car seat manufacturers require 80 percent of the seat’s bottom to fit on the cushion, which most pickups can’t accommodate. GMC came up with a neat fix wherein the headrests can be removed and slotted into the bottom of the seat, effectively creating a larger cushion area for car seats to rest upon. The nifty fix leads to a safer ride for children, and peace of mind for parents who drive small and midsize trucks.
2. Mercedes-Benz F1 Split Turbo
Our second innovation comes from the engineers on the Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF.PK) Formula 1 team. Finding a way to optimize the way air is heated and cooled within the engine piping led the way in boosting the amount of horsepower generated. Composed of an air compressor and a turbine, the turbo is traditionally located at the rear of the engine, with the components situated adjacent to one another. Mercedes engineers decided to separate the components, leaving the turbine at the rear of the engine, but moving the compressor to the front and connecting the two with a shaft. The results are that the vehicle requires less piping to cool the air, leading to less turbo lag, and also a reduction in the side intakes, leading to a more aerodynamic design. This has also allowed engineers to move the gearbox into a new location, helping centralize weight distribution. This simple yet brilliant design has helped Mercedes develop a significantly faster vehicle.
3. Nissan’s Self-Cleaning Car
Scratch washing the car off your to-do list, as Nissan (NSANY.PK) has started utilizing a special paint coating that repels water and oil. As Nissan put it in a press release, “The specially engineered super-hydrophobic and oleophobic paint, which repels water and oils, has been applied to the all-new European market Nissan Note to create the world’s first self-cleaning car.” The new technology, dubbed Ultra Ever-Dry, is still being tested and is in development. Although Ultra-Ever Dry has shown promise, Nissan says there are no plans to make it standard, but perhaps release it as an aftermarket option.
4. Ferrari’s Aeroelastic Winglets
Always pushing the envelope, Ferrari (FIATY.PK) has incorporated small ‘aeroelastic winglets’ into its 458 Italia model, which succeeded the ever-impressive F430 in Ferrari’s lineup. The winglets generate a downward force that deform as speed increases to reduce drag and improve the car’s aerodynamics. Located in the nose of the car, the end result of the winglets is a faster and more stable ride. It’s an ingenious and simple way that Ferrari has discovered to make its incredibly fast sports cars go even faster. Although you probably won’t be seeing the winglets deployed to standard consumer models, this simple fix is impressive nonetheless.
5. Self-Tinting Glass from Mercedes-Benz
You may have heard of Mercedes’ “Magic Sky Control” technology, which it uses to tint its vehicles’ sunroofs. Now Mercedes plans to apply the same technology to other windows in its vehicles, creating shade when you want it. Engineers are working on applying Magic Sky Control to the side windows, which would allow passengers to shield themselves from the sun, or even keep the interior cooler when the vehicle is parked in an area with little shade. The technology can best be pictured as working like transitions lenses for eyeglasses, adjusting to an optimum shade for both visibility and blocking out unwanted light. The only question is, since Mercedes had the technology before, what took them so long to apply it to the rest of the windows?