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The future car

Nurdianah Md Nur | Nov. 18, 2013
Besides being eco-friendly, cars in future will be connected to each other and traffic lights to ensure that drivers enjoy a smoother ride.

finish for Solar Team Eindhoven at the World Solar Challenge 2013
Finish for Solar Team Eindhoven at the World Solar Challenge 2013. Credit to Solar Team Eindhoven.

Cars in future may not only be eco-friendly but smarter, according to NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NXP).

With this vision, NXP sponsored Stella, a solar-powered family car that won the gold medal in the inaugural Michelin Cruiser Class at the recent World Solar Challenge. Designed and driven by Solar Team Eindhoven from the Netherlands, Stella completed the 3,000 km racing route over six days with an average speed of 67 km/h with three people onboard. Stella also achieved a top speed of 120km/h with a full load of four people to demonstrate its horsepower.

To ensure that it is energy efficient, Stella is designed to be light and features an aerodynamic shape. Stella's solar panels also generate more energy than what the car consumes, said Lex Hoefsloot, co-founder and team manager of Solar Team Eindhoven. With all these features, Stella is able to run 800km on a single charge, added Hoefsloot.

It might not be long till eco-friendly cars become common on roads. Stella is currently approved for the roads in Europe, and mass production of Stella can happen within five to 10 years as it is suitable for large scale manufacturing and can be assembled from readily accessible materials and components.

Connected cars
During the race, Stella utilised NXP's car-to-car communications (C2C) technology to optimise the car's performance and ensure that everything runs smoothly based on current road conditions. C2C technology does so by using automotive Wi-Fi standard to transfer data to the mission control car.

The use of C2C technology is not limited to the competition or Stella — the technology may also be used to benefit vehicles on the road. Firstly, it can help to minimise accidents and traffic problems by enabling vehicles on the road to automatically exchange information about their speed, position and direction. Secondly, it may help to improve traffic flow by controlling the phasing and timing of cooperative traffic lights by using the information that the vehicles transmit to the traffic lights. Thus, authorities should leverage C2C technology to "manage congestion more effectively", said Loh Kin Wah, executive vice president of sales and marketing at NXP Semiconductors.


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