Richard Stevinson, writing for Spectrum.IEEE.org, actually took an Audi A8 equipped with Bosch’s revolutionary new long-range automotive radar on a wet foggy day in Stuttgart with visibility little beyond 20 feet.
“I couldn't help but smile when I pulled behind a huge truck and, resisting the temptation to hit the brakes, focused on steering,” Stevinson wrote. “The adaptive cruise-control system, which uses a new radar from Robert Bosch that can see hundreds of meters ahead, did the rest. The system gently nestled the car behind the juggernaut and accelerated at my command, so I was able to pull out into the passing lane, all the while getting the most out of the 4.2-liter diesel, which rapidly propelled me to the speed I'd selected.”
Still the system retains a glitch or two. When the car he was following veer sharply one way and then the other, the radar lost its hold, requiring the driver to brake before the radar locked back on.
All new technology has a development curve and it takes a while to get the bugs out, but if you‘ve ever had a white-knuckle journey over a mountain pass in a whiteout or a fogbank, you could see how this kind of technology could easily become indispensable.
Right now, the long-range radar system will add $1000 to the price of the car. As the system becomes more affordable it will very likely be rapidly adopted. The first applications appeared on the Toyota Celsior in 1997 with others soon following in models from BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, Nissan, and Mercedes. The technology has been developing market penetration at about 40 percent a year, and should accelerate as the prices drops.
The system will dramatically reduce the risk of rear-ending someone else's and someone else running into you from the rear when the technology is more widespread. Once cars can sense the other on the road, there's no reason the cars won’t work out safe tailing distances themselves. Eventually, they may even chat among themselves, letting each other know what they think their drivers are about to do based on the navigator settings. As the streets grow greener, they may grow smarter too.
Bosch reportedly will release a less expensive radar system next year, with a range of 160 meters or roughly 500 feet. Thirty-three car lengths is a pretty good range of advance warning at all but the highest speeds. Costs will fall as the numbers rise, just like VCRs or LED HD TVs, so sooner or later everyone will have this awesome technology.
When that happens, I’ll have my vehicle ring your vehicle so they can avoid coming too close together.