As before, only sections of the German autobahn will be speed restricted while the rest will be open-season for speedsters. Picture: REUTERS
As before, only sections of the German autobahn will be speed restricted while the rest will be open-season for speedsters. Picture: REUTERS

The hypercar haven of Germany will retain its status as the fastest in the world after the government rejected proposals from safety and environment groups for a blanket 130km/h maximum limit on autobahns.

But it has come at a cost, with the German government under fire at home from the same lobby groups that helped usher in old-diesel bans in some of the country’s busiest cities.

While plenty of drivers around the world would drool at the prospect of a 130km/h maximum speed limit, Germans regarded it as an assault on their civil liberties.

About 70% of Germany’s extensive 25,767km of multilane, divided autobahn network is free of speed limits, and many Germans — including car company executives — have put the government under pressure to retain the world’s fastest public roads.

Critics of the announcement insist the lowering of the speed limit, as recommended by a government-appointed commission on future mobility — was canned after the car industry’s intensive lobbying.

Yet there was a groundswell of public pressure to retain the unlimited autobahns after it leaked out that the commission was recommending their axing. It suggested a maximum speed of 130km/h to improve road safety and lower carbon dioxide  emissions.

Germany's transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, attacked the speed limit proposal this week, calling it “against all common sense”. “The principle of freedom has proven itself,” Scheuer said  at a press conference.

“Whoever wants to drive 120 can drive 120, and those who want to go faster can do that too. Why this constant micromanagement?” he asked.

Scheuer insisted German autobahns were the safest in the world and that a limit would cut the country’s road transport emissions by less than 0.5%.

Communicating with lights

Jaguar Land Rover  have developed a system that projects the direction of travel on to the road ahead of self-driving vehicles, to tell other road users what it is going to do next.

The intelligent technology beams a series of projections on to the road to show the future intentions of the vehicle — for example stopping and turning left or right — as part of research into how people can develop their trust in autonomous technology. In the future, the projections could even be used to share obstacle detection and journey updates with pedestrians. 

The autonomous car projects a series of lines onto the road to inform other road users that it's about to turn. Picture: SUPPLIED
The autonomous car projects a series of lines onto the road to inform other road users that it's about to turn. Picture: SUPPLIED

These projections, tested on autonomous pods developed by Aurrigo, feature a series of lines or bars with adjustable spacing. The gaps shorten as the pod is preparing to brake before fully compressing at a stop. As the pod moves off and accelerates, the spacing between the lines extends. Upon approaching a turn, the bars fan out left or right to indicate the direction of travel. 

Trials were set up by Jaguar Land Rover’s future mobility division, supported by cognitive psychologists, after studies showed 41% of drivers and pedestrians are worried about sharing the road with autonomous vehicles.

The innovative system was tested on a fabricated street scene, with engineers recording trust levels reported by pedestrians with and without projections. 

The trust trial programme also included fitting of "virtual eyes" to the self-driving pods in 2018 to see if making eye contact improved trust in the technology.

Pete Bennett, future mobility research manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “The trials are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust. Just like any new technology, humans have to learn to trust it, and when it comes to autonomous vehicles, pedestrians must have confidence they can cross the road safely. This pioneering research is forming the basis of ongoing development into how self-driving cars will interact with people in the future.”

Mazda updates its infotainment

Mazda SA has introduced Apple Carplay and Android Auto to most of its cars. Available from February 2019 onwards and retrofitted to existing Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda CX-3 and Mazda CX-5 with the MZD Connect system, to fit this new accessory kit owners will need to approach a Mazda dealer for fitment.

Mazda SA has enhanced its infotainment with Apple Carplay (pictured) and Android Auto. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mazda SA has enhanced its infotainment with Apple Carplay (pictured) and Android Auto. Picture: SUPPLIED

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enable a deeper connection between car and smartphones by superimposing your smartphone interface on to the car’s integrated information screen via USB or in the case of Mazda, Bluetooth connectivity.

Features that can be enjoyed with Android Auto or CarPlay include voice activated Artificial Intelligence engagement to activate music, read text messages and also get directions from a smartphone’s navigation system while you keep your hands on the wheel.

According to Mazda SA spokesperson Nosipho Manitshana, this fitment of this feature will cost Mazda owners R2,421.75 excludingVAT. Also, the soon-to-be-launched enhanced Mazda CX-5 will be factory-fitted with CarPlay and Android Auto.