Thinking Tech

Meet Innotruck, a car that's actually from the future

Posting in Design

Many of the futuristic technologies found inside this concept vehicle may someday become a reality.

The rocketship on wheels you see pictured above just might be a glimpse of the car of the future -- though you probably won't ever see it on the road. Rather, it's the array of experimental technologies inside that may someday make its way into some of tommorow's most innovative vehicles.

The "Innotruck," born out of Technical University Munich's "Diesel Reloaded" project and with support from Siemens, was created as a demonstration vehicle for a number of promising ideas such as as adaptive displays and controls, plug-and-play applications and car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications. In short, the truck is rigged with an array of advanced systems that can take much of the guesswork out of navigating the streets and highways safely and efficiently.

The truck is on display at the MobiliTec international trade fair at the Hannover Messe, from April 23rd to 27th. Here's a rough breakdown of the various types of technologies being tested:

  • An advanced energy management system makes the vehicle a kind of miniature "smart grid." It can manage the energy flow not only from variety of sources such as its battery pack, onboard solar cells, wind turbines and regenerative brakes. It's also outfitted with electrical outlets along the exterior to allow other vehicles to recharge.
  • In the cockpit is an interface with displays and controls that adapt not only to the driver's individual capabilities and behavior, but also to changing conditions such as traffic and the driver's level of alertness.
  • The vehicle's communications achitecture is also expandable with centralized computing and plug-and-play applications that allows for easy integration of new capabilities such as networked systems designed to help optimize traffic flow and safety.

Over time, more and more of the team's ideas will be tested and implemented in the Innotruck. For instance, the researchers expect to soon receive a permit for drive-by-wire operation on public roads.

What's also important to note is that by functioning as a testbed for promising technologies, the Innotruck gives the students an opportunity to learn, while at the same time, innovate for the future.

"Traditional education tends to prepare engineers for the engineering of the past," project leader Gernot Spiegelberg says. "This approach prepares them for the future. There is a cycle of knowledge generation, transfer, and application at work here."

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure