KITT Technology Today

Editorial

Technology in cars today is moving faster than ever before and it can be hard to keep up with the pace. And as I was strolling through the automakers' displays last week at the Geneva Motor Show, one in particular caught my attention. Approaching the BMW display, I was anxious to see the new 6-Series Coupe, but was quickly distracted. What really sparked my interest was their Vision ConnectedDrive Concept.

First off, they had one concept model mounted to a wall. That's just cool. And second, the sheer presence of the car had quite an effect on everyone there. Besides its love it or hate it styling, it has technology that just 25 some years ago was pure fiction on a T.V. show. That show was Knight Rider (not the 2008 remake) starring the one and only David Hasselhoff with his 80s helmet hair of cool idol fashion. As a kid, I was mesmerized by the talking car that sounded suspiciously like William Daniels (I didn't put the two together until 1993 when he played Mr. Finney on Boy Meets World).

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Despite its vocal talents and human-like behavior, KITT was basically an advanced computer on wheels, featuring microprocessors, numerous defense systems, and an in-dash entertainment network that could play music and videos. It could even run arcade games. As far-fetched as any of this sounded in the early to mid-80s, much of this technology is nearly standard with today's infotainment units. People are now even customizing dashboards to fit an iPad. Unsurprisingly, KITT's interior now visually appears out-of-date.

Why? It had too many buttons. Not until the Knight 4000 from the 1991 T.V. movie Knight Rider 2000 did KITT gain more voice-activated technology that eliminated the need for many exposed controls. Even then, that technology seemed so futuristic. I mean, really, could one ever talk to their car via voice commands? So does this mean cars will soon have microwave jammers, laser powerpacks, and ejection seats? Probably not, but checking out some of KITT's other features, specifically the Anamorphic Equalizer, and we may already be there.

What did it fictionally do? Well, it was a fiber-optic laser array with electronic eyes that was capable of "seeing" visual wavelengths, x-ray, and infrared. Off the top of my head, the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class has the Brake Assist Plus system that can monitor the road for impending collisions. It also has the Distronic Plus radar guided cruise control that's capable of bringing the car to a complete stop as it monitors the movement and speed of cars in front. Can the car talk? Kind of (no personality), but it can effectively "see" road and traffic conditions.

Its steering wheel will even vibrate to alert the driver they're swerving into another lane. And now there's the BMW Vision ConnectedDrive Concept. Although it may appear to be just another two-seat roadster concept, it is in fact overflowing with technology. It has a 3D heads-up display that's able to highlight upcoming road hazards using sensors located in the headlights and taillights. There's even a safety system that uses Wi-Fi to "talk" to other cars in order to identify potential collisions.

According to BMW, this is coming to production in the next few years. However, the technology we'll probably see first on future BMWs will be a programmable instrument cluster that allows both the driver and passenger to bring up navigation, entertainment, and communication systems. Information can even be shared between the two displays. Ford, for example, has already done something similar to this with their excellent MyFord Touch system, but BMW is taking it to the next level.

Put all of these current and emerging technologies together, and KITT is nearly parked in your garage. Only missing would be a flame thrower, tear gas launcher, and the voice of William Daniels.

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