Car Tech A to Z: L is for limited slip diff, live infotainment and more

11 Aug, 2017 1:50pm

The letter L in our A to Z of car tech series explains limited slip differentials, live infotainment, and much more

The technology contained within the modern motor car can be both fascinating and slightly baffling. Most such technology exists to make our cars safer, more efficient and just better than ever to drive but some of it can be quite confusing for the average motorist. In this A to Z series we will attempt to unravel the mystery of technology that is the modern motor car. This week, we’re visiting the letter L…

L is for…limited slip differential. The limited slip differential was invented in the 1930s for use on the hugely powerful Auto Union Formula One cars.

Its purpose is to limit wheelspin across the driven axle by allowing the output shafts to rotate at different speeds, while at the same time limiting the difference in the speeds between the two shafts.

The limited slip diff is therefore a very useful piece of technology to have on a powerful car, be that front or rear driven.

But it also gives four wheel drive vehicles a major advantage when driving off road or even just in slippery conditions – because by varying the torque between and across the axles, a limited slip diff simply generates more traction.

Once again, many such systems are operated by electronics nowadays. They are known as e-diffs – but the basic principal of varying the output speeds between the drive shafts remains the same as it was in the 1930s.

L is for…Lane Keep Assist. Employed as a safety feature currently but a technology that will become more relevant as our cars become more autonomous, Lane Keep Assist works by using radars and sensors to the front and sides that detect if a vehicle is straying from its lane – if, for example, a driver begins to fall asleep or for whatever reason loses consciousness.

The steering is gently but automatically applied, and even the brakes will be applied if an impact becomes imminent.

L is for…Live Infotainment. Infotainment systems have become increasingly complex in cars, and most of them are live nowadays. This enables high speed connection to the internet via on-board wi-fi systems, and much greater connectivity in general – not just for the driver but for passengers too. Cars have never been so entertaining to simply travel in as a result.

As with most modern Live Infotainment systems, voice control is also possible and a touchscreen enables you to swipe and pinch through the various menus – just as you do on a tablet. And the home screen is also customisable.

L is for…lightweight technology. All car makers are working endlessly to make their vehicles as light as possible nowadays, while at the same time making them safer and stronger than ever.

And that’s a tough ask because the numerous safety systems of a modern car tend also to add weight, and lots of it. So the only solution is to use the lightest components possible for the core structures of the car, and for the body panels and so on.

And that basically means using either carbon fibre – which is heinously expensive to make and very awkward to fix if damaged – or aluminium or, sometimes, a hybrid mix of the two.

Next, the letter M…

A-Z of car tech

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