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News of  September 12, 2000


Lancia Nea - The Technological Heart Of Tomorrow’s Car 

Lancia Nea

All Photos: Fiat

The Lancia Nea - the tripmate car - sets out to interpret market and lifestyle needs that are bound to become more and more pressing over the next few years. Nea, or new - if you prefer. A good name for a concept car that offers some of the advanced features already seen on the earlier, bigger Lancia Dialogos. The Lancia Nea incorporates all these attributes to allow us a glimpse of the way compact cars (the Nea is 4.10 metres long) will look in the future.
 It also continues the spirit of innovation that has run like a thread through Lancia's history, past and present. This compact package comprises many cutting-edge devices that are probably quite new to the general public. 
  • A virtual safety belt
  • A long-range radar at the front of the car notifies the driver of anything that appears in front of the car while driving. It is also selective, because it can exclude overhead items such as viaducts or objects at the roadside such as advertising hoardings or message boards.
  • A TV camera - also at the front - detects the direction of the traffic lane and the car's position within it with the aid of sensors. It can tell whether an obstacle identified by the radar really lies in the car's path (and is thus dangerous) or otherwise.
  • Another two TV cameras located high up at the sides of the windscreen are able to detect the size of the obstacle (the radar only determines distance with precision, not dimensions) and the area within which the car can manoeuvre in safety to avoid it (they work stereoscopically like the human eye).
  • Six short-range side radars (three on the left side and three on the right) detect the presence of obstacles located in the lanes on either side of the car.
  • Two TV cameras trained towards the rear of the car check blind spots and notify the driver of overtaking cars.
  • Last but not least, the car also comes with three rear view TV cameras and a parking camera. 

This prototype, described as a 'tripmate' or travelling companion, displays the following features:  

  • spare, imaginative styling;
  • fully conversant with the very latest computer and communications technology that makes information, communication and entertainment resources
  • available at all times;
  • simple to use because it makes use of new, user-friendly technology that offers help discreetly without getting in the way;
  • a forward-looking ability to help the driver keep an eye on the road and other vehicles and warn of the onset of dangerous situations. This car sees
  • safety from another angle, i.e. it sets out to avoid an accident, not to minimise damage once an accident has taken place;
  • true Lancia determination to use an incredible distillate of sophisticated technology for a single purpose: to ensure maximum on-board well-being
  • and the satisfaction of a relaxed drive. 

The Lancia Nea carries on the down-to-earth approach first introduced with the Dialogos. In other words, it is not a prototype in the sense of a purely theoretical exercise or a Motor Show dream car. Instead it embodies a whole set of solutions that could be produced on an industrial scale and are destined to appear on standard production cars sooner or later.  

Because the Lancia Nea is a working prototype that can show all its new features in action.  

The Lancia Nea is the product of a new design discipline that believes cars should interact with their drivers without trying to take their place, i.e. they should serve them as an on-board assistant without ever getting above themselves. Such cars are becoming increasingly human: at least in their relationships, ease of communication and simplicity of use.  

The concept car was developed by listening to users who are demanding more interactive cars that are in constant communication with the world in these days of the Internet and WAP technology. The Lancia Nea puts to rest the old idea of a car that is sealed like a pod and introducesthe idea of a car that communicates with the outside world.  

If you forget your smart card, you can always contact your car and make it open its doors by simply telling it your personal code. You can ask the Nea to do things in your normal voice as though you were talking to a friend: call John, turn up the stereo, display a map of Birmingham on the screen, increase the temperature because I feel cold, reconfigure the control panel (the outside lights and windscreen wipers are controlled by a dusk sensor and rain sensor respectively). Due to the use of voice commands, all buttons and other elements that could distract the driver or make life more complicated are kept to a minimum on the Nea. The only thing you can see is the control that operates the voice commands. Those who prefer manual controls can use the touch screen.

The car uses these devices to avoid accidents in extreme situations. The Lancia Nea brakes automatically if the driver is no longer able to intervene in time or, if insufficient space remains, steers to right or left to avoid the obstacle.  

The front radar supports an adaptive cruise control, i.e. an automatic pilot that shares the task of driving. The device relieves the driver of the task of having to adjust car speed continually though he or she is able to take back control of the car at any time. The driver sets a speed and the car maintains it automatically, while also ensuring a safe distance is left before the car in front.  

The Lancia Nea's adaptive cruise control can also be used in town traffic. It will even work when driving in the sort of queue (involving continuous stop and go driving) typical of such situations.  

Lancia designers have also provided a lane maintenance device to ensure a safer drive. The system continuously applies a steering torque to ensure the car stays in the correct lane. The driver can overcome this force easily when he decides to make a voluntary lane-change.  

Hard as titanium, soft as cashmere  

The Lancia Nea is futuristic inside and out. And its imaginative style is consistent with its hi-tech content. The car features strong lines and broad shoulders that suggest great strength. It also looks high and compact to adapt more effectively to town requirements.  

The first thing that strikes you is the clear roof. This is held up by the frame and sinks beneath the glass at the front of the car as though it were a stick submerged in water. It is an example of the play of transformations between visible and invisible, physical and virtual, that characterises the car.  

The Nea's sculpted appearance is reinforced by the fact that the grille is built into the bonnet and is evident only as a bas relief, a virtual grille. The headlights also add to the futuristic appearance. They are arranged like the slats of a Venetian blind and are self-adaptive.  

The Nea was also designed with young people in mind. For this reason, the interiors are trimmed with pale wood that gives the car class and up-to-date appeal. Other metals and cloths used in the interior call to mind the strength of titanium and the softness of cashmere.  

With the Lancia Nea, the future shows itself today and begins to accustom us to new life-styles featuring the mounting quantities of information around us and the different ways of finding such information and of using it where and when we wish. 

(September 8, 2000)


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