There are all kinds of concept vehicles that the OEMs prance around in the public domain. Some are nothing more than vehicle shells that are used to gauge the public's response to a new body style or vehicle layout. Other times the concept uses an existing vehicle to showcase the latest technology and how it can be incorporated to the next model-year vehicles. The goal of this mild-mannered Jeep Grand Cherokee called the Concierge is to provide a platform for new technology that is intelligent enough to compensate for moments of inattention by the driver. The Concierge program was a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler and OEM suppliers to integrate almost a dozen new technologies. It was put on display at last year's Convergence conference for automotive electronics. We picked the trickest features and offer you this insider's look.
Cheap CTISIn the wake of the Ford Explorer and Firestone tire fiasco of a few years ago, Jeep equipped Grand Cherokees with optional sensors in each tire to monitor air pressure through an overhead display. The Concierge concept takes this one step further with four hub-mounted air pumps to maintain the factory-recommended tire pressure. Internal pendulums that move back and forth as the wheels spin power the pumps. The pumps work even at low speed to push small amounts of air through a passage drilled in the wheel spoke.
Easy Fill-UpsTired of losing your fuel caps? The Concierge uses a capless fuel filler from ITW that seals the tank until you push a filler nozzle into it. This arrangement could also limit the fuel vapors that can escape during vehicle fueling.
Stop-And-Go Fuel SavingsEngines get their worst fuel economy not at wide-open throttle when you're having fun, but when they're idling at a traffic light and the vehicle's not moving at all. To save fuel and reduce exhaust emissions under these conditions, DaimlerChrysler engineers have developed an alternator that also functions as an electric motor to stop the engine when the vehicle stops, and seamlessly restart the engine the instant the driver steps on the accelerator pedal. This alternator/starter won't replace traditional engine-mounted starters (which will still be used for cold-engine startups), but the hope is that the vehicle's battery could provide enough power to run everything but the A/C, while waiting for a green light without the need to keep the engine running.
Third EyeDubbed a "parking aid," the Concierge uses a sophisticated rear radar system from M/A-COM and a video camera from Panasonic mounted above the rear license plate to make the ultimate rearview mirror. The radar sensors replace the ultrasonic units used in today's production SUVs for increased range (15 feet instead of just 5 feet) over current systems. The new radar is also less affected by rain or snow and would make one-man trailer hookups a breeze. The LCD screen embedded behind the glass in the rearview mirror shows the view from the golf-ball-sized Panasonic camera. Just think of the possibilities if you had multiple cameras mounted on the Jeep that you could use to watch the tires during technical trail work.