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Hella is is working on an Intelligent Damage Detection System. Using anywhere from four to 12 piezoelectric sensors glued to the backsides of body panels, the system can detect damage done to bodywork and inform an owner when a body panel has been scratched, dented, punctured, or worse.

The ongoing quest for efficiency knows no bounds. Every external piece of an automobile can be optimized in some way to lower its drag on a vehicle, regardless of what kind of car it's applied to. That includes those used for law enforcement. Even though we may not often think about the light bar that sits atop nearly every police car, it definitely accounts for a measure of additional drag, and that figure naturally goes up with the vehicle's rate of speed.

At the Convergence 2008 conference in Detroit this week, German supplier Hella has been showing off some of its latest contributions to creeping featuritis in cars. Interestingly, much of this latest technology does not add to the feature content of cars but actually trims fuel consumption. One example of Hella's new products is adaptive cruise control. We used the ACC on the Audi Q7 extensively during the recent mileage marathon and learned that it can actually be calibrated to optimize fuel co

When compared to some of the other developments in automotive technology, many believe that advances in lighting haven't kept up. "Smart" lights seek to fill that void.

Battery state-of-charge and state-of-health monitoring is normally thought of as technology that's most appropriate for hybrids, but at the SAE Convergence conference this week, BMW made a good case for including it on all motor vehicles. According to ACAD (the German equivalent of AAA), battery failures account for a full 53% of roadside electrical failures, and the situation only gets worse as increased electrical loads and fuel-saving techniques such as idle start/stop come into play.