Award winning innovation

There’s more to new auto technology than just electric and autonomous

Most of the news about automotive technologies, these days, seems focused on fully electric and autonomous vehicles. But there’s plenty that’s new in more conventional technical areas as well.

Recognizing the broad scope of such developments, each year the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) selects and awards the best new technologies on the market now, in three separate categories.

The Innovation Awards, as they are now called, are judged and voted on, in two rounds of secret-ballot voting, by a jury of AJAC journalists who are technology specialists. In each case, they make their choices on the basis of innovation, novelty, value for money and real-world utility.

The winners were announced on February 20, at the 2019 Canadian International Auto Show, from the following finalists in each category, listed in alphabetical order.


FCA: Ram Truck – eTorque Mild Hybrid System: FCA’s 48-volt mild hybrid system, with automatic stop-start technology, is available in Ram trucks with both V-6 and Hemi V-8 engines. It offers up to a 14 per cent fuel economy gain in city driving as well as a 10 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.

Infiniti: VC-Turbo Engine – (WINNER): Infiniti’s 2.0-litre VC-Turbo engine brings a long-awaited technical breakthrough — variable compression ratio — to reality. Using a computer-controlled mechanical linkage system in place of conventional connecting rods enables the compression ratio to be varied according toconditions, to optimize both fuel efficiency and performance.

Lexus: LS500h MultiStage Hybrid system with AWD: Well known for its hybrid systems, Lexus further evolves the technology in the LS500h by multiplying the torque output from both the gasoline engine and electric motors through a four-speed automatic transmission to provide up to 10 effective transmission speeds.

Mitsubishi Motors: Outlander PHEV Plug-in Hybrid: Canada’s most popular plug-in hybrid, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV crossover, combines a gasoline engine with two separate electric motors, driving the front and rear wheels respectively, in a wide range of operating modes that include up to 35 km of pure electric driving.


Ford: F150 Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Trailer BLIS package: Until now, Ford’s Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic alert was disabled when a trailer was connected to the truck. The additional capability of this new system keeps it functional even when towing trailers up to 8.5 feet wide and 33 feet long.

Hyundai: Safe Exit Assist: The Hyundai Santa Fe’s Safe Exit Assist system locks the rear doors if it detects an oncoming vehicle approaching in the adjacent lane when it is stopped — even if the Electronic Child Safety Lock is disengaged. The locks are released once the approaching vehicle passes.

Jaguar: Clear Exit Monitor: A standard feature in the I Pace SUV, as part of a larger safety suite, Jaguar’s Clear Exit Monitor provides an audible warning if a rear-seat passenger attempts to open a door when there is a vehicle approaching in the adjacent lane, within about 70 metres.

Subaru: 2018 Forester DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System (DSM) – (WINNER): Subaru’s market-leading Distraction System uses a combination of conventional and near-infrared cameras to monitor the driver’s face and identify signs of drowsiness or distraction, based on eye movement, in which case it alerts the driver with both visible and audible warnings.


FCA: 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye: An evolution from the limited-production Challenger SRT Demon’s ground-shaking powerplant, the Hellcat Redeye employs such detail tweaks as higher fuel-injection rates and air-conditioned engine intake air, to cool the intake charge and thus enhance the performance of the 797-hp Hemi V-8.

General Motors: GMC Sierra MultiPro Tailgate: The MultiPro tailgate available on top-end Sierra pickups — literally a tailgate within a tailgate — offers up to six separate configurations, including a fold-down step and a torso-height work surface, as well a load stop for extended-length loads. Optionally available are Bluetooth speakers within the tailgate.

General Motors: GMC Sierra Carbon Pro Pickup Box: Carbon fibre, which offers exceptional strength relative to its light weight, is commonly used in race cars and a few high-performance production cars but its use for the floor and sides of top-end Sierra pickup boxes is a production first. It is said to save 62 pounds of weight compared to the conventional steel pickup box.

Mercedes Benz: Mercedes Benz User Experience MBUX – (WINNER): Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system brings cutting edge communications tech and AI learning capabilities to the cockpit. It includes haptic touchpad controls, smartphone-like menus, wide-screen augmented reality video graphics, real-time map updates, and plain-language voice controls initiated by saying, “Hey, Mercedes!”

About Gerry Malloy

Gerry Malloy is one of Canada's best known, award-winning automotive journalists.

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