Crave popped down to the British International Motor Show recently and among the new-fangled Jaguars and Ferraris, there was a new Vauxhall. No, don't run a way -- we're talking about the new Vauxhall Insignia, which is one of the most technologically-advanced cars in recent times.
It's the first car we've come across that can 'see'. It uses a system known as Opel Eye, which incorporates a built-in, forward-facing camera attached to its rear-view mirror. This recognises road signs and accidental, potentially dangerous lane drifting to help reduce the chances of a crash or a speeding fine.
The Insignia, which is a replacement for the ageing Vectra, also features second-generation Adaptive Front Lighting technology. Remember the headlights on the Ford Focus CC-3 that swivel left and right depending on which way you turn the wheel? Vauxhall's AFL is something like that, but better. It uses a camera to detect what type of area you're driving in and your speed and auto-selects one of nine lighting modes with different intensity and beam spread. Click through the following pages for more details.
The Insignia has all the regular in-car gadgetry you'd expect, too. There's a DVD-based sat-nav with a large display, FM and CD playback, plus connectivity for an external MP3 device. You'll be able to buy one later this year for a starting price of around £16,000, though you'll have to wait until 2009 for one that sports the Opel Eye technology.
Check out the pictures of its various gadgets over the following few pages, while we work on bringing you a full hands-on video. -Rory Reid
No, this isn't a dude with a robot head. It's Opel Eye's forward-facing camera. Attached to the rear-view mirror, this keeps an eye out for road signs, then relays the information to an display on the dashboard. We've yet to test the accuracy of the system, but it'll depend on how closely the road signs in question follow the standards laid out in the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals.
The Opel Eye isn't just for reading road signs -- it also has a Lane Departure feature that scolds drivers who drift into the wrong lane. The camera is able to detect painted lane markings on the road and if the Insignia veers left or right into another lane without the driver indicating, the car's internal speakers will emit a beep to warn you you of your impending death or sheer stupidity. Hopefully, it'll do that before the sound of crumpling metal or bones breaking.
Another extremely clever feature is the new Adaptive Forward Lighting system. According to Vauxhall, this automatically adjusts the headlamp beam distribution to the prevailing road profile and visibility conditions. Nine lighting modes are available, including Pedestrian Area Light mode, which kicks in when you need to exercise extreme caution, driving between 5km/h and 30km/h, say, in a car park.
Other modes include Highway Light, Adverse Weather Light -- activated in rain or snow to keep track of the lines on the road -- Static Cornering Light, Dynamic Curve Light, High Beam Light and High Beam Light Assistant. That last feature is particularly useful on the motorway. If you're hurtling along with full beams on, the system's camera recognises the headlamps or tail lights of other vehicles and automatically switches the headlamps to low beam to prevent blinding other road users.
The Insignia's navigation and audio system is worth a mention, too. The satellite navigation system is CD-based -- read: slow -- but the large information display on the centre console provides good clarity. It has an in-dash CD player, there's a 3.5mm audio input for your MP3 player, plus an FM radio. There are tonnes of controls on the dash itself, as you can see, plus additional audio controls on the centre column by the gear changer, and on the steering wheel.