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Utility Vehicles to Feature On-Board Electronics
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Utility Vehicles: Sustainability Affects Product SpecificationPt. 2: Utility Vehicles: Manufacturers Roll Out Alternative-Fuel ModelsPt. 3: Utility Vehicles: Managers Must Consider Noise, Emissions Compliance Pt. 4: This PagePt. 5: PRODUCT FOCUS: Utility Vehicles
Understanding that customers will continue to seek new uses for utility vehicles, manufacturers are developing new technologies and features designed to meet those needs.
For example, Koch says future vehicles might employ "smart" technology.
"They might feature on-board electronics, such as a GPS, which could be used for security-related applications," he says. Managers might use an autonomous utility vehicle to make nightly campus security checks and bring photos back from its rounds.
Koch says another advance might involve technology that slows down certain vehicle components, such as pumps and engines, to improve fuel efficiency and extend the vehicle's performance life.
The component "doesn't need to be running at full RPM if the work application only requires vehicle is running at 20 percent," he says. "We can slow it down and still allow the work to get done."
Finally, he points to advances in plastic composites used in utility vehicles' body panels that can eliminate the problem of corrosion common to metal panels. The new plastics also can minimize dents, he says.
For example, if a vehicle with panels made from composite plastics is involved in an incidental impact at 3 mph under full load, the panel might flex in 2-3 inches, but it then will spring back, leaving little, if any, noticeable damage, he says.
But even as utility vehicle technology evolves, manufacturers say they understand the vehicles still must meet basic user demands.
Says Lund, "Performance advances, such as speed, carrying capacity, and ride quality, will continue to be big growth drivers in the utility vehicle industry."