Imagine the automotive design possibilities when driving is no longer restricted by the placement of a steering wheel or even forward-facing seats! When human drivers become optional, the sky’s the limit. While car companies and automotive design firms are exploring this new freedom with a multitude of innovations, keep in mind that vehicles won’t be completely autonomous for many years to come—welcome news to those of us who love getting behind the wheel.
For that reason, today’s futuristic automobiles, or concept cars, still include a gear shift and gas and brake pedals. Look for innovation in the details, for example, a bookshelf, automatic sensor-monitored air filters and multifunctional touchscreen (button-free) dashboards.
The upshot is that technology advances will make the past 10 years in automobile innovation, including such features as built-in Bluetooth, navigation and parking sensors, seem like child’s play. Even now, cars are being turned into 4G LTE hotspots or true mobile devices connected to a host of integrated apps.
Here are some of the many new automobile technologies you can expect to see in the next few years:
- Lane keep assistance: This technology alerts the driver when the system detects the vehicle deviating from a traffic lane.
- Driver override systems: Sensor technology will enable your vehicle to take over—braking while you’re flooring it, for example—to improve safety.
- Autopilot systems: Independent stop, steer and accelerate functions operate together to create semi-autonomous vehicles.
- Biometric vehicle access: Unlock and start your car with your fingerprint or eyeball.
- Comprehensive vehicle tracking: Insurance companies will offer reduced rates for drivers who agree to full tracking of their behavior.
Aside from technology, other equally enthralling automobile advances are also coming down the pike—from lighter materials to green initiatives.
For example, some new vehicles will derive their appeal from style enhancements. The Mazda SEMA MX-5, showcased at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, is a modern interpretation of the classic vintage roadster. At the same show, Jeep presented its customized production Jeep Wrangler, known as Red Rock, which will be equipped with “amaretto brown Katzkin” leather seats with silver accent stitching, a power dome vented hood, premium off-road rock rails and low-gloss granite crystal bumpers.
Beyond autonomy and style, cars of the future are big on green energy—as demanded by consumers. The Audi Speed Saver is powered solely by wind energy, and the Ferrari Millenio runs on dual engines fueled by solar panels. Even century-old American car maker General Motors has introduced an electric car that promises to go 200 miles on a single charge.
Further helping to safeguard the environment, many of these futuristic automobiles are being made with advanced lightweight materials, such as such as magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced composites, that will boost their fuel economy (saving more than 5 billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030, according to Energy.gov).
Performance improvements are another perk of lighter vehicles. Simple physics proves that less horsepower is required to accelerate a light vehicle compared to a heavy one. It also takes less energy to slow the car, providing better braking. Handling is enhanced as well, since there is less mass working on the chassis through corners. So get ready to feel like Mario Andretti behind the wheel!
Other cars of the future seem to be a warning of harsh conditions to come. Take the Nissan Murano Winter Warrior: The concept crossover vehicle has heavy-duty 48-inch-long snow tracks, and modified suspensions and wheel wells—never mind a 9x9-foot hatch tent. Not to be outdone, Mercedes-Benz has envisioned a truck, aptly named Extreme, that can haul 6,400 pounds of payload and tow up to 7,500 pounds. The concept is equipped with a “tipper bed” that provides flexibility for expanded capability in a variety of environments.
Whatever needs or demands car drivers of the future bring to bear, car manufacturers seem to have a way to meet expectations—at least in concept. Be glad you’re along for the ride!