Driving has become so much more than getting from point A to B. Our cars have become everything from our personal music venues to apartments on wheels (complete with seat warmers). But progress never stops, and if you’re in awe at the current level of amazing tech in the average car, just wait and see what’s on the horizon. Here’s a sneak peek from the world of tomorrow.
Are you too tired to finish your long drive home? Well, then it’s simply a matter of programming your car to continue driving for you while you rest. The car, guided by a system of sensors and cameras, safely gets you to your destination. And fleets of these driverless vehicles could be hitting city streets sooner than you think.
Britain has already started testing driverless cars for their inevitable appearance on public roads. They’re not the first though — some states in the US have also started testing driverless cars and are passing legislation to suit.
Truly smart cars
If we can make a car that drives itself, why not make a car that can learn as it drives? Like something out of a sci-fi novel, these cars will be able to take and analyze data about you and predict where you’re going before you even point your front wheels in a particular direction.
Not only that, but car companies are developing systems that maximize fuel economy and save power by monitoring all electrical systems.
In the near future, while cars monitor themselves, they’ll also be monitoring you. Drivers get behind the wheel distracted, tired or even impaired, and that can cause accidents. The University of Leicester is working on a system that uses LED lights to monitor whether a driver is distracted.
This means that if the car decides the driver is distracted, it will take precautionary measures to keep the driver and others safe. This could include slowing down, pulling over or even refusing to start. Health-wise, cars will also be able to monitor your body’s vitals, and take action should a driver suffer a heart attack or stroke.
External air bags
Cars have had airbags for decades — on the inside. The next step is external airbags. TRW Automotive, which develops safety technology, is experimenting with external airbags. The concept is that once a collision is detected (see smart cars), the bags would deploy prior to the collision, saving the car, the driver and pedestrians.
No, we’re not talking bigger gas tanks. We’re talking about turning the car into one big battery, storing either solar or kinetic energy across the entire vehicle. Several European companies are researching ways to turn side panels into extra batteries. The concept is that solar power or power generated by braking would be collected, stored, and used to charge a car’s batteries when needed.
Vehicle to Vehicle Communications (AKA talking cars)
Does anyone remember Knight Rider, with K.I.T.T. the talking car? (Did we just date ourselves?) K.I.T.T. helped fight crime and traded clever banter with his driver, but in the future, cars will talk to each other and to the very streets they drive on. Cars will share information about traffic, weather and even their distances from each other with the ultimate goal of increased safety on the roads.
The technology hasn’t been fully deployed but cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan are currently road-testing the technology as part of a program run by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan.
Now that you know what the future will bring, you have that much more time to fine-tune your driving playlists. What type of tunes go best with a driverless car, anyway?