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We all have a fascination with technologically spruced up cars. Whether it is Knight Rider, the Batmobile, or James Bond’s armour-clad tanks-in-disguise, a car is a man’s best friend in science fiction and techno-thrillers. Nothing gets our imaginations going just like a car that can – for instance – turn into a submarine at the push of a button.
But let’s leave fiction aside for a second and see what kind of marvels are in store for us in cars of the near future. Before we begin, though, you should know: we’re not making any of this up.
Some of these innovations will keep us safe. Some will give us information. Some will entertain. Some will just allow us to sit back and put our feet up so that we can enjoy the ride.
1. Communicating Cars
This is not so much the car communicating with the driver, but with other cars and vehicles on the road. Many accidents happen when a rule-following driver fails to spot a rule-breaking one. In that scenario, both parties get blindsided, so by allowing cars to communicate with each other (they’re calling this technology ‘vehicle to vehicle’ communication, or V2V), the vehicles could either beep and alert the driver well ahead of time, or make automatic course corrections to avoid collision. Similar communication is being worked on between vehicles and infrastructure, called V2I.
2. Self-driving Cars
This one follows on from the first point. If we develop cars that can communicate with various obstacles, and if they can be designed to use that information in navigating safely, self-driving cars should be the next logical step. Google engineers have already designed and tested self-driving cars in California and Nevada over 200,000 miles of public highways and roads. These cars can collect, analyse and process data faster than a human can. If these cars become a reality – as they will sometime in the next decade – it will solve the number one cause of all road accidents: human error. Self-driving cars will also give human beings more leisure because they don’t have to drive any more.
3. Augmented Reality dashboards and windshields
If you’ve seen the Terminator movies, you know what augmented reality looks like. Just as a robot could look at an object and receive information about it on its visual field, it is possible to design cars which will have visual elements on the windshield to make the driving process safer. For instance, if you’re getting too close to the car ahead of you, you may get a red blinking dot on the windshield asking you to go back. Or arrows may appear on the dashboard guiding you to the lane you must turn into. GM and Toyota have already experimented with augmented reality with promising results.
4. Air bags that stop cars
So far, air bags have been used to minimise injury to passengers. But now, Mercedes is working on making air bags that protect the entire car from collision. These bags deploy from underneath the vehicle when sensors determine that a collision is inevitable, and they lift the car off the road so that the skidding motion is eliminated. The hope is that they can get to protect the entire car, and in the process the people travelling within it.

Jason Lee

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