Cars have long been the most popular way to get around in North America. There’s no question that cars and the technology in them have been evolving over the decades, but the auto industry’s coming changes are possibly the most dramatic yet. Over the next few decades, automobile manufacturers are due to roll out technologies that really change cars into dream machines. Self-driving, ultra-economical electric cars will take the fuss, hassle, and cost out of driving for millions of car owners.
Electric cars may be the only option.
In fact, in the future, some countries may only allow electric cars to be sold. France and the UK have already indicated they will ban new diesel and petrol cars from 2040. The benefits of electric cars are numerous; they are quiet and emit no particulate matter, dramatically reducing pollution. Depending on the electricity supply, they can also be incredibly economical, costing dramatically less per mile to run than a car with an internal combustion engine.
Whereas electric cars had a limited driving range in the past – due to their batteries’ limited capacity – improvements in the density of lithium-ion batteries now allow manufacturers to roll out cars with ranges running into the hundreds of miles. This will pose challenges for the current limited charging infrastructure. Still, with governments getting on board with electric vehicles, your dream car will soon be chargeable in almost every parking lot.
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Autonomous driving will be commonplace.
It’s been a dream of drivers and car manufacturers for decades: a car that drives itself. The technology is already here for all intents and purposes, with both car manufacturers and software companies delivering vehicles that can navigate roads without driver assistance in most circumstances. Autonomous driving uses sophisticated analytical thinking, driven by a hi-tech computer unit inside the car, combined with an enormous number of sensors, including cameras and radar units.
For autonomous driving to become commonplace, government and industry need to work out a few kinks. There are still legal and regulatory questions around self-driving cars that need to be resolved. As is often the case with technology adoption, self-driving cars’ implications are only slowly becoming clearer. But as the safety of your next car might drive itself.
Cars will be increasingly connected.
You can hardly buy a new car that’s not packed with in-car technology. Sophisticated entertainment systems are no longer a rare luxury, and cars are increasingly “connected.” Your dream car of the future will, without a doubt, have a live link to the Internet, which boosts infotainment options and has favorable implications for safety and the ability to navigate.
Luxury cars already can navigate traffic incidents and congestion, but they don’t always get it right. Expect your future dream car to be able to avoid any congestion automatically – in fact; congestion could become a thing of the past altogether. If every car is connected, traffic can be centrally planned, and routing commands communicated to each car so that no area gets more congested than it needs to.
The ownership model may change.
There’s plenty of talk about how self-driving cars will completely upend the car ownership model, with the large operators of cab-hailing apps employing vast fleets of fully automated vehicles that can whizz you to your destination at a tap. The car industry’s big players understand how having a car sitting on your driveway, unused and depreciating, is not a good investment.
Much of what the future holds for cars could therefore involve reduced car ownership. Your dream car might, in fact, be no car. Whether a mass reduction in car ownership really lies around the corner depends a lot on individuals and families’ willingness to give up car ownership– too many, a car is still a much loved and valued possession. Yet improvements in technology are making it more and more practical to car-share, even today.
But what about flying cars?
Sci-fi films have always predicted flying cars to be imminent, but as yet, there’s no trace of them. Driving is still firmly grounded and will be for the foreseeable future, as much as a flying car is the ultimate dream car. The odd concept appears, though, such as the Ehang 184, an autonomous electric quadcopter, shown at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The prevalence of drones is also promising. So, there is a glimmer of hope. In the meantime, your road-based car journey is set to become safer, cheaper, and more convenient.