We may not be flying around like the Jetsons, but that’s no reason to discount the dramatic technological advancements of the past 50 years. As technology continues to improve at an exponential rate, so do innovations in automobiles. From Google’s self-driving car to the Internet rumors of an Apple Car, where exactly is auto technology now and where is it headed in the near future? Here are some of the latest cool car innovations, as well as a glimpse at what the future may bring.
The Latest Technology
1. Autonomous Vehicles
Google’s famed self-driving car is now out in the open with public road testing in California, Nevada, Florida and Michigan. Google has even invited people to ride in these autonomous vehicles. Though there have been a few incidents as Google works out the kinks in the technology, the overall reception has been great.
2. Automated Manual Transmission
Another new innovation is the automated manual transmission (AMT) which is derived from Formula One race cars. With an electronic system that regulates and engages the clutch, AMTs are controlled with a joystick or from the steering wheel for more efficient fuel economy and acceleration.
V2V communications for small vehicles have also begun to hit the streets. As of 2014, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication which could drastically reduce crashes as cars could “talk” to each other, exchanging information like speed and positioning.
What to Expect Over the Next Decade
4. Driver Override Systems
While autonomous cars are going through public road testing, it will still be years before they are the majority on the road. The possible variables, such as a busy road, inclement weather or even just other drivers are at times too complex for an autonomous car to handle. Though the same can be said for human drivers. While neither a human driver nor an autonomous one might not be able to navigate tricky situations, when paired together crashes can be cut to a bare minimum. Enter driver override systems, which allow the semi-autonomous car to take control of the automobile if it detects an imminent crash. While some cars can already apply the brakes before the driver, this override system will apply brakes even if the driver has the gas pedal pressed to the floor. This might mean, in the future, your car might have the final say in how you deal with a difficult driving situation. However, especially for young drivers, you must be prepared by knowing the rules of the road. Take a few driver’s license practice tests to keep the information fresh in your mind.
Another innovation to look for in the future is the heads-up display (HUD). Imagine your windshield illuminated with dim lights that highlight your next turn, the cars in front of you or any obstacles in your path, all clearly displayed to maximize your awareness of the road conditions ahead. Your speedometer, gas gage, odometer, GPS directions, everything you’d typically use on your dashboard will be right there in front of you as soon as this technology can be affordably implemented into new vehicles.
6. Remote Shutdown
Remote shutdown is already used by OnStar, but most people don’t know about it — even OnStar users. While this vehicle disabling feature has been used by OnStar to end police chases and baffle grand theft auto perpetrators, it still isn’t widely used. Look for the remote shutdown option in cars to be utilized more often and hopefully decrease car theft in the coming years.
This is a post by Alex Clark-McGlenn, who is currently taking his MFA in creative writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. He has been published in eFiction Magazine, Inkwell at Evergreen, Slightly West Literary Magazine, and appeared in Smokebox Literary Magazine July, 2014. He currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.