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shutterstock_136938911 Since Karl Benz invented the first gasoline powered automobile in 1886, automotive technology has come a long way, especially in the last couple decades. But, where do we go from here? What features will cars offer in five years? And when can we expect cars that can drive themselves? Let’s take a look at the future of automotive technology, starting with some features of contemporary vehicles.

The Current Landscape

Most cars now have integrated electronics systems with navigation and GPS, Bluetooth handsfree systems and USB ports. More contemporary innovations for cars in 2015 as seen on KBB include data connections that bring beneficial information to the driver and driver assistance features for added safety and comfort such as blindspot monitoring.

For example, cars such as the 2015 BMW i8 utilize hybrid gas-electric technology for better fuel efficiency. With a 129-horsepower electric motor that drives the front wheels in addition to a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine with 228 horsepower to drive the rear wheels, this hybrid system averages 76 miles per gallon. Additionally, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550, while not completely self driven, has a Steering Assist program that uses stereoscopic cameras mounted on the windshield to let the car know the location of lane lines so the car can actively steer itself to compensate for curves in the road.

The Year 2020

According to Forbes, in five years automotive technology will resemble that of a science fiction novel. Building on tech advancements like the S550’s Steering Assist program, cars will become even more autonomous and eventually will be able to drive themselves.

Another feature being developed is a driver override system in which the car actively disregards a driver’s command. This is similar to current technology in which cars can apply the brakes when they sense objects that are in the way. However, cars in 2020 will take this a step further by being able to apply the brakes even if the driver has the gas pedal pressed to the floor. These advancements in sensor technology will ultimately give the car the final say, while figuratively placing the driver in the back seat.

Forget your keys in 2020? No problem. With biometric vehicle access, you’ll be able to lock and start your car by scanning your fingerprint or eyeball. This is the same technology that recently was added to smartphones. This also means that if someone steals your car, you can remotely shutdown your vehicle.

In addition, instead of squinting at directions on a small screen of your GPS device, HUD (heads-up display) systems in 2020 will be capable of projecting vibrant images onto your windshield to highlight the next turn from your perspective as you come up to it.

New automotive technology in 2020 won’t be restricted to monitoring the road, either. Systems like active health monitoring will track the driver’s vital signs through wearable wireless devices. Pair this with developing autonomous technology and a driver experiencing a stroke will be safely pulled to the side of the road while paramedics are notified.

Beyond 2020

Over time, autonomous driving cars will become the norm. As cars are designed with more sensors, cameras and radar systems, they’ll also become more communicative with other cars on the road. In the future, automobiles will use their own network to exchange information such as speed and direction, potential safety hazards and road and weather conditions. Director of Nissan’s research center Maarten Sierhuis tells CNN that “it would be like crowdsourcing the driving experience.”

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, or V2V, has already been tested in almost 3,000 automobiles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as part of a pilot program by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some federal officials are already sold on this technology, estimating 76 percent of accidents in the U.S. could be prevented by the use of connected cars. V2V coupled with more advanced forms of autonomous driving will take much of the pressure off the driver, but experts are still unsure when the day will come when no driver will be required at all. As James Bell, head of consumer affairs for GM, said to CNN “Autonomous driving is not going to mean jump in the car, push a button, say ‘take me to grandma’s house’ and go to sleep. That may come someday, but not soon.”

Author: Andy Quayle

Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
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