Car technology of the future
We look at some of the technology that will shape the cars of the near future as well as the roads on which they drive...
It’s predicted that cars will change more in the next five to 10 years than they have over the past 50. The driving forces behind the changes are improving road safety, lowering emissions and taking some of the stress out of driving.
Some advances will be tied in with the increased uptake of electric cars, but the biggest influences will be automated driving technologies and connectedness. These are set to transform the whole driving experience.
Safety testing body Euro NCAP is pushing ahead with its Vision Zero ambition to stop people from dying on the road. In doing so, it has set out a timeline for 2020-2025 of when it will start testing a range of new technologies.
In 2020, the body started testing automatic emergency steering, driver monitoring systems and automatic emergency braking systems that work at junctions and when you’re reversing out of a parking space. You can find many of these technologies on the most modern cars right now, because they’re necessary to gain Euro NCAP’s full five-star safety rating, an accolade that every mainstream car maker strives for.
In the near future, though, cars won’t only be able to protect people from harm; they’ll also be capable of giving you lots of useful, real-time information. For example, you’ll be able to ask the car to find you a restaurant, reserve you a parking spot nearby and then give you directions to get there. And if your car is driving autonomously, it could even project a three-dimensional digital avatar to keep you company.
More than half of the cars in the world are already connected to the internet, and future vehicles will also communicate with each other, road infrastructure, intelligent junctions and smart street lamps in a network known as the Internet of Things. Your car will be able to use all the information that these upload to give you advance warning of any potential hazards or hold-ups along your chosen route. In short, driving will become smarter and safer than ever before, with less time spent in traffic jams.
1. Virtual door mirrors
Instead of mirrors, there’s a camera on each side of the car that sends live footage to screens in the corners of the dashboard or in the doors. These cameras generate less wind noise and aerodynamic drag (important for the range of electric cars), minimise blindspots and provide a clearer view in poor weather conditions.
The cameras automatically alter their view to cope with motorway driving, cornering and parking, and if the screens are touch-sensitive, the driver can use his or her fingers to zoom in to see specific areas in more detail.
When can I have them? Lexus became the first to use this technology in late 2018 on the ES executive saloon. However, it offers this only in Japan, so our first taste came with the Audi E-tron electric SUV, which began offering virtual door mirrors earlier this year as a £1250 option. They’re standard on the Honda E small car, too.
2. Digital rear-view mirror
At the flick of a switch, the rear-view mirror can be turned into a high-definition screen showing an extra-wide (50deg) view of the road behind. This eliminates the usual blindspots and the problem of the driver being unable to see properly past tall passengers or bulky luggage in the back.
Furthermore, a digital rear-view mirror provides better visibility in low light than a conventional mirror and is angled so that reflections don’t adversely affect your view.
When can I have it? Although digital rear-view mirrors started appearing on concept cars many years ago, they didn’t hit the market until 2016, on the Cadillac CT6 luxury saloon. Mainstream availability came only recently, through Jaguar Land Rover’s second-generation Range Rover Evoque, facelifted Jaguar XE and the 2021 version of the Range Rover Velar.
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