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...
3. Under-car cameras
Cameras in the door mirrors and front grille in effect make the car’s bonnet invisible. Live video footage of the front wheels and the ground beneath the bonnet is displayed on the infotainment screen inside the car, making it easier for you to negotiate tricky parking spaces, tall kerbs and uneven or rutted tracks.
Jaguar Land Rover’s Clearsight system – the first of its kind – shows 8.5 metres forward of the windscreen, 1.2 metres out from each door mirror and 15 metres across the front of the car.
When can I have it? Clearsight’s introduction came in 2019 on the latest Range Rover Evoque.
4. Intelligent headlights
Dipped and high-beam headlights will soon be a thing of the past, because the latest lights simply block out any section of light aimed at an oncoming vehicle so other road users aren’t dazzled. In addition, the length and brightness of the beam is altered automatically depending on the weather and driving conditions.
LED matrix headlights also produce a brighter light with more precise illumination and luminous intensity than regular xenon bulbs, making it easier for drivers to recognise road details and obstacles at night.
When can I have them? The first use of LED matrix headlights came on Audi’s flagship A8 saloon in 2013, and the brand now offers them on several models. Intelligent headlights using similar technology are also now available on some cars from BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Volvo.
5. Intelligent glass
Forget blinds, tomorrow’s cars will have windows and sections of windscreen with built-in sensors that darken the glass in bright sunshine to prevent it from dazzling occupants, keep the car’s interior cool and block out damaging UV rays. Using new liquid crystal film technology, the glass can also be heated without the need for wire filaments.
When can I have it? Some cars already have panoramic sunroofs that can be dimmed via a switch. In the next few years, some cars will also have the ability to dim, brighten and heat windows and other areas of glass automatically.
6. Intelligent tyres
Intelligent tyres will provide drivers and autonomous vehicle fleet operators with real-time information about tread depth and temperature. Continental’s Contisense tyre, for example, uses electrically conductive rubber compounds that continuously monitor the tyre and send out an alert if it moves outside of its safe limits.
If anything penetrates the tyre’s tread or sidewall, an immediate warning is sent out, whereas current tyre pressure monitoring systems simply issue a warning when the tyre pressure drops below a certain level.
When will it arrive? The Contisense tyre is a working concept in development, and several car manufacturers are said to be in discussions about using the technology.
7. Adaptive wheels
Integrated microcompressors adjust the tyre pressure and the width of the wheel rim, changing the amount of rubber that’s in contact with the road to best suit the current conditions. There are four settings: Normal, Wet, Uneven and Slippery. The wheel is made narrower and the tyre pumped up for driving on smooth, dry roads, while width is increased and pressure reduced for slippery surfaces.
The specially developed tyres have three different tread zones for driving on dry, wet and slippery surfaces, and the zone in contact with the road changes depending on which wheel setting is in use.
When can I have them? This technology is under development, with it likely to be available on production cars by the middle of this decade.
8. Turning assistance
A development of automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems, turning assistance uses radar to create 150deg fields of detection at the sides of the car and warn you of any cyclists in your blindspots.
The system activates when you indicate, showing a warning light if there’s a cyclist in a vulnerable position. If you start to turn the wheel regardless and a cyclist is within 1.5 metres, the car will perform an emergency stop.
When can I have it? This system is being developed to comply with safety tests due to be introduced by Euro NCAP in 2022, so it should be fitted to some new cars by then. It might become required on HGVs earlier than this, because they have more significant blindspots.
A similar system, called turn across path AEB is already fitted to some new cars, including the Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen ID.3. It is able to detect and avoid a pedestrian walking across a side road the car is turning into.