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...

Future technology

Help inside the car

Driver monitoring 

Cameras focused on the driver detect when his or her driving is impaired and send a warning. If this is ignored, the system will prompt the car to take effective action, such as pulling over in a safe place or increasing the sensitivity of other active safety systems, such as lane-keeping assistance.

The introduction of advanced driver monitoring is part of a push to reduce accidents, 90% of which are caused by human error. It’s also envisaged that it could be used to ensure a safe handover between the car and driver when autonomous driving systems are introduced. 

When can I have it? Driver attention monitoring is already common (in fact, it was first offered by Lexus way back in 2006), but it’s not yet at the level where it can pull the car over if you’re not in a fit state to drive. Volvo plans to take this step soon, though.

Voice-activated digital assistant

Voice control technology has long been in use, but it’s becoming a lot more sophisticated, understanding natural speech instead of requiring you to learn specific commands.

For example, you can ask the system to find an empty parking space at a specified location and provide sat-nav directions. Simple comments such as “I’m hungry” can initiate a restaurant search, and if it comes up with lots of places for Chinese, you can tell it you’d prefer Italian and it’ll refine the results. 

When can I have it? A number of newer cars from major manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan and Toyota already offer digital assistants similar to or based on those from Amazon, Apple and Google. 

3D displays and augmented reality 

Information from sensors inside and outside the car are merged with data from the internet to track the car’s surroundings. They map a 360deg virtual space around the car, providing information about the road and other vehicles and road users. 

Nissan’s Invisible-to-Visible system, for instance, will project useful information onto the car’s windows. Alternatively, if the car is driving itself, a virtual world can be projected onto the glass. The system can also connect to a friend via the internet and show him or her as a three-dimensional digital avatar to keep you company. 

Future technology

When can I have it? Mercedes started offering augmented reality sat-nav last year on the A-Class. As you approach a junction, the screen shows a live video of the road in front with directing arrows overlaid. Such features are set to progressively become more sophisticated and integrated in the next few years.