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Car Technology in Years to Come: Connectivity, Driver Assistance and Autonomous Cars

unsplash.com / CC0 1.0.

We are seeing amazing changes to personal vehicles, even in the last two years. Today’s cars and trucks are more connected than ever before, with new technological advances paving the way towards improved road safety. Thanks to innovations such as rear back-up cameras and auto-braking capability, driving has become easier, safer, and more comfortable.

While the idea of a self-driving car still feels like science fiction to many people, autonomous driving is a major player in the automotive industry’s future. With all the incredible recent advances that are changing how we drive, it’s exciting to think about what lies ahead. Take a walk with us, as we look at the most likely technological advances that we’ll see on the road in the not-too-distant future.

A Year from Now: 2017 is Almost Here

If you can, think about the car you drove 10 years ago. It probably feels like a toy car compared to your current ride. Today’s standard vehicle features, including GPS navigation, Bluetooth compatibility and parking sensors, were either a luxury item or a fleeting dream a decade ago.

The automotive industry never stops improving. Right now, as we go about our daily lives, driving our current vehicle to work or the store, the cars of the future are being designed and perfected.

Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0.
Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0.

In 2017, the types of technology that we use every day, like GPS mapping and traffic alert apps, will become standard in cars. In-car connectivity is becoming more widely available as the years pass, and many current models are equipped with factory-installed or third-party systems. The majority of 2017 GM vehicles, for example, have standard OnStar® Connectivity, and many makes and models are compatible with Android Auto and Apple Car Play apps.

Two Years from Now: Preparing for Autonomous Cars

In 2016, several U.S. communities were introduced to autonomous vehicles on their roads, and automotive companies will continue to test self-driving cars into 2017 and beyond. Google self-driving cars are being tested in Arizona, California, Texas and Washington State. The Google Self-Driving Project fleet includes the company’s original prototype vehicles, which resemble Smartcars, as well as modified Lexus SUVs.

Nissan autonomous car prototype. Photo by Norbert Aepli on Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.
Nissan autonomous car prototype. Photo by: Norbert Aepli, Switzerland / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0.

While researchers are eager to gain more understanding about how self-driving vehicles adapt to changing roadway environments, two years from now, autonomous vehicles will likely still be in the testing stages. However, autonomous technologies that assist drivers, such as adaptive cruise control, self-braking systems and lane-keeping assistance, will be widely available in two years. Some industry experts predict that autonomous valet parking will be the norm by 2018.
Another autonomous safety feature that may be available in two years is the driver assistance system.

These systems sense and interpret their immediate environment using existing technology including radar and video. One of the most exciting assistance systems is Bosch’s traffic jam assist, which allows the vehicle to brake automatically, and reduce speed or accelerate as appropriate based on traffic volume and congestion.

Five Years from Now: Challenges of Living with Autonomous Cars

In about five years, driving will finally enter the age of fully autonomous vehicles. Uber, which first began testing its fleet of self-driving cars in the summer of 2016, is optimistic that its autonomous cars will be road-ready no later than 2021. The company partnered with Volvo Cars to develop their innovative autonomous SUVs, which are modified Volvo XC90 models equipped with GPS and radar reception technology.

Photo by Joey Lu / Pexels.com / CC0 1.0.
Photo by Joey Lu / Pexels.com / CC0 1.0.

Some metro areas, in tandem with technology companies that are manufacturing autonomous vehicles, are already preparing for the future. In the Seattle/Vancouver area, for instance, plans are in the works for autonomous vehicles to utilize existing HOV lanes, with those lanes evolving into autonomous-only lanes over time. Experts are also urging traffic planners to think ahead and begin widening existing roads now to accommodate future autonomous vehicle lanes.

Many drivers will be challenged during this period of driving evolution as we learn how to integrate self-driving vehicles with those that are human-piloted. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication will be available, but probably only between autonomous cars. However, with features like built-in Wi-Fi and voice command capability expected to become standard in all vehicles within the next five years, communication between all vehicles shouldn’t be a problem.

10 Years from Now: Don’t Feel Like Driving Today? Your Car Will do it for You! Why Keeping Both Options is Important

Think about how drastically cell phones have changed in the last 10 years. Today’s smartphones seem almost centuries more advanced than the flip phones of yesteryear! The communication industry’s accelerated growth in the last decade is similar to that seen in the automotive industry and gives us an idea of what’s to come.

By 2026, the automotive industry will have changed so dramatically that it will bear little resemblance to the 2016 landscape. Autonomous vehicles will be standard, and vehicles without amenities such as Wi-Fi and auto-braking will seem like ancient machines.

Some innovative manufacturers already have concepts in mind for 2026, and they’re more forward-thinking and fully connected than you can possibly imagine. The recently unveiled BMW 2026 concept looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, and it will be able to think ahead, keeping you safe and connected on the road.

The 2026 luxury car will find the quickest route to your destination before you can even open the door. It will take the wheel for most of the drive, or let you do the driving yourself if you’re in the mood. Its smart display will feed you driving information and entertainment via augmented-reality, and the 2026 BMW will likely be a gas-electric hybrid.

Even if 2026’s vehicles are fully autonomous, many cities may not have the infrastructural capacity to accommodate a large number of self-driving cars. City leaders should take initiative now to get legislation rolling in time for an influx of autonomous vehicles.

However autonomous the cars of the future become, there will always be the option for manual override. Driving a car is an exciting rite of passage that many people love, and the cars of the future will keep that feeling available while also providing more convenience and connectivity than ever before.

Final Thoughts

As we head into 2017, the cars of the future are closer than ever. Many of our vehicles already bear a passing resemblance to future cars, boasting auto-braking, lane-keeping assistance and navigation services.

Photo by Grendelkhan on Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0.
Photo by Grendelkhan on Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0.

The automotive industry will keep pushing the boundaries of innovation even further: Soon, cars will be able to sense and communicate with each other, making roads safer and possibly decreasing congestion.

There’s still plenty for us to do to make sure we’re ready for the cars of the future. The public needs more information about changes on the horizon, and communities should remain adaptable as their infrastructure gets an overhaul and fully automated cars hit the road en masse.

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