Tomorrow’s tech features

Driverless cars are too far down the line — we’ve looked at some much more relevant tech coming to your next new car…
By Dejan Jovanovic, Features Writer
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October 29, 2016
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Legislated and extensive use of autonomous cars? If we’re serious for a moment and forget all the showcar talk of fancy; driverless passenger vehicles are at least a decade away. Most point to 2030. But there are some other upcoming concerns in the car world just as potentially groundbreaking as full autonomy, and they’ll matter much sooner than a decade, as in, right now… Unfortunately, the tech we’ve listed below won’t save us from the carpocalypse but will in fact help lead us closer to driverless cars one day. In any case, this is the stuff that matters now.

 

Cybercrime

Connectivity is key on the road to full-autonomy, but as more drivers embrace connected cars packed with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that plug their vehicles into the world wide web since autonomous systems will rely heavily on internet connectivity, there is in turn a risk of cyber-attacks and potentially fatal outcomes. Every single company out there is prioritising connectivity (and cybercrime) for next-gen vehicle development — Volkswagen is only a single example, having acquired BlackBerry’s European research and development centre for just such a purpose. Similarly, automotive electronics supplier Harman last month revealed a new security framework with a “series of protective layers, like an onion”, for car infotainment units, and others are moving as quickly. To date there hasn’t been a single malicious car hacking or cyber threat to consumers (the Cherokee, Escape and Prius hackings were done by researchers...) and if the industry continues to prioritise cyber security it may stay that way.

Reality rating: 10

Every manufacturer is aware that globally, consumer aspirations are changing with connectivity being a key feature in buying decisions. Harman says by 2020 there will be a billion cars on the road and the industry needs to respond with reassurances their connected cars are completely safe. So yeah, it’s as real as airbags and seat belts…

 

Traffic lights

Besides being a handy place to check the contents of your nostrils, traffic lights are mostly a chore and a hindrance even if they serve their purpose of protecting us from otherwise inevitable fireballs and pile-ups very well. Everyone’s impatient when it comes to signals and we only want the green ones, and Ford’s actually doing something about it. Red lights on your morning school run or work commute could become a thing of the past, in the future, thanks to an experiment of trial Fords, which utilise a Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory system that connects with road signals to display optimum speed for riding the legendary green wave. This is a Dh90 million project already in full force.

Reality rating: 9

This is on the move in the UK where drivers spend on average two days a year waiting at red traffic lights and some luxury cars like Audi’s A8 already have online traffic light data

 

Wearable tech

As we inch closer to fully autonomous cars there seems to be a need to remain attached to vehicles with which you have less and less physical connection. One solution according to companies like Jaguar (new F-Pace and its wristband…) and Hyundai is wearable tech (a smartwatch perhaps), which can alert owners of vehicle status when the two are separated.

Reality rating: 5

It’s a matter of adaptivity… Will the public accept yet another device to wear/carry, or can upcoming digital vehicle functions be incorporated into existing devices like smartphones?

 

Biometrics

Cab company Uber is already introducing selfies as a means of identity and safety measures for its drivers, so that only after affirmative facial recognition using their phone, can the driver start your journey. This kind of tech, including biometric fingerprint access to vehicles and engine start-up, will filter down into consumer cars within a generation. Additionally, biometric steering wheels will be able to tell whether you’re too tired or stressed to drive, and eye-monitoring tech is already in production.

Reality rating: 7

Expect biometrics to be a part of expensive tech kits that carmakers love to include in their options lists, bundled with other stuff like concierge connectivity and services in premium products

 

Renewable materials

Loving the earth is all fine and dandy but doing something about it is even better. There are plenty of manufacturers out there using renewable and sustainable materials in their new cars, like cotton and recycled fibre for sound insulation and eucalyptus wood trim in the cabin, or soy-based foams and resins instead of petroleum-based ones. For the future, companies like Honda, Ford, BMW and Audi, as well as others, are already working on taking it further and going full bio on us…

Reality rating: 9

Some carmakers have embraced renewable materials more than others, but it is an increasing reality: your next-gen cars will use plant-based rubber alternatives (they’ll even make tyres out of dandelions and sunflowers, how pretty…) and Ford’s even trying to take Heinz Ketchup’s unwanted tomato skins to turn them into wiring brackets…

 

HUDs

AMOLED is the next big thing in car displays since you can curve the screens and adapt them to elaborate dashboard designs, but after that trend comes and goes, head-up displays will take over and clear up cluttered dashboards everywhere, with enough power to process all information directly in front of you in vivid colour and 3D.

Reality rating: 6

 

Cruise control

Currently the smartest cruise control systems can maintain lane control and creep the car in traffic, and do a wonderful job on the highway (except in our region where the systems are totally duped by awful driving practices), but your next-gen luxury car will have the capability to autonomously overtake slower vehicles ahead without the driver touching the wheel or pedals.

Reality rating: 10

The next step in reaching fully-autonomous capabilities is even smarter cruise control systems, which will arrive on all upcoming luxury cars, aided with data from other vehicles around you through next-gen connectivity features

 

Gesture control

Currently you can already wave your hand around and prod and pick at empty air in the new BMW 7 Series, and the car will respond. But in the near future gesture control will be utilised to monitor the behaviour of children sitting in the rear and alert front passengers if there’s cause for alarm via cameras and displays.

Reality rating:8

This is potentially tech to abuse if your kids get naughty ideas, but whatever helps keep an eye out on precious cargo is a welcome feature in any family car