Car Tech of the Future – Your Bluetooth is Soooo 2010

futura nameplate

by Aaron Turpen

Looking at the vehicles built in the 1960s, it's hard to imagine that the high-tech of yesterday is considered standard equipment today. I remember driving my dad's 1961 Chevrolet Bel Air (4-door, two-tone hard top). Here's a short list of some of its high-tech offerings, according to the sales receipt and window sticker:

  • 3-speed, on-the-column shifting for greater convenience
  • "Highway Overdrive" for greater fuel economy over long distances
  • 2-vent under-dash heater
  • 2-speaker AM Radio (one in the dash, one over the rear seats)
  • 3-speed windshield wiper system
bel air nameplate

Those are just a few of the high-tech marvels on that cruiser; the ultimate family machine. The shifter was easy to bump out of gear (especially out of reverse), the highway overdrive "clunked" loudly into place when you were at speed, that under-dash heater could light your pants on fire if you didn't keep your distance, and the 2-speakers were definitely not in stereo. The wipers? Well, three speeds meant "slower than grandpa, faster than Buck Rogers' rocket, and off."

Today? Well, today, we have automatic transmissions, ultra-efficient fuel economy, heating and air conditioning in our cars, full stereo and high quality surround sound with MP3, windshield wipers that can be minutely adjusted for speed, and seat belts. Did I mention the seat belts in the Bel Air were nowhere to be found? They were there, I think, but nobody wanted to dig them out. My dad's arm was the automatic air bag. I don't remember it being all that soft either.

So what about the cars of tomorrow? What will be considered "standard equipment" by then? What are today's 2-speaker AM radios that will turn into tomorrow's HQ MP3, multi-disc players?

The Options: Batteries, Controllers, and Motors... Oh my!

Think about this: Nissan is already talking about multiple battery options for the LEAF. Perhaps, in the future, options like this will be commonplace. Instead of talking to the salesman about the various "sport" packages, it will be a question of how much battery power you want.

hornet sportabout
This AMC Sportabout was once a Future Car (by Nyboer Creative)

Think of the possibilities here. The "sport" package for your future car could mean beefier batteries, a more powerful controller, and beefier or even just more motors. What if that $4,000 ad-on package meant more than just chrome grilles and wheel covers? What if it meant extending the range by 50 miles and putting another 30mph on the speedo? Or boosting the 0-60 from 7 to 6.2 seconds?

Maybe future eco-geeks will be chiding the future muscle car lovers for their "waste of electrons."

Still, with all these options, I bet the dealership will still offer that rip-off "underbody spray" thing.

The Future Dashboard – Choose Your OS

The dashboard will definitely change. Considering a vehicle's dashboard is just a readout of what the vehicle is doing (speed, RPMs, energy consumption/reserves, etc.), it's likely these will always exist. Their form will change, however.

Will it be One Screen to Rule Them All Tolkien-style, or will it be no screen at all? Perhaps the car of the future will be like Kit and just talk to you, letting you know what is currently happening with the vehicle.

Delphi Dashboard

Surely, future cars will be "cloud connected" or at least completely wired to the 'Net. Checking your bank balance, talking to your friends, ordering pizza, and more will be possible. All without touching anything.

Don't be surprised if one of the things you have to ask the car salesman of the future is "Does this have a Linux version?"

Automated Driving and the Death of Road Rage

The idea of automated driving is nothing new. Ever since the first traffic jam when Fred and Barney couldn't move at more than a bare-foot creep, man has envisioned a day when cars would drive themselves. The idea of "commuting without driving" has been compelling.

This very idea is the selling point of rail systems, bus transit, subways, etc. It's also probably the most commonly speculated future transportation option.

For the near-future, it may not be too far off, really. Truckers know what a Road Train is, in concept, though they usually call it a "convoy." Some Europeans are actually testing an automated system of road trains called SARTRE that links vehicles together to automate the driving experience.

ATNMBL

Even Google has gotten into the concept with their ATNMBL idea. Don't look now, but that vehicle envisions legal drinking while driving. Except the car is driving, so you're safe. In theory.

Personally, I like the couch and the picture of the guy sleeping on his way to work. That's what automation is all about, baby. Plus, with the big-screen that's in this living-room-on-wheels, you could play Super Mario Bros XXXXIXXVXX on your way home that afternoon too.

The Future Car

Bricklin

It's definite that the car of the future will be fantastically sophisticated. One thing is, however, virtually guaranteed.

The concept for the future car, when it's introduced? It will have gull wing doors. Then, when the production model comes out? It won't. That's the continual disappointment we humans will always endure when looking at futuristic car concepts. The elusive gull-wing door.

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