While we still don’t have flying cars, there are definitely many exciting vehicle technologies to look forward to in the future. With increased concern for the environment and demand for smarter vehicles that make our lives easier, automakers have been experimenting with unique ways to improve automobiles. Listed below are some exciting innovations in the car industry we can expect to see in the next decade.
- Improved Alternative Fuel Options
Electric and hybrid vehicles are our current non-gas-powered options. However, several new contenders are in line to be the next clean, cheap, and effective car fuel option.
Engineers and scientists have been experimenting with hydrogen-powered vehicles in the past few years, but several car manufacturers have finally created vehicles that can actually rely on this form of fuel. There are currently a small handful of hydrogen-powered models available in limited markets today.
Automobiles that use this alternative fuel run on hydrogen gas. It works by converting the gas into electricity with water and heat as the byproducts. This way, they are completely emission-free, making them far safer for the planet than cars that run on gas and diesel.
Solar energy is another possibility for powering cars in the future. It is one of the cleanest sources of energy available and completely renewable. Solar panels convert energy from sunlight into electricity. Vehicles powered by solar energy can run at night and without direct sunlight as long as enough solar energy is stored beforehand.
Solar-powered vehicles are currently only available as prototypes and are not ready for everyday use. Engineers are still working out several kinks that make solar cars impractical, including the cost and weight of panels. Additionally, only a certain amount of energy can be absorbed by existing solar panels. This amount of energy is not yet able to sustain a work commute for most people.
Another alternative fuel contender is the solid-state battery. This battery is meant to replace the current lithium-ion battery that is used in electric vehicles. They are simpler, lighter, and don’t have the same cooling requirements as lithium ones. Furthermore, solid-state batteries have been tested to last longer, charge faster, and be fireproof.
- Real Automated Driving
Today, many cars are equipped with driving assistance. This function alerts motorists when they drive too close to an object, initiates automatic braking, and takes over steering if the driver veers too far out of a lane. However, this is not fully automated driving.
Currently, motorists are still required to monitor automatic driving systems. Truly automated driving would not require a driver to intervene at all. This would allow a greater amount of people to have the convenience of a car, even if they are not capable of driving it themselves.
This kind of automation would require increased vehicle intelligence and technologies to accurately sense things like the speeds of nearby vehicles, the distance of objects that are both close and far away, and various on-road hazards and obstacles. Essentially, this type of vehicle will need to have a complete image of everything all at once and make the appropriate decision to ensure safety for passengers in the vehicle as well as nearby vehicles.
Some companies are working to perfect this system. Tesla and Google are two major names that are close to mastering a fully self-driving vehicle. Google’s Waymo project already has self-driving cars on the road in California. It is said that their inclusion should result in fewer totaled vehicles and safer roads.
- Lighter and Stronger Materials
Material changes to vehicles have been slow-coming, especially when it comes to changing out the steel, aluminum, magnesium, and rubber that cars are primarily composed of.
However, just because cars aren’t made out of coconut doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. In fact, auto manufacturers are experimenting with using coconut husks in addition to carbon fibers, bamboo, and aerogels in car materials.
Metal can get very heavy and weight gets expensive. However, lighter, natural materials reduce weight, can increase durability, and have recyclable properties which can reduce costs in many industries.
- Intelligent Assistance in Vehicles
Many of us may be used to giving Siri and Google commands to play certain songs, text someone back, or search the internet while we drive. However, these kinds of digital assistants do not learn or adapt as well as an artificial intelligence personality could.
In the future, your vehicle may be able to learn about your driving habits and preferences and suggest alternate routes or switch into autonomous driving. It would also be able to recognize your facial features and emotions and make suggestions based on them.
Moreover, an intelligent vehicle assistant could potentially be used as an autonomous ride-sharing vehicle when not in use: it would pick and drop off passengers locally, without you needing to do the actual driving. It could also decide to sell energy back to the electric grid when it is idle.
- On-the-Road Electric Charging
The amount of charging stations and electricity required to power an increasing number of electric vehicles are obstacles to getting more, and better, electric cars on the road. Charging stations are not available everywhere. As a result, long drives are currently difficult, if not impossible to do with an EV.
However, scientists believe one solution to this problem is charging cars while they drive on the road.
Using this method, electric vehicles will drive over induction coils that are on or under the road. The induction plate on the bottom of the car will interact with the coils and induce an electric current to feed the electric battery. This way, EVs will not run out of power as long as they are on a road with induction coils.
Technology like this will finally allow EVs to be put to optimal use. In other words, you will be able to take your electric car on a road trip without limiting yourself heavily to metropolitan locations.