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Predictions over the next 20 years

The technology that will become commonplace in cars in the next 20 years is probably already in existence.

  • 58% of motorists now believe all motorways will be tolled.
  • 58% of motorists believe that drivers will have to pay to drive in all cities.
  • 51% believe cars will not be allowed into city centres, in 1988 it was 56%.
  • 16% now believe car ownership will be limited to one per household up from the 8% who thought the same in 1991.

Motorists now concentrate on the impact of usage or how usage can be offset, so car sharing, restrictions on cars with no passengers all now appear in predictions for the future. Gridlock is now seen as not just a possibility, but an inevitable reality.

Safety and security

Technology will continue to play an ever increasing part in improving safety, thereby reducing the accident rate. But the nature of the problem means that although computer and mechanical reliability can be substantially improved over time, human error will always have a key part to play.

In recognition of this, a number of technologies currently being developed or just coming onto the market - lane change warning, brake assist, road sign recognition and attention assistance (detecting and warning a driver when they are falling asleep) - are designed to assist the driver, aiding or guiding them to avoid a potential accident.

There are also technologies under development that have the potential to remove the control from the driver. Combining satellite navigation with vehicle management systems it is now possible to prevent cars from exceeding the speed limit on any road in the UK. This effectively removes the choice from the driver.


Twenty years ago the challenge for legislators and manufacturers was to reduce the amount of pollution being emitted by cars. There is still a way to go, but the combination of EU legislation and the manufacturers seeing commercial benefit in being 'green' has seen dramatic reductions in these harmful emissions.

However, the process of reducing many of the noxious substances previously found in fuels, converts them into Carbon Dioxide (CO2). So by solving one problem, it has contributed in part to another, that of CO2 emissions from cars.

The key challenge for the next 20 years is reducing the emissions of CO2, from the fuels used in cars, or the fuel source that powers the car. There is little point in replacing fossil fuels with battery/fuel cell vehicles that derive their power from equally as CO2 generating sources. The issue of greener fuels will be explored more fully in the third 2008 RAC Report on Motoring.


Predictions over the last 20 years