Future car technology

The pace of progress in the automotive industry is startling. Development is relentless – and it needs to be for manufacturers to stay at the forefront of the industry.

The benefit to the consumer is the automotive innovations coming to cars of the future. We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best gadgets, engineering advances and intriguing features that might be commonplace on the vehicles of tomorrow.

1 – Full LED headlights

LED lights on cars have been around for a while, but only in the form of daytime running lights. There’s a select group of manufacturers who have recently made this technology available on their vehicles, using full LED headlights, but it still isn’t mainstream yet.

The benefits are that LED light can be made brighter than regular filament bulbs, improving safety and vision, but using less energy and lasting longer, too.

2 – Gesture recognition

It’s not available on the mass market just yet, but trials are underway to develop and refine gesture recognition in your car. Potentially, in the future, it means you might not have to take your gaze away from the road to locate a button on the dash or your car’s heater controls.

Instead, you’ll simply be able to swipe your hand left or right to go back or skip a track on your CD player, or turn an imaginary knob clockwise or anti-clockwise to adjust interior temperature. This has to be good for safety.

3 – Voice recognition

This is one form of communication with your car that is very close to the mainstream. Some vehicle manufacturers and smartphone companies have already teamed up to provide integration of your mobile device with your vehicle, using the handset’s voice control software to operate functions inside the cabin.

4 – Digital mirrors

More and more development is being put into on-board cameras, and the technology could be set to replace the conventional rear-view mirror.

Although potentially more expensive than a traditional silvered piece of glass, the benefit of using cameras to see behind you is that you don’t have a blind spot – providing a wide enough lens or multiple cameras are used. The introduction of this technology could help reduce minor car park bumps, as well as more serious accidents, such as when changing lanes on the motorway.

5 – Wireless charging

A huge amount of resources are being plunged into developing wireless charging capabilities – from recharging an electric vehicle, to topping up your mobile phone battery in doors without the aid of a wire and plug.

There’s no reason why, once fully developed, these systems can’t be implemented in your car. You could just place your phone near a ‘hot spot’, such as in a coin tray or door pocket, and your battery will get a boost. Charging via the cigarette lighter or even the USB port could soon become a thing of the past.

6 – Advanced fatigue detection

“Tiredness kills. Take a break.” Many drivers will have seen this slogan displayed on UK motorways. And it’s true. Plenty of vehicles already have systems that monitor how you drive, alerting you if it sense you becoming drowsy – but there’s a next generation of fatigue monitoring technology set to emerge.

The new crop of systems actively monitors your heart and respiration rate wirelessly through sensors built into the drivers seat. If your breathing or heart rate slows down too much, the system will sense your energy levels dwindling and alert you, telling you to pull over.

7 – 3D instrumentation

3D technology has received a lot of attention over the last few years and carmakers are turning their hand to integrating it in their vehicles. The new systems work without the need for glasses, called ‘autostereoscopic’ technology.

This means your car’s dials and gauges will ‘pop out’ of the dashboard to create a three-dimensional virtual information display. This can help with sat-nav guidance, for example, showing you where to turn in 3D.

8 – 3D surround sound

And it’s not just visual 3D elements vehicle manufacturers are looking to develop, either. Companies such as in-car audio specialists Harman have tried and tested 3D sound systems for cars, incorporating speakers into the dash, doors, parcel shelf and headlining.

Allied to a stereo that can separate the individual audio elements and send those signals to the relevant speakers, it creates a much clearer, fuller sound. As if it were real life, in fact.

9 – V2V vehicle communication software

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems – technology that allows cars to autonomously communicate with each other to pinpoint their location and improve safety as a result – could hold a major benefit for road users.

Being developed in America, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes with the correct implementation of the technology, there’s potential to reduce vehicle crashes by 79%. At the most basic level that’s great for safety, but buying a car fitted with such a device in the future could also give you a reduction on your car insurance.

10 – Autonomous vehicles

Going one step further than just communicating with each other, vehicles that can actually drive themselves with no human input are just around the corner. This technology has been tested with some success – in individual vehicles, as well as ‘road trains’ that leech signals and information from other cars in the area.

Autonomous cars for the mass market might be a long way off compared to some of the vehicle innovations featured here, but the technology is coming.

It’s an exciting time in the automotive industry at the moment, as the relentless pace of development looks to push the sector over the edge and into the next generation of automotive and technological history.

If you can't wait for this technology to arrive why not view our list of used cars.

Which of these technologies would you like to see on your next car – and are there any features we haven’t listed that you’d like to see invented?

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Our 2013 Report on Motoring looks back on the past 25 years of motoring. There is also a cool graphic showing what drivers thought would be in our cars of the future.