What does the future of cars look like to you? Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award for 2013 went to the Tesla Model S—an electric car. The company was often seen as too concept-driven to be viable as a major car manufacturer. Such a perception is fading away, as is evident from the recent award, and it is indicative of the speed at which technological advancement is taking place.
What seemed futuristic only a few years ago is quickly becoming commonplace by today’s standards. This change is even discernible in the buy here pay here venue of used car dealerships with SmartWay vehicles. The fact of the matter is that manufacturers and consumers are becoming both increasingly eco-friendly and accustomed to advanced technology. Consumers are even beginning to take certain features for granted that, only a few years ago, would never have been something many new owners would expect to have in their car.
A Greener Car
The EPA estimates that half of the air pollution is America is caused by automobiles burning fossil fuels, National Geographic notes. Regardless of the consequences this may have in terms of altering the planet’s climate, everyone can agree that such a smoggy state of affairs is far from ideal. Furthermore, the cost of gasoline has become a massive burden for many Americans. This is due to many reasons, but the two primary culprits are the rapid growth of emerging economies—especially China—and, according to Mother Jones, the decrease of easily accessible oil available in reserves. In other words, demand is increasing and the supply of cheap oil is dwindling.
While most car manufacturers are not eager to go electric, they do recognize the benefit of pursuing technologies that will make each drop of gasoline count. Hybrids such as the Ford C-MAX can squeeze 100 miles out of a gallon of gas, while cars such as the Chevy Volt do not even use gasoline until the driver has traveled an EPA-estimated 38 miles. Even if consumers are only driving these cars to save at the pump, the benefits to the environment are massive.
A Smarter Car
With an increasingly connected lifestyle, the need for mobile Internet service has become paramount to many younger individuals. In a recent survey, 30% of those in the 18-24 age group said that they would choose having Internet access over possessing a car, according to Wired. It is this essential aspect of modern life that may lead to the “Internet of Cars.”
With recent systems, such as the MyFord Touch, consumers are beginning to get a picture of what the smart car of the future will look like. In the past, if one wanted to update their navigation system, they would have had to purchase the hardware to do so. With the MyFord Touch, however, the hardware is already in the car. The consumer need only install the software in order to have a better navigation system, more music options and the ability to search out where to find the best Thai without having to play with their phone while speeding down the highway.
This latter aspect is crucial, as it means, on top of everything else, a less distracted driver. Furthermore, as smart cars become more interconnected, they will be able to share information that will ultimately benefit drivers and keep them safe. For example, if the car is coming up on a red light too quickly, the smart car can send an alert message to the driver to tell him to slow down, notes Car and Driver.
While these features may make cars safer on the road, the possibility of having your car hacked is very real, and could become one of the biggest problems for carmakers. Between malware that can affect vital systems, such as your brakes, and some hacker’s ability to manipulate your key fob, there are multiple problems that will need to be addressed before all consumers fully embrace the smart car.
A Signing Car
The driver interface system for the Hyundai HCD-14 doesn’t require drivers to touch anything. Instead, it relies on 3-D hand gesture recognition, Motor Trend notes, which allows drivers to keep their eyes firmly on the road. The system was recently revealed at the 2013 Detroit auto show, and has certainly turned some heads. While this may not be as futuristic as a self-driving car, it is a technology that already exists, and it is one that will certainly become standard within the coming years.