Technology is a massive area of discovery in the automotive industry at the moment. As computers and smartphones become more and more clever, and manufacturers successfully explore new ways of integrating these gadgets with the car, your next vehicle could be chocked full of features to make driving and your life on the move that bit easier.
These innovations are the technological step coming to your next car.
Many manufacturers already offer the ability to hook up your smartphone to your car, utilising its mobile data connection to provide social media apps, for example.
You can already perform Google searches on your intended destination to find things to do, but some car companies are already trialling systems, which actually find empty parking spaces, identify the charge and then guide you to that exact spot.
Integration with your smartphone will also mean you can turn your car on in the morning (more so electric vehicles at the moment, but not a million miles away for conventionally powered cars) to pre-heat the cabin and turn on the heated seats for a frosty winter morning.
Emissions laws are driving improvements in fuel economy and efficiency of most vehicles – one way car companies are getting around the issue, reducing CO2 output but not hurting performance, is to shut down some of your engine’s cylinders when they’re not needed. When you ask for full power again, they’ll fire up and you’ll have a full complement working away under the bonnet.
This means when you’re cruising along in town in an average four-cylinder car, it will only run on two cylinders, making it much more efficient. Just like stop-start, it debuted on high-end luxury cars, but is now filtering down to more everyday, mainstream vehicles.
This is a contentious issue, but it is on its way. The next generation of luxury saloons will be able to actually make lane changes themselves and automatically use the accelerator and brake to either keep up with faster vehicles, or react to slower moving traffic in a queue.
They still require your hands to be on the wheel to do it, but testing has proved cars can lap a race track (as an example) almost as quickly as a human can. In terms of everyday applications, many companies have also experimented with ‘road trains’ – a follow the leader system.
Cars are set to get even more gears than they have now. Some modern automatics feature eight speeds, plus reverse, but in a bid to quell carbon emissions once more, manufacturers are looking to add ratios to their transmissions.
This will mean the powertrain can be optimised for efficiency – changing up to a high gear as soon as possible, keeping the engine at lower revs – or performance, whereby when the driver presses the accelerator, the gearbox can select the perfect gear for the burst of acceleration required. It’s reported some car companies are already working on a 10-speed system.
ACTIVE SAFETY SYSTEMS
This has been a big area of development in recent years. Many cars now feature technology that can sense an object in front of you (be it a slow or stationary car, or a pedestrian) and actively apply the brakes within a certain speed window to try and avoid or mitigate the impacts of a crash.
More and more money is going to be pumped into this area, so expect to see these features filter down to the most basic models, with new developments such as pedestrian airbags and more energy absorbent materials used in the construction of new vehicles.
If it’s good enough for the likes of McLaren and Ferrari with their new hypercars, it has to be good enough for the most of us, doesn’t it? Far from being the boring, eco-boxes that hybrids were once known for, supplementing a downsized, turbocharged engine, for example, can actually increase performance – with instant torque from the additional electric motor – but actually reduce emissions over a car with a similar overall power output.
What do you think will be the next big gadget or piece of technology to hit the automotive sector? Or, what system would you like to see on the next vehicle you buy? We want to hear your opinions on this, so leave a comment below or tweet to us @twwhiteandsons on Twitter. You can also find us on Facebook – just search for T W White and Sons.