Future or Fantasy? Top 5 Car Tech of Tomorrow


By looking at the concepts of today, can we see which futuristic car features will be rolling off the production line in years to come?

Car technology has come a long way in a few short years, and with rumours of tech giant Apple rumoured to be interested in acquiring McLaren (a rumour denied by McLaren), the merging of bleeding edge technology and car manufacturing is a hotter topic than ever.

This poses interesting challenges from a resourcing point of view, as manufacturers are seeking a different set of skills to design, engineer and manufacture these electronic innovations. This is something we’ll continue to keep a finger on the pulse on within the automotive industry.

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Self-driving cars and electric engines are well documented advancements well down the road to becoming mainstream realities, but perhaps by looking at today’s concept cars, we can see tomorrow’s innovative car features today.

Mirrorless cars

What is it?

Mirrorless cars replace wing mirrors with cameras whilst adding and additional camera at the top of the rear window, with the video output being automatically merged into one panoramic view in the display where the rear view mirror would traditionally be.

Who’s making it?

BMW showed off the technology in a version of their futuristic i8 model at CES Las Vegas in January.

Why is it cool?

Aside from looking cool and reducing drag, the cameras eliminate the blind spot and give the driver a full view around the car by glancing at one display, rather than needing to look over their shoulder or at multiple mirrors before manoeuvring. They also remove the issue of not being able to use the rear view mirror when the back window is obscured.

The display is also smart. It anticipates your actions based on your turning signals or steering wheel movements, detects hazards using its cameras, and highlights these with an overlay in the rear view display panel. It can also extend its view to one side or the other when turning in that direction.

BMW i8 Mirrorless

When will we have it?

The 2016 Cadillac CT6 already has some cameras complimenting the traditional mirrors, but in terms of fully mirrorless cars, BMW haven’t given any indication as to when we might see a mirrorless i8 in production. However, the technology is already road legal in Japan, with legislation in other countries sure to follow.

Gesture controlled interface

What is it?

A step-up from touchscreen infotainment and controls, gesture controlled interfaces allow the driver (or passengers) to control things like the radio, climate and even doors and windows with a wave of the hand.

Who’s making it?

The 2016 BMW 7 series already has it, and it’s also a key feature in the Volkswagen Budd-e minivan and e-Golf Touch concept. Visteon are also developing a system.

Why is it cool?

Aside from pretending to have Jedi powers or be Tom Cruise in Minority Report, gesture control allows drivers to quickly control the radio and phone without taking their eyes off the road. It’s hands-free without needing to talk to a robot.

If gesture control someday completely replaces physical controls, it frees up space on the dashboard for other elements. The dashboard could even be moved forward, out of reach of the driver, to free up more room in the cabin.

On the other hand, there’s bound to be a learning curve in gesture controls, especially if there are a lot of gestures to learn or the system isn’t responsive enough. It will take time for gesture controls to become intuitive. And is it really necessary?

When will we have it?

It’s available now in the BMW 7 series. Volkswagen’s Budd-e is slated for a 2020 release date.

Between journey transportation

What is it?

Driving is great for getting you close to where you want to go, but what about after you’ve parked? Then you’re stuck getting to your next seated position via everyone’s least favourite thing - walking. Well, not if you have a compact transportation device tucked away in your car.

Who’s making it?

The most notable and intriguing example in development is Ford’s Carr-E, which resembles a Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner, but is described more accurately as a four wheeled electric pedestrian assistant.

Why is it cool?

The Ford Carr-E promises much more than the standard “hoverboard”. As well as being able to ride it around, negating that pesky walking thing we all hate, the Carr-E is also designed to carry luggage or heavy shopping bags. Once loaded up with your wares, it will follow you around using an electronic transmitter you keep in your possession.

When not in use, the Carr-E fits inside the boot, where you’d usually find a spare tyre (where the spare tyre goes instead isn’t immediately obvious).

Ford Carr-E

When will we have it?

Ford haven’t given any information at this point. Watch this space…

Water tap

What is it?

A water tap inside your car, of course. It’s actually not as absurd an idea as it might sound, as it doesn’t require the driver to fill up a tank of drinking water.

On the go H2O

Who’s making it?

It’s Ford again. They call it On-the-Go H2O, and it was inspired by a billboard in Peru that condensed water vapour in the air, before dispensing it out of a tap at the bottom.

Ford’s car-based version collects water from the condenser and air conditioning unit, which is usually wasted, and passes it through a filter then out of a tap inside the car. The system can produce as much as 1.8 litres in an hour.

Why is it cool?

Aside from providing free water that would otherwise go to waste and cutting down on plastic bottles on long journeys, there’s a real benefit to On-the-Go H2O in hotter climates where clean water is scarce.

When will we have it?

As with the Carr-E, Ford haven’t given a release date for On-the-go H2O, but the practicality and philanthropic opportunities make it a promising prospect.

On board drone

What is it?

Perhaps the least practical item on this list, and last but not certainly least, the idea is that an on-board drone will fly off above the car to direct pictures from its camera to the dashboard of the car below, thus providing a birds eye view of traffic, parking spaces or even just to get some artsy shots of the car in motion.

Who’s making it?

Rinspeed turned heads with its ∑tos model, a completely autonomous concept car with a high tech drone attached to the rear - for fun, really.

A drone assistant is also being developed by Mercedes Benz as part of their Vision Van concept. Designed for logistics and deliveries, the drone associated with the van can drop off requested items from stores directly into the roof of the van, or circumvent traffic woes to get packages across that last part of the journey and to their destinations.

Why is it cool?

The two concepts named here are designed for very different purposes, with the Rinspeed ∑tos being much more “showy”. In a fantastically entertaining demo video, the ∑tos drone even flies off to the nearest flower shop to pick up a bouquet for a delighted partner on Valentine’s Day, at the car’s prompt and at the touch of a button.

Rinspeed Etos drone

Meanwhile, in probably a more practical application of drone technology, the delivery van concept from Mercedes hopes to speed up online delivery to as little as 20 minutes, regardless of traffic conditions. That’s not quite as cool as the ∑tos concept, but it’s still a drone, and drones are still pretty cool.

When will we have it?

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether drones will ever actually get paired up with cars in the mainstream, but pending approval from aviation regulatory bodies, we could feasibly see delivery drones paired up with vans.

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