Top 5 futuristic automotive tech you can buy right now
When we were kids, we used to think that future cars would be able to fly by now. Surprisingly, there are a few concepts already running around that do exactly that, but there are certainly more down-to-earth technologies that we only used to see in science-fiction movies, and now they’re already here, available for you to buy right now. Here’s five automotive innovations that continue to baffle us.
The Airless Tweel
The Tweel is an airless tyre and wheel assembly design concept developed by Michelin that was first displayed way back in 2005. Its significant advantage over regular pneumatic tyres is that the Tweel is not filled with compressed air, so it cannot burst, lose pressure or become flat. Instead, the Tweel consists of an inner hub connected to flexible polyurethane spokes which are used to support an outer rim that houses the conventional tyre crown with working plies, tread pattern and all, while absorbing shocks as well.
It’s actually available right now in production form, but only offered for certain types of construction vehicles and lawn mowers. However, Michelin has demonstrated versions for passenger cars and bikes, so it might only be a matter of time before they become mainstream.
The Heads-Up Display
A heads-up display is a jet fighter-style feature where information such as speed, revs, navigation directions and other data is digitally displayed on the windshield ahead of the driver. While the display looks like it is magically floating in the air, it is just an LCD display cleverly reflected onto the windshield.
We first came across these in a handful of luxury cars a decade ago, and even today it’s a bit of a rarity, as it remains a luxury feature. Even some mainstream cars such as the Mazda 3 and the Peugeot 3008 have a basic version of it. We believe it should be a standard feature on all cars, given its safety aspect of not taking your eyes off the road.
Driver Drowiness Monitor
Various research studies suggest that around 20% of all road accidents are related to tiredness, going up to 50% on certain types of roads. Drivers who do not take regular breaks when driving long distances risk becoming drowsy, which they often fail to realise early enough.
There are now systems available in some premium models from Volvo and Mercedes-Benz that can warn of inattentiveness and drowsiness at highway speeds and notify drivers of their current state of fatigue and the driving time since the last break. Some even indicate nearby places to stop over in the navigation system.
The system works by simply comparing your driving style at the beginning of your journey with any erratic behaviour later in the trip, such as sudden steering movements and braking. Future systems might even read eye movements and heart beats.
Let’s face it, most people cannot park properly even if their lives depended on it. Almost a decade ago, the Lexus LS460 attempted to solve that problem by offering an automatic parking system. It was awful to use, but it started a trend that culminated in cars as cheap as the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus today having auto-parking systems that are much easier to use, and surprisingly good enough to do the back-and-forth thing for slipping into small spaces.
Simply put, once a button is pressed, the system looks for a parking space just big enough to fit the car. Once found, it gives instructions on whether to choose forward or reverse gears, but the steering is completely automated, making the car slip into pretty tight spaces with ease.
The Jeep Cherokee took it further, being able to back into perpendicular spaces, while the new Audi Q7 now has a system to make the car slip forward into perpendicular spaces as well. Carmakers are already toying with prototypes of cars that can autonomously go into a parking garage, search for a space and park itself after you’ve already stepped out of the car at the entrance!
Autonomous Self-Driving Cars
Google is taking all the limelight at the moment with their driverless cars, but the truth is many cars today already have the technology to drive by themselves to a certain extent, disguised as safety features.
Most carmakers, from Hyundai to Audi, now offer features such as adaptive cruise control in combination with lane-departure warning and emergency-braking systems. So these cars are able to automatically maintain a set speed on the highway, slow down if a slower car cuts in ahead, brake hard if there are pedestrians or stopped cars in front, and nudge the steering wheel back into lane if the cars drifts out of line without indicating. When it all works together, you can’t help but think that you can literally take a nap while on a long highway journey.
Of course, you shouldn’t be napping while driving in the first place, which is why the drowsiness detectors were invented as well. However, there will probably be a time in the near future when we will be able to do just that, legally and safely.