Future Tech Cars – Back to the Future Edition
By Chelsy Ranard
Last month — October 21st — was the infamous “Back to the Future Day” when Marty McFly arrived in the future to witness flying cars, hover boards, and Nike’s that lace themselves. Back to the Future is not the last word on what the future holds, fortunately, since we haven’t quite hit their expectation for 2015. Despite the fact that Jaws 19 never happened (bummer), we do have a lot of really cool technology that proves we really might be in the future, even if Back to the Future disagrees. Our cars may not fly, but they do have a lot of other advancements that are pretty futuristic.
Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla have already released, or are soon to release, self-driving car features. Google announced their creation of driverless cars and the prototypes have been on the roads this summer. The technology involved with these cars is pretty advanced, but the idea is that these cars will have a sort of autopilot mode. The Google cars are completely autonomous and the cars created by Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla are not, however, a few of them have said that autonomous vehicles will be a reality in the future. We haven’t quite reached the level of self-driving cars shown in I, Robot or Minority Report, but this futuristic automotive technology is a real thing for us today.
The idea behind airless tires isn’t one rooted in intricate technology, but rooted in innovative problem solving. Most vehicles that utilize the air-less tires are commercial lawn mowers, skid steers, and Humvees because to eliminate things like flat tires for vehicles that experience rough terrain. Michelin has created the “Tweel” (a mix between tire and wheel) with steel and rubber that possesses the qualities of a regular tire without the possibility of losing air. This isn’t exactly a technology used in passenger vehicles, but Michelin has said that Tweels might make an appearance in the market if the innovations surpass those of the normal tire in terms of braking, cornering, and fuel efficiency. Plus, think how useful they will be during the zombie apocalypse.
Auto-stop, or the start-stop system, is automotive technology that automatically shuts down and restarts the internal combustion engine to reduce the amount of time the engine spends idling which reduces fuel combustion and emissions. This is great for vehicles that spend a lot of time in traffic and is present in a lot of hybrid vehicles. Unlike some of the technology mentioned earlier, this is a little more commonplace in the automotive industry with carmakers like BMW, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, Volvo, and many others jumping on the stop-start train in order to reduce emissions and offer better fuel economy. Some cars offer this auto-stop feature as a standard feature rather than an option.
The main idea behind a lot of automotive technology is to let the car think for itself instead of making the driver make all of the decisions. Collision mitigation is a safety system designed to eliminate or reduce the severity of an accident. This technology uses radar, lasers, and cameras to detect an imminent crash and will either alert the driver or take action autonomously without any driver input. This might sound a little too much like Christine, but these safety measures seem to be making a difference. With this system, your car will auto-brake, have lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, and adaptive headlights. With all the other handheld technology distracting drivers these days, it is probably the best idea to let our cars make some of our decisions.
The face of the future according to many pop culture references in the past was the idea of touchscreen technology. Not only are our phones run by touchscreens, but the infotainment screens on our cars are all made with touchscreen technology. Our in-car infotainment has reached new heights with the system abilities to navigate to a destination, operate a smartphone hands free, and recognize verbal requests for music, phone calls, and directions. Some systems are pretty advanced and have cooperative and intuitive systems that are really user friendly and less distracting. Pushing buttons is now a thing of the past!
These are just a few of the automotive technologies making their way into the mainstream automotive world, but what is next for our futuristic technology? In relation to collision mitigation and self-driving cars is the driver override system that we can expect to see sometime in the future. This would mean that our cars can brake if they see fit even if our foot is floored on the gas pedal. We will probably end up throwing away our keys and start gaining entry to our vehicles via fingerprint. Ford just showed a GT supercar using a twin-turbo V6 at the Detroit auto show, so a lightweight V6 200mph plus supercar with a four-cylinder engine could be in our future. Some other technology we can expect is in-car health monitoring, regular use of remote vehicle shut down, head-up display technology, and a more comprehensive vehicle tracker. All of these technological advances will be amazing, but it still seems like the flying car is farther away than expected by pop culture. Damn it.
Originally it seemed like the future that is displayed in pop culture would be rad, especially on the automotive front, but, sadly, our hover boards don’t even really hover. But the automotive technology making an appearance in the past few years has proven that, even though our future doesn’t have a flying DeLorean, we are in the midst of a technological revolution making our cars become more like computers with artificial intelligence, which is pretty cool anyway.