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Wednesday 30 July 2014

The future that’s coming to cars

What are cars doing now and what will they do in the future?

Published 17/06/2014|10:25

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You may think there’s little more to your car than an engine, four wheels and a place to sit, but behind all that there’s some serious technology doing things that sound like science fiction but are, in fact, reality. So here’s a round up of what’s here and what’s coming.

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1. 4G connections built in

Mobile phone users will be getting used to 4G by now but actually our cars will feature it really soon.

This will allow cars to download all kinds of useful things like 3D maps of the area, the latest news from around the world and even things like Facebook status and tweets from your favourite news outlet like independent.ie. You’ll have them read to you by the car in any language.

 

2. Cars that generate power

Because of the short range electric cars are a very hard sell for most car companies and so hybrids are back on the rise but there are versions with a generator on board - using the petrol engine to power a generator that in turn charges batteries that power the wheels.

It sounds complicated but it takes the pressure off the petrol engine and puts it where it’s cheapest - the batteries. It means that you can get on using the car just like normal but with less fills in the tank and no stopping to plug it in so, yes, you can go to the beach this weekend.

 

3. Night vision

Screens on the dashboard can show you the road ahead even if it’s beyond the range of the headlights. The computers in the car see the shape of people or even animals on the side of the road and apply the brakes or tug the seat belt to warn you, even if you don’t see anything.

 

4. Automatic cruise control

Cars can have an all-seeing eye: it’s a radar device that can see and measure the speed of traffic both ahead and behind.

 

This means that all you have to do is set the speed you want to go at and the car will look after adjusting the speed if the traffic is moving slower than your setting, all you have to do is steer; how lazy is that?

 

5. Cameras that watch the road

Built into the windscreen is a series of cameras for looking at rainfall, road signs and lines on the road, as well as activating automatic lights and wipers when needed, showing you the last road sign you passed on the dash and giving you a warning if you are straying out of lane.

 

6. A new power source

Petrol and diesel can’t have a long-term future, they are running out and so the race is on to find an alternative.

 

One possible version would be hydrogen: this would work like petrol now, meaning you go to a hydrogen station and put some in and drive on. The thing is hydrogen puts out a lot of power so you could be able to power your house or maybe the whole street from your car.

 

7. Cars that talk to each other

If cars could communicate with each other they could notify you of a crash or breakdown ahead in real time, meaning there would be no need for traffic reports which can lag behind what’s really happening on the road.

 

You can have a system like that now, in the event of a crash the car will make a phone call to the local services and give the location and how many people are on board. It knows how big the crash is by how many airbags went off and sensors on the outside. That way you won’t get the Fire brigade knocking on the window when you reverse into a lamp post in a car park.

 

8. Self-driving cars

So far we’ve only seen the Google version of that bubble car. It doesn’t have a steering wheel or brake pedal - in effect anyone in the car is just a passenger.

 

By all accounts it seems to work on the safe test track that they laid out for it but actual car companies are keeping very quiet about self-driving cars and that can mean only one thing; there’s a race on to be first.

 

This means in the very near future we may not be driving at all but I’d like to see Google car take on Sally Gap on wet and windy evening before I’ll trust it to drive for me.

 

 

 

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