10 Coolest Technologies of Cars of the Future

In our wildest dreams, we probably imagine ourselves traveling by bubble or transporter in the future. Of course, we'll all be wearing silver spandex and communicating telepathically, too, so maybe it's a blessing that the future hasn't become a reality yet. There are much cooler technologies just around the bend for our vehicles, though; some are even being used in a limited number of cars already. Keep your eyes open in the coming years for these awesome additions to the way we travel.

  1. Compressed-air cars

    Making cars cleaner and more fuel-efficient seems to be higher up on companies' agendas than, say, making vehicles fly or giving us in-car blow-dryers and vending machines. While a dashboard microwave would be cool, saving money on gas while not worrying about your car running out of fuel would be just as awesome. There are still plenty of kinks to be worked out of the idea before being marketable, but many are looking at compressed air as a promising fuel source. Cars would use the same compressed air that you put in your tires, releasing less CO2 and saving drivers money. As it is, air pumps would probably need to be stronger and the range is relatively short, but scientists are working hard to find a way to make air work.

  2. Platoons

    Nothing is more frustrating than the constant stopping and starting of rush-hour traffic or seeing a light turn green and the cars in front of you not moving until the light's already yellow. Waiting for drivers to react, especially when you're in a long line of vehicles, isn't just infuriating; it's also inefficient. You waste gas because of the air resistance — if you were able to safely drive closer to the car in front of you, you'd use less gas, which is the logic race car drivers and cyclists use when drafting behind another car. Platoons would allow cars to join a sort of caravan where the cars systems would link to that of a lead vehicle, taking the driving responsibilities away from the drivers in the platoon. All the cars would accelerate and brake together and could travel with only a few feet between them because you don't have to account for human reaction time. The idea would also speed up the flow of traffic since you wouldn't have to wait for individual drivers to move, but groups of as many as 25 vehicles.

  3. Wireless charging stations

    Electric cars are starting to gain some traction in the consumer market, but most developers know they won't fully catch on until they can match the convenience and range of gas-driven vehicles. Most people hate the idea of having to plug in their car every night or risk breaking down on the side of the road the next day. It's hard enough to remember to plug in your phone; hooking up your car to your house is too much for a lot of people. That's why researchers are finding ways to charge electric cars wirelessly. By parking over a charging pad, cars will be able receive 3.3 kW of power without ever having to be plugged into the wall.

  4. Vehicle Infrastructure Integration

    When we're driving, most of us aren't trying to communicate with the road or other people's cars. We're swearing and yelling at the driver who just cut us off or waving at the person who just let us merge in heavy traffic. But what if our cars were communicating too? Vehicle Infrastructure Integration is a big idea that is being researched a lot lately to try to figure out the best ways to implement it and form laws to use it best. VII would make it possible for vehicles to communicate with each other so each car would have information like how fast a nearby car is going, the intentions of the driver, and where exactly they're located to improve safety by braking or steering when needed. Each car would also communicate with the road, giving driving and traffic conditions to drivers.

  5. Self-parking systems

    It won't be long until all cars can park themselves — many manufacturers have even added the feature in the past year. The dreaded task of parallel parking won't even be an issue as cars take control in parking situations. All a driver has to do is pull up alongside a suitable parking spot (those tiny spots won't work with the current technology) and let the system do the work. Some possible self-parking devices will even help you find a parking spot so you won't have to circle the block or parking lot 20 times waiting for someone to leave.

  6. Bodies of batteries

    One of the current stumbling blocks for electric car design is the problem of the battery. Big, bulky batteries are more powerful, but weigh the car down. Lighter batteries won't take the car as far, so they don't make much sense to developers. One solution that is being researched is the idea of working the battery into the body of the car. Since the body has to be there anyway, you might as well make the most use out of every inch. The doors, roof, and hood would act as the battery, doing many of the best things that more traditional batteries do, like regenerative braking and storing a charge.

  7. Pre-safe systems

    This is another system that is being used in one or two cars already, but is destined to become standard in cars of the future. Pre-safe systems, like that of the Mercedes Benz, are able to detect how far the car is from a vehicle or object in front of it. When it gets information that the vehicle is about to be involved in a crash, it braces the driver for impact. First, it gives a visual and auditory warning to the driver so he'll react if possible, and then it tightens the driver's seatbelt and moves his seat to a position that will keep injuries to a minimum. This is the next generation of car safety; cars won't just protect the passengers, they'll keep some crashes from happening.

  8. Personal rapid transit

    OK, this isn't exactly a car of the future. It's more like an overhaul of transportation. With personal rapid transit, we wouldn't have to drive to destinations anymore. Instead, we'd take something you might compare to automated taxis — somewhere between a personal vehicle and a train. Groups of four to six people would take a small car that wouldn't have to stop at any stations on the way to their destination. They'd be connected to guideways somehow, but there would be many more routes that could be taken than with a traditional train. There aren't any personal rapid transit systems in the U.S. right now, but Heathrow Airport in London and a district in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates are trying the idea.

  9. Foam bodies

    Today, we think of cars as heavy steel cages, but that doesn't mean they will always be that way. Foam or other plastics might offer a safer, lighter way for us to travel. In Thailand, where motorcycles and scooters are common forms of transportation, one company tried the foam idea on an enclosed, two-person car. The body is 90% foam, reinforced with aluminum and fiberglass, and only weighs 300 pounds. The six inches of foam on all sides had impressive results in the companies' tests where they crashed it into a four-ton truck. And just like those foam noodles you use in your pool, foam could keep cars afloat if you drive into water.

  10. Hydrogen fuel cells

    One the most promising sources of clean energy for cars of the future is hydrogen. By using a fuel cell, hydrogen is converted into electricity that can be used as power and the only byproducts are heat and water, meaning no pollutants. NASA already uses hydrogen power to launch shuttles, but we're still several years away from seeing it become a part of our everyday lives. Hydrogen may be abundant on Earth, but it has to be separated from other elements when taken from water or natural gas. This is one of the main kinks that has to be worked out before making a hydrogen car marketable. The question remains whether there would be hydrogen refueling stations, a fuel converter built in the car, or miniature hydrogen plants in home garages.

Leave a comment