Under the bonnet isn’t the only place that technology is shaping our automotive future: how we interact with our cars is fast becoming the hottest topic out there.
The desire to be able to connect with the tech that surrounds us is moulding every aspect of our automotive lives. Why wouldn’t we want to get notifications on the move, or be able to Google a destination in our homes and have the route seamlessly appear on the touchscreen on our car’s dash? It’s a natural evolution, and one that’s developing at an unprecedented rate.
And that’s before we’ve even considered what sort of distractions will be available to us once our cars become fully autonomous and our attention isn’t consumed by having to actually, you know, drive the vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz’s F 015 Luxury in Motion concept, designed to give us an idea of what cars will be like by 2030, suggests that we’ll be able to kick back and choose entertainment from six screens, controlled by our eyes and hand gestures. If you’d rather monitor what’s happening on the road ahead, you can do that, too. The whole windscreen will become a Heads-Up Display containing information like your speed, revs and temperature, as well as graphics showing your route on the road ahead, accurate braking-gap information, etc.
In the interim years, voice-controlled actions will become more prevalent, so you’ll be able to tell your car how you want your climate settings or mirror positions without having to avert your eyes from the road.
And then there are really off-the-wall concepts like Mini’s Augmented Vision HUD goggles, which strap onto your head to make your environment hyper-real. The idea is that you can effectively ‘remove’ areas of your car so that the panels become invisible, enabling you to spot that undertaking cyclist or dog on the loose. It’s been hard enough encouraging customers to wear daft-looking 3D glasses in their living rooms, though, so cruising around looking like a berk is probably going to prove a step too far for some.
In some cases, you won’t actually have to be inside your car to connect with it. Land Rover recently showcased an app that enables you to turn a Range Rover Sport into the world’s most awesome remote-controlled car via your smartphone. Its intended purpose is for off-roading: if you’re stuck on a rocky outcrop and can’t see the best way through from your lofty position in the driving seat, you’ll be able to get out of the vehicle and steer it through the obstacle.However, we all know that Range Rover owners are going to use it to impress their mates in any car park they can find (though you can only drive the car to 4mph, and it’ll stop moving if it detects any danger).
Concepts for car-connected phone and watch apps are coming thick and fast at the moment. Hyundai’s Blue Link system is another one – already available in the US, it enables you to start your engine, lock and unlock your doors, and even immobilise your car if it gets stolen.
It’s predicted that future cars will be able to learn your favourite driving routes, then help you to navigate them more effectively. Imagine having a vehicle that automatically plots your route via GPS, then configures your car accordingly: with a tighter throttle response and sharper steering action for that B-road blast, and a more refined spec for when you’re cruising along the dual carriageway. With that sort of thing going on, you’d really start to love your car being connected, and not just appreciate it as an intriguing option.
On its recent M4 concept, BMW showcased headlights that automatically change direction based on the layout of the road, which the car ascertains using GPS data. But that’s not all – infrared technology means the vehicle can see things quicker than you can. So the next time you’re cruising down the road at night and a deer sprints into your path, the headlights will adjust and project a beam of light in its direction, helping you to avoid a collision.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we haven’t even talked about the possibilities that will arise when cars start to communicate with other, as well as a town or city’s infrastructure, to relieve congestion and plot the quickest routes. Have a think about what you’d like your future car to be able to do, and tweet us your thoughts: @T3dotcom.