Since it’s 2021, you may be asking yourself, where is the flying car The Jetsons promised me? How about the hoverboard Marty McFly was cruising around on in Back to The Future? Hollywood may not have gotten their future of transportation predictions exactly right. Still, there are a lot of exciting technological innovations that are on the brink of changing the way we drive forever. Read on to learn about some fascinating inventions that are sure to become a way of life.
You’ve probably been hearing about the possibility of self-driving cars for a couple of years now. The truth is, most Americans have been utilizing some form of self-driving technology for over a decade. According to SAE International, self-driving technology can be sorted into six levels:
At level zero, your car may have blind spot alerts or lane departure warnings. The vehicle can only inform the driver of possible danger; it’s up to the driver to avoid the hazards.
At level one, your vehicle can intervene slightly. An example would be a lane steering system that helps keep your car centered if the sensor feels the vehicle drifting.
Vehicles in the level two category have features that can communicate with each other and work simultaneously. An example of this is adaptive cruise control that can control the speed and placement of your vehicle without driver intervention. This is currently the most intelligent automated vehicle technology sold commercially in the US.
Level three vehicles can drive themselves under some conditions with driver supervision. An example of this is a vehicle that allows the driver to stop driving during a traffic jam and will enable the car to take over but continue driving the car once the traffic clears. The Honda 100 Legend Flagship car is the only level three car currently on the market, and it is only sold in Japan.
At Level four, the vehicle can drive itself on a fixed route on known roads. Some of these vehicles do not even have a steering wheel or pedals, so no driver intervention is needed. These vehicles are primarily being tested for drive share programs; none are approved for general use.
Level five vehicles are the final step in self-driving vehicles. They can drive anywhere under any conditions and require no driver intervention. Currently, level five vehicles are only hypothetical.
So, with all this exciting technology, the next question is when? When will the average citizen be able to hop in a driverless car and safely get from point A to point B? The answer is complicated. While all major vehicle manufacturers are racing to get to level five, a world of self-driving cars would require brand new laws, insurance, and road rules to keep us all safe. While there is no exact date on the horizon, self-driving vehicles have become an inevitable part of all our futures
Vehicle biometrics offer the ultimate personalized driving experience. You likely already use biometrics in your day-to-day life to unlock your phone or reset a pesky forgotten password. The future of vehicles will undoubtedly utilize biometrics for security purposes and much, much more.
In many ways, the future is already here. There are already vehicles on the market that allow owners to unlock and start their cars with fingerprint identification, hands-free in-vehicle phone calls, and hands-free audio control. The future will provide vehicles that automatically scan the driver’s face and adjust the setting in the car based on their preferences — no more adjusting the seat manually after your spouse takes a turn in the driver’s seat. Plus, many companies are working on technology that will sense the driver’s heart rate and overall health and make adjustments accordingly. Persistence Market Research has estimated that the market for in-vehicle passenger sensing systems will grow by an average of 6.9 percent every year and should become a two billion dollar industry by 2022.
While you wait for the day that augmented reality becomes your everyday reality, check out some of the safest cars already on the market.
Augmented reality [VIDEO]
Buckle up because augmented reality isn’t just for video games anymore. Panasonic’s HUD augmented reality system could be implemented as early as 2024. What does this mean for you as a driver? A much safer experience and easier navigation. The HUD system shows the driver any potential debris in the road, highlights pedestrians even in low light, and quickly adapts to show the driver’s line of sight even if their head is turned. This technology could make a huge difference in the fight against distracted driving. Check out this demo video for more info:
Energy-storing body panels
Electric cars have become more and more common in recent years. However, there are still some kinks to work out, namely those cumbersome battery packs. Volvo has been at the forefront of developing a technology that will change the way electric cars work forever. Energy-storing body panels use the body of the vehicle to store nano-batteries and supercapacitors, which are tiny batteries, within the vehicle’s panels. The process will be done using a special kind of resin, and the goal is to eventually have it be as simple as getting a new paint job. This process would result in a much more efficient and light electric vehicle. Like most of the technology we have discussed so far, it’s hard to estimate exactly when it will be unveiled. One of the roadblocks being that process is not currently very cost-effective. Manufacturers are continuing to work hard to streamline the energy-storing body panel process.
Airbags as an active safety system
Airbags have come a long way since they were first introduced to the world. There are seatbelt airbags, curtain airbags, and even airbags under some vehicles that can lift the car off the ground. Manufacturers like Mercedes have plans to use airbags as a more active safety measure. More control of airbags means vehicles deploy them to slightly raise your vehicle when you hit a bump and to keep you and your passengers safely situated behind seatbelts.
Cars that talk to each other
If you use a GPS app on your phone, you have probably noticed that other drivers can warn you of upcoming hazards such as potholes, accidents, and vehicles stuck on the side of the road. Now vehicle manufacturers are cutting out the middleman by using in-car sensors that can identify and communicate to other cars on the road that there are hazards ahead. It works like this. Your vehicle determines that you’ve used traction control, enabled your hazard lights, or sensed slippery conditions. Then it uses its computer system to transmit that info to the cars behind you. In this way, it enables vehicles to see around corners and be ready for all conditions.
Solar powered cars
We can’t talk about the future of transportation without discussing the opportunities to drive climate-friendly vehicles. Solar-powered vehicles could significantly slow our world’s looming threat of global warming, and they are hitting the market this year. The Aptera is covered in 34 square feet of solar cells. Those cells could provide enough energy to drive about 40 miles. This Batmobile-looking vehicle is still undergoing safety tests but once given the green light; it promises an efficient vehicle that is good for the environment.
Cars as mobile payment systems [VIDEO]
We use our smartphones to do everything these days, including shopping and paying for purchases. However, using your phone while driving can be extremely dangerous. That’s why car companies are now attempting to turn your car into a mobile payment system. What does that mean exactly? Here are some examples of how you could use a mobile payment system:
- Pay for gas
- Use voice shopping during your commute
- Feed the meter
- Pay tolls
- Rent a car
- Pay for repairs
- Pay at the drive-thru
- Keep registration and tags up to date
The possibilities are endless. Check out a demo of how convenient paying for parking would be with a mobile payment system:
The future is bright
As you can see, all these technological advancements should make our world safer, cleaner, and more convenient. What was once science fiction is now going to be our children and grandchildren’s new normal. No matter what tomorrow brings, make sure you’re covered with the right insurance. Elephant is ready for the future of transportation; for more information, see if we provide coverage in your area.