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While many of today’s vehicles have integrated GPS, satellite audio, and even mobile apps, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a look at some amazing high-tech ideas which could find their ways to our cars in the not-too-distant future.
Looking for an empty parking space in a garage or parking lot can be a pain. Car manufacturers recognize this time-waster and are working on solutions which could enable cars to automatically park themselves without the driver present. One of the more intriguing demonstrations of such a technology comes from Scandinavian automaker Volvo. This vehicle’s on-board autonomous driving system can detect the presence of not just other vehicles, but pedestrians as well. All the driver needs to do is exit their vehicle, open up an app on their smartphone, and set the car to Autonomous Parking mode. The car not only finds an open parking space, it takes care of the parking for you. And chances are that it will do a much better job at it than you can, since on-board sensors will ensure the car doesn’t bump into any obstacles. You can see a demonstration of an early prototype of this amazing system in the video clip below:
Can you imagine that someday in the not-too-distant future, your car might be able to detect your mood or state of well-being? Several major auto manufacturers, including Toyota and Ford have been exploring technology to detect driver emotional and physical state. Why might your car need to know how you’re feeling? For starters, this information could be used to dynamically adapt the vehicles ride mode – making the ride more sporty if you’re in an upbeat mood and the road conditions are right.
In addition, being able to detect the driver’s state of mind could help to identify whether they are distracted from driving, and either offer driving assistance, or remind the driver to keep focused on the road. Mood identification could also be used to adapt the music that’s playing in the vehicle – or if the system detects that you are driving tentatively and your emotional state is confused, it could automatically offer help with directions.
Another interesting possibility for future vehicles is the idea that our windshields could double as large display screens, superimposing relevant information directly in our field of view instead of using displays that take our attention off the road. One of the more interesting potential applications comes in the form of augmented reality displays on our windshields. The most obvious use case is for navigation systems that could actually project directions and turn information on the windshield. While some manufacturers already have small heads-up displays that can display speed and GPS data, the real breakthrough will come when our entire windshields can double as transparent displays, using OLED or specialized projection technologies like the one shown here from Pioneer:
This could allow for screens to precisely align relevant information with the scene outside the window. For instance, GM has been working on a system which would use cameras, radar and other sensors to display relevant information on the windshield, such as road hazards and speed limit signs. Such information could also be used to help drivers know about upcoming turns and hazards in low-visibility situations. In fact, there’s already a smartphone app called HUDWAY which can add a small heads-up GPS display to any vehicle by reflecting the screen of your smartphone onto the windshield glass. Of course, this technology could also be used to display things like emails, text messages and Facebook status updates, so they could create new forms of driving distraction if not thoughtfully developed.
While it may be a number of years before fully fleshed out versions of these technologies find their way into everyday vehicles, it’s a pretty solid bet that some degree of autonomy will be standard on almost every vehicle as we move into the second half of the decade. With safety and fuel efficiency topping driver concerns, there’s no question that automation could improve these aspects of driving. In addition, systems that monitor driver awareness and tools which reduce driver distraction are sure to be front and center in coming years.
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