We’ll dive into some informed speculation about what we could expect in the next twenty years of driving. With the industry coming so far in the last twenty, it’s exciting to think about just how different everyday trips might change, influenced by the high-tech concepts being presented by companies today.
The first thing people usually ask about the future of driving is how it’ll be fuelled. Electric is the obvious answer, with more and more being purchased every year (28% of all new cars sold in 2021 in the UK were electrified). This revolution doesn’t look like it’s going to slow anytime soon, and this is pushing the technology forwards.
Currently, high-capacity batteries require rare earth metals, like cobalt, which are extracted from only a few mines on earth using CO2-heavy processes. This could change with a switch to lithium sulphur batteries. These are lighter, contain a large amount of charge and use extremely common chemicals in their makeup. This change could mean the difference between 250 miles between charges and 900 miles, with a battery small enough to increase interior car space.
Another future technology that attracts attention is autonomy – cars driving themselves. Companies like Tesla are already utilising some form of it in the vehicles, but it currently still requires a driver to supervise while it’s engaged. While many view the technology as being able to watch a film on a self-propelled journey, the reality may be more small-scale than that.
Modern cars can already take over in certain situations, with adaptive cruise control and even capable of self-parking, but those technologies could see widespread and expanded utilisation; imagine driving between cities with AI assistance, then handing control off to your car when you hit metropolitan roads. When you reach your destination, your car would then self-valet, finding a parking a space and sending you its location to your phone.
A big aid in autonomous driving will be greater connectivity between cars. More and more everyday appliances like washing machines and refrigerators can connect to the Internet of Things – this could extend to vehicles too, especially now we’re entering an age where mobile internet connections are often faster than wired ones. An ‘Internet of Cars’ could facilitate communication between vehicles and improve safety, immediately warning of obstructions in traffic, or offer a greater awareness of other cars at night. Imagine a motorway of cars driving as one synchronous flock, with vehicles seamlessly joining and leaving almost as if it was rehearsed.
We all have the hyper-futuristic vision of how cars might look – wild curves and wide windows – but there’s already evidence of natural evolution in their looks: the phasing out of the front grill. Without a need for a radiator in electric engines, there’s no reason for air to reach it. Today it’s a way to tell if a car’s electrified, but tomorrow it’ll become standard design as form meets functionality.
On the inside, the cockpit might get an overhaul to make things more driver friendly. Your infotainment system might be controlled simply by a wave of the hand or the movement of your fingers on the wheel, minus any buttons. Gesture controls could see your grip stay on the wheel while your car picks up on tiny movements. You might not even need to gesture at all, as voice recognition technology continues to grow in accuracy.
As for info part of infotainment, your eyes might be able to stay on the road more, instead of flicking down to the instrument cluster. Augmented reality technology and heads-up displays could place your speedometer and route information directly on the windscreen. Directions could have the illusion of being painted directly on the road, or having routes outlined at night to help make them out in the darkness.
The above ideas are just extrapolations of existing ones – who knows where the next revolution in driving might come from. Much like how smartphones changed the portable computing game, all it takes is one spark of genius to turn the automotive industry on its head. They can be hard to predict, but they can be thrilling surprises when they do happen.