From what’s in the tank to who’s in the driving seat, a brave new world of motoring is fast approaching. Thomas Falkiner takes a backseat…
More joules for everyone:
Any carmaker worth its salt is busy getting its electric game together. Just look at the marques making their way to Formula E, the once-maligned racing series that uses batteries and volts instead of fossil fuels and fumes. Audi. BMW. Mercedes-Benz. Porsche. Even Maserati is rumoured to be joining the Amp Pack.
The racing arena is the perfect place to test and develop electric drivetrains that will ultimately filter down to everyday cars.
Electric vehicles are here to stay and in the next few years you can expect them to evolve into better-looking, better-driving alternatives. Hybridisation will increase, too, as a means to squeeze more power and efficiency from smaller capacity petrol engines.
The upcoming BMW Z4 will, for example, come standard with a mild-hybrid system to aid both in acceleration and powering ancillaries. Volvo has also pledged that all its vehicles will, from 2019, be either hybrid-electric or fully electric.
The death of diesel?
In 2015 the Volkswagen Group was involved in an emissions cheating scandal of internet-breaking proportion. On paper its TDI motors seemed squeaky clean but in reality they were huffing out up to 40 times the claimed amount of harmful nitrogen oxides.
“Dieselgate” was a PR nightmare that not only cost Volkswagen billions in damages but also represented a paradigm shift in the way consumers view this one-time wonder fuel. It is now seen as a dirty, cheating pollutant. Mexico City. Madrid. Athens. Paris. The mayors of all these capitals have agreed to ban diesel vehicles by 2025. Later this year Seoul will ban all diesel cars made before 2006.
Regulations will only get more stringent. Manufacturers will reduce the amount of time and money they pump into developing new models. It won’t happen overnight but it would seem that diesel’s days are numbered — especially in the passenger-car market.
The rise of autonomy:
Although flying cars will remain the product of cartoon fiction — for now— the age of the autonomous car is nearly upon us. Just the other week Fiat Chrysler teamed up with BMW, Intel and Mobileye in their race to have fully autonomous cars rolling off the production line come 2021. Tesla is also working on driverless systems, as are non-traditional car firms such as Google and Apple.
Removing the unpredictable and sometimes volatile human being from behind the wheel holds the promise of fewer accidents and traffic jams. It’ll also reduce our stress levels and give us more free time – up to an extra 50 minutes a day according to a McKinsey study.
Semi-autonomous driver aid systems will also become de rigueur in lesser models. We can already see evidence of this with the wider use of technologies such as lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
Sharing is caring:
Unlike the baby boomers, millennials and plurals would rather spend their disposable income on personal technology. The act of driving holds little appeal — as do the hassle and expenses associated with car upkeep.
So how do they want to get round? These tech-savvy generations are falling for car-sharing programmes such as Zipcar that, via an app on your smartphone, lets you access a car in your city pretty much 24/7. You can choose your model (even a van if you need some extra space) and keep it for as little as one hour or up to seven days. Fuel and insurance are included too, which makes the deal even sweeter.
Car ownership is as outdated as the VHS tape — at least in the millennial mind — and you can expect car sharing to spread and evolve over the next five years.
Augmented reality can be an extremely helpful technology, but who wants to walk around in a dorky pair of Google Glasses to experience it? The automotive industry can get around this awkward issue by building augmented reality functionality into the windscreens of its cars. Toyota recently filed a patent for such a system and you can bet that other manufacturers will follow suit.
It makes perfect sense because that large expanse of glass in front of your nose is an ideal canvas upon which to project realtime information about surroundings. Restaurants. Parking arcades. Hijack hot spots. Traffic and weather conditions.
This data can be beamed into special windscreens sandwiching an organic light-emitting diode film to make your journey safer and more enjoyable.
Augmented reality technology could even make you better around the racetrack as the ideal driving line could be shown just like in driving simulators like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. – Thomas Falkiner