From automatic features and sensors to self-parking and -driving facilities, the car of the future really is here, and pretty soon, is looking to make the driver all but redundant. Here are just a few of the interesting features and tech developments that are currently available, or are soon to be available, in modern cars.
Activated by rainfall, a rain sensor is an interesting accessory that has two main applications. The first has to do with water conservation – with the device being connected to an automatic irrigation system that shuts down as it senses rain. The second application turns on automatic windscreen wipers, eliminating the need for the driver to switch them on as rain begins to fall.
Bluetooth isn’t new and Bluetooth connectivity is a feature that has been available within premium cars for some time. However, thanks to a number of technological advancements, it has become faster, more widespread, more reliable and capable of interfacing with several different kinds of devices, allowing you to do a lot without ever taking your hands off the steering wheel, including streaming music, sending messages and exchanging files.
Designed to alert the driver to obstacles in close proximity while parking, parking sensors make use of either electromagnetic or ultrasonic sensors. The majority of these systems work using ultrasonic detectors which measure the distances between your car and other cars or objects, via sensors located within the front and/or rear bumpers. They emit acoustic tones while calculating distance, with the pulses getting faster as the car gets nearer to an obstacle.
A car that parks itself can make the whole parking-in-a-tight-space-on-a-busy-street situation a lot less stressful. The self-parking car can fit into smaller spaces than most drivers can manage on their own, making it easier to find parking, and simultaneously helping the problematic parking situation many areas face by allowing the same number of cars to take up fewer spots. Within a self-parking car, all the driver has to do is regulate speed while the on-board computer system does the rest. Once in position beside the front car, the self-parking car gives the driver a signal to stop. The driver shifts into reverse and allows the car to move into the parking space, with the power steering system manoeuvring the car. Another signal tells the driver to stop and shift into drive. The car then pulls forward and adjusts.
And what about cars that need no humans at all? Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea – so much so that a report by the Business Insider predicts that 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020. Leading car companies like Mercedes, BMW and Tesla have either already released or are soon to release self-driving features, with Tesla recently announcing that it is developing plans to enable cars to drive long distances without any humans at all, self-charging at superchargers and producing intelligent destinations based on calendar data. Meanwhile, tech companies are also getting in on the action, with Google having road-tested their fleet of prototype vehicles over 1,948,394km as of last September, with a view towards making them available to the public in 2020.