Last week, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) hit Vegas and gave us a preview of the badass VR headsets and slightly terrifying robot butlers you may find in your house in the not-too-distant future. But the automotive world also had a huge presence this year, and as it focuses its vast resources more and more on developing next-level car concepts and technologies, CES is turning into a sneak peek at the coolest features in your next car. Here's a look at the new developments that will have the biggest impact on you, your car, and society in the next decade.
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Your car will seamlessly integrate with all your other devices
It was a pretty big deal when the thermostat in your house could suddenly connect to your phone via Wi-FI and then, just, auto-adjust itself. But that jump was nothing compared to what's on the horizon.
Every big car manufacturer is working on seamless ways to integrate your car with all the other smart devices you'll own. That means it will be freakishly easy to, say, sync up your car's audio with your home stereo, shoot a text to your boss when there's heavy traffic to say you'll be a few minutes late, or automatically pull up directions based on your next appointment. Synergy.
Plus, the interconnectivity of vehicles means your car will know almost instantaneously if there’s a new traffic problem ahead. The bottom line is that for every turn, red light, or change in elevation, autonomous cars will be able to use these intense maps to make minute changes that add up to big gains in efficiency.
You won't have to worry (as much) about some moron rear ending you because they were texting
A lot of cars already have an autonomous braking system that will help you avoid a wreck, but they're not great yet. Volvo's about to put a system in all S90 sedans that not only will get you to a complete stop from up to 80 mph, but will perform an emergency lane change for you at the same time, even if the danger in front isn't a slow car.
Gauges as you know them are dying
I'm not talking simply about a change from analog to digital gauges since, truth be told, even those that look like traditional analog gauges are computer-controlled already. I'm talking about the death of the style, at least in the majority of cars. Mercedes just dropped a massive HD LED display, Audi has similar units in the works, and really, once those are in cars there's absolutely no reason to stick to the same style we've all been using for well over a century. The Aston Martin conceptual display shown here is a prime example of what to expect when designers are freed from the shackles of tradition.
BMW chose CES as the place to show off its supremely sexy mirrorless i8, but it’s not the tech itself that’s new here, it’s the application. In the past few years, the ability to ditch mirrors completely in lieu of small cameras has meant significant gains in aerodynamic efficiency, and combining cameras with radar to track specific objects in your mirror has been on display in a few race cars. But carmakers have been hesitant to include them in production cars for a variety of reasons.
As HD cameras get ever smaller, though, the metric shifts in their favor. We’ll soon see cars on the road that don’t have so much as a single mirror, replaced instead by cameras and screens that replicate the traditional mirror’s role perfectly.
Your car will know more about your physical well-being than your doctor
Audi’s working on a system that not only monitors your current blood pressure, heart rate, and attention levels based on your driving, but one that takes your past health into account as well, so that it auto-adjust things like the A/C and radio volume to maximize your concentration.
If you think that’s impressive, you should check out this pupil-monitoring system that literally tracks where your eyes are looking and how dilated your pupils are at any point in time. Your car will know long before you do if you’re unfit to drive.