Drive On

10 New Innovations Every Driver Should Be Excited About

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1. Cars that read road signs

Car cameras that read signs that note changing speed limits, turns ahead, and accident-causing hazards (like children playing stickball, hopscotch, and other games children don't play anymore) are just around the corner. Manufacturers are already on this to a degree, with cars that alert drivers when they have failed to slow down in a school zone, say. Think of like a really hi-tech version of driving with your mom. 

2. Smarter roads

Asphalt is dumb and not just for being really hot in the summer. Engineers are currently working on a variety of technologies to improve roadways, from installing structural solar panels that would generate electricity and remain resistant to ice and snow, to glow-in-the-dark road markings (already seen in the Netherlands), and lanes that could charge electric cars through induction, even while driving.


3. Cars that really park themselves

Parking assists have been around for a decade, but next-gen tech will allow your car to fit into spots so narrow that you couldn’t open a door to exit the vehicle. You’ll simply step out of the car, press a button on a remote control, and it will park itself. Further out, we should see autonomous parking vehicles that require ever-smaller footprints. Eventually, at most places you go to, your car could be your valet parker.  And no tipping! Thanks technology!

4. Laser headlights

Despite the fact that laser headlights can be five times brighter than their LED or conventional counterparts, most laser systems use cameras to detect oncoming traffic and dim the part of the beam aimed directly at another driver’s eyeballs. They also offer other advantages: the shape and length of their beams can be changed, for a longer, more direct throw when you’re hauling ass, or a wide angle when you’re moving slower. So why don’t we have laser headlights already? Europe does, but in the United States the tech is being held up by heavily contested Federal Motor Safety Standards.


5. Augmented reality heads-up displays

Manufacturers have heads-up displays in current production cars that display your current speed along with some navigation and infotainment info. Some systems also display the speed limit of the road that you’re currently driving on. But the next step will be augmented-reality heads-up displays that highlight pedestrians, cars, animals, novelty unicyclists & rollerbladers, and even project video over the pillars that cause blind spots.

6. Self-driving cars

We’re all for slogging off the daily driving duties to robots that can steer, brake, and guide your ride safely on and off the freeway. The sensors and processors that it takes to run a car semi-autonomously on the highway exist now -- Google’s current prototype, for example. The next step will be developing foolproof  technology that doesn’t require drivers to “check in” every minute.

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7. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication

Connected tech in near-future cars will allow your vehicle to “see” further ahead than you can with your eyes, to avoid traffic snarls and warn or divert your car if there’s a bad driver or Sasquatch in front of you. The tech will be composed of a small box that pairs radio transmitters with a microprocessor, and communicates with other vehicles that also have the box within about a half-mile range. There’s a strong expectation that it will be mandatory in US automobiles by around 2020.

8. Cars that watch you

Your next car could totally be checking you out! Dash-mounted cameras can watch your eyes and face to both monitor your heart rate (to ensure you’re not falling asleep, or otherwise incapacitated) and ensure that the car’s controls and its heads-up display is always in your line of sight. Such monitoring systems may also evaluate how busy you are behind the wheel before allowing additional possible distractions like phone calls to come through. Again, your mom will approve.

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9. Emission-free driving

Until your local electric grid is fully powered by renewable energy sources like geothermal, wind, solar, and hydropower, a plug-in electric car isn’t truly emission-free; it still has a carbon footprint (although smaller than gas-powered vehicle's). The good part? Current plug-in cars will only get cleaner as more renewable energy sources go mainstream. So the holy grail of green commuting -- a nearly emission-free drive -- isn’t just a pipe dream.  

10. Key-less cars

Biometric devices will recognize your voice, scan your retinas, and ID your fingerprints to allow you to enter and turn on your future car. There are plenty of benefits: you could allow buddies to access your car on demand (and set a speed limiter on them), and the tech could make car-sharing services simpler to use. The only problem: without carrying a keychain, you’re going to have to figure out where to put that fun little plastic soccer ball you got at the Dallas Fort Worth Hudson News that one time.