From fingerprints and facial recognition to smart roads and autonomous lorries – what does the future of motoring hold?
Advancing technology has influenced industries across all sectors, both disrupting and developing the way we operate in our daily lives.
This is evident in the automotive industry as well, where car models have become more adventurous in form and function.
Innovations in motoring are moving quickly, and experts are predicting artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a major role in how we use our vehicles in the future.
Already, cars are becoming an extension of our ever-increasing tech-reliant lifestyle. Advancements such as keyless entry, Bluetooth and lane departure and forward-collision warnings are becoming increasingly common, with wireless phone charging and heads-up display being added to the mix more recently.
In the future, voice, fingerprint and facial-recognition technology could be used to access our cars.
Safety, of course, is priority. A built-in collision avoidance system will inform drivers if they’re veering outside their lane. The technology will be programmed to alarm the driver if they’re at risk of hitting a pedestrian, an object or a vehicle in front, to the side or behind them.
Instead of booklets, the car’s manual might be viewed through an app, complete with information on repairs, maintenance and instructional videos on a 3D display.
A hologram windscreen, meanwhile, will allow drivers to see information such as speed, fuel, directions, and in the case of electric cars, battery levels, without the need to look down at their dashboards.
Getting the green light
Beyond the smart services and gadgets that add to a car’s appeal, much of the focus when it comes to technology is on autonomous driving or self-driving capabilities, and the use of electricity instead of fuel to power cars.
A study published this year by business information provider HIS Markit projects that more than 33 million autonomous cars will be sold worldwide by 2040.
Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency estimates that electric models will grow to 125 million by 2030.
“Over the past years, we’ve seen a move not just towards more economical cars, including working towards greater fuel efficiency, but also a focus on the new need for mobility, including sustainability and accessibility,” says Gary West, head of future mobility at General Motors, Middle East.
“From our end, at least 20 new all-electric vehicles will be introduced to our global portfolio by 2023, two of which will be introduced by mid-2019, and we are on track to roll out an autonomous ride-sharing service in 2019, starting in a small geographic area, somewhere in the world.”
Connecting the dots
With this concept of autonomous, smart cars, comes the idea of smart cities, municipal areas that will utilise technology to synchronise data exchange between various devices.
This is particularly applicable for autonomous vehicles, which will require extra services to maximise their potential.
“Connectivity is all encompassing, including more than just connected cars, but eventually connected streets, buildings, roads and even cities,” Gary notes.
“For example, when an autonomous vehicle is on the road, each aspect of that road must be mapped out in a way that allows for the car to keep itself in the lane and allow the driver to let go of the wheel.
“Letting go of the wheel is not a thought for tomorrow, it’s available now in the US, with the Super Cruise technology in the next generation of Cadillacs allowing hands-free highway driving.
He continues: “Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication are the way forward. While these smart city technologies are a while away from being implemented and used in our day-to-day lives, we are working with partners to
bring them to life and test them in real-world conditions.”
Today, car manufacturers are working side by side with tech firms to enhance the capabilities of each new model.
More than ever, car brands are forming alliances with companies like Apple, Google, Qualcomm and Visteon to help develop unique features that are more in tune with the demands of today. Honda, for example, is looking to incorporate Apple’s Siri technology into future models to enable drivers to use their voice to operate the car’s entertainment system.
When it comes to powering your car, electricity is not the only alternative that industry think tanks are looking at for the future.
“We’re looking into advancements such as hydrogen fuel cells to introduce new ways to move heavier objects. Think of the trucks you see today on Mohammed Bin Zayed road; now imagine if all of them were zero emissions, driving by themselves, safely and securely,” Gary says.
“We are also working hard to help reduce emissions today across all vehicle portfolios,” he continues. “Vehicle light weighting technology has helped us collectively lose 5,000 pounds from 14 models since 2016, saving consumers 35 million gallons of fuel and reducing CO² emissions by around 312,000 metric tons per year.”
With the UAE setting its own vision for the future when it comes to smart systems and cities, the motoring industry’s plans seem to fit right in, an important factor for key players in the industry who are eager to implement change.
“Car manufacturers are not the only players here,” Gary explains. “Moving towards a future of change requires the right policies paired with industry and consumer wide commitment to ensure a stable and lasting transition.
“Looking at the Africa and Middle East region, we are extremely excited as we witness dynamic and visionary leadership that recognises these trends and are making great strides to help their cities and people transform.
“Once the right technologies are established, which is the most challenging part, change will follow very quickly.”
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez