Motoring into the 21st Century

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What will cars be like in the future?

There is no doubt that cars have come a long way since Karl Benz launched the Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886. A huge leap forward came in 1908, when Henry Ford produced the Model T. This was a simpler, cheaper design and mass-market motoring became possible for the first time. Since then, cars have improved in an iterative fashion. They are quicker, more reliable, more efficient, simpler to drive and more comfortable. These are all welcome advances, of course, but it is hard to point to a single advance and conclude that the initial design had changed radically. Cars are still, largely, big metal boxes with an internal combustion engine at the front burning petrol, a passenger compartment in the middle and a boot at the rear. 

Fuels for the Future

So without much happening in the last 100 years or so, are there any developments coming down the line that will change our cars in the future? There just might be, and an obvious one is the fuel source. Estimates of reserves may vary but there is no doubt at all that fossil fuels are a finite resource and will run out eventually. Before that, it is inevitable that the fossil fuels that do remain will just become incredibly expensive to extract. This means that we must find alternative fuel sources for our cars. Already electric cars are making an impact. Problems with range and recharging times are restricting uptake but hydrogen fuel cells address these issues and could provide a real alternative.

future car
Look, No Driver!

A change in fuel usage might be important but it will not much change the overall look of cars and how they are used. Another technology seems imminent that could radically alter both. It seems that driverless cars are almost upon us and as the Daily Telegraph reports, they are already being tested on British roads. At first glance, this may seem like just another driver convenience but the ramifications could be far more profound. 

How Autonomous Cars Will Transform Motoring

When we ask “what will cars be like in the future?” we might imagine sleek, space-age design or even flying vehicles, but not having a driver might change things in ways we have never considered. It is estimated that driverless cars could increase the capacity of our roads by 700% because they could travel very quickly and much closer together without accidents. That would mean an end to congestion and produce much shorter journey times.

Although this is some way off, a few of these features are already being added to vehicles now. The new Mercedes Benz GLA showcased at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show has plenty of hi-tech gadgets including an optical warning system when the preselected safe distance is broken. If there is risk of an accident a warning alarm will sound. The Adaptive Brake Assist will help with the braking manoeuvre, giving the driver just enough braking power to stop safely. The GLA even goes a step further by monitoring the driver’s behaviour and detecting fatigue, and it will tell you to take a break.

So, perhaps the future is not so far away after all.


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