UPDATE ON FUTURE CARS

Cars of the Future Update

Cars of the Future Update

We have previously featured articles on driverless cars, 3D Printer cars, and even the Hyperloop. You might think we are obsessed with future technology… and you might be kind of right. It is pretty fascinating.


There is a wry Danish proverb that goes “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”  However, people, being the way we are, will always be curious of what is to come.

Flying Cars

When the movie Back to Future came out in the 80’s, it had flying cars as the standard mode of transport in the future. However, it incorrectly predicted that it would happen in 2015. The year has come and gone but we are still nowhere near having those.

 

Scientists have revised this and say that it will happen sometime in 2045, the same time that self-driving cars and trucks will become ubiquitous. Self-driving vehicles will run on “roads” that have inductive electrics that will power and propel these self driving vehicles. At least that’s the prediction.

 

Legendary and controversial car designer Henrik Fisker has made his own predictions about the future of cars. In an interview with Tech Insider, here are his fearless forecasts:

 

On Electric Cars.  He said that after having a slow start, the electric car market will experience more growth. Furthermore, he predicted that electric cars will even take over hybrids faster than people expected. He said "Once people get used to their electric vehicle and we get slightly better infrastructure, I could imagine a lot of people would jump straight from gas to electric rather than make the transition to hybrid — which is what a lot of car companies are betting on."

 

On Hydrogen Cars. He also predicted that hydrogen cars will come in 10 years and could possibly be better than electric cars.

 

On Self Driving Cars.  Though cars will feature advanced driverless car technology in the future, Fisker does not see them having as dramatic a change as people are imagining. Though he sees cars having an Autopilot button, he feels there are still too many hurdles that are going to prevent self driving cars from going mainstream.


This got me curious on what is in store for us with these Cars of The Future. What are the cars already out there and which companies are working in making these our future reality?

Electric Cars

 

A few days ago, I read about an electric car that entered the record as the world’s fastest street-legal Electric Vehicle (EV) which ran the quarter-mile in an amazing 9.87 seconds. In a nod to Doc Emmett Brown’s invention that turned a DeLorean into a time machine (and we’re back to that 80’s movie again!), the car was named the Flux Capacitor. It is owned by Jonny Smith, a British automotive journalist who took an old 1970’s Enfield 8000 electric city car and juiced it up to run a whole lot faster.

 

This might be taking it to the extreme. But what about EV’s for ordinary folks? Which companies are developing and producing them for general public consumption?

Here are some of EV’s that are predicted to make a splash in 2016 and beyond:

 

Nissan Motors.  The Leaf is the most popular EV of all time with over 200,000 units already sold since it was introduced in 2010. Recently, Nissan has decided to give it some upgrades. With a 30kwh battery pack, the variant can now run for a longer, 155 mile range.  

 

Though there are no prototypes nor any specific details released yet, there is a model already being developed by Nissan that will have an even longer range of 200 miles. Now that would be something to look forward to.  

 

Kia Motors. Kia has come out with an EV version of the Soul. It marries the Soul’s funky design with a quiet, electric motor with a 132 mile range. Much like its combustion powered sibling, the Soul EV has satellite navigation, keyless entry, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and a DAB digital radio as standard equipment.

 

Tesla. Tesla is the most publicized, most-hyped electric car company around. It was the pioneer on mainstream EV’s .Tesla’s Model 3 which to date already has a 400,000 unit pre-order features a rear wheel drive and promised a game changing 215 mile range. Though there’s a push to bring this model to the market faster, the earliest possible delivery date could well be in the end of 2017.

 

Chevy. General Motor’s first-to-market entry is the Chevy Bolt EV coming in with a formidable 200 HP and 266 pound-feet of torque. Chevy says that it can reach 60 miles per hour from a stop in seven seconds.

 

Volkswagen. The EV version of the Golf is set to hit the market in 2018 and will have a range of 186 miles.

 

So far, I’ve been talking about EV’s that are being produced by long established car manufacturers. But there’s a new kid in town and it’s going to be coming from a very surprising player - Dyson, the consumer electronics maker more known for being a vacuum cleaner manufacturer.

 

Dyson

Though Dyson is keeping mum on the rumors circulating about its electric car project, apparently the cat has been let out of the bag by the most unlikely of sources - the British government itself. Having invested taxpayer’s money into the program, the government felt that the people had the right to know where their taxes are being spent. Though the company seem reluctant to divulge its plans, the fact that it has been patenting automotive ideas for the past 5 years would point to the fact that Dyson is doing some serious work.

 

Hydrogen Cars

 

With longer range than electric cars, hydrogen cars are being seen as promising alternative. There are a few automakers that are developing the technology although Henrik Fisker notes that it will be a good 10 years more before the technology could really take off due to lack of infrastructure, ie hydrogen stations.

 

Let us take a look at four hydrogen powered cars that are in the works right now:

 

Toyota’s Mirai. This has actually been released in the market already, first in Japan in December 2014 and in California in October 2015. In terms of hydrogen cars, Toyota has

been working the technology the longest - 23 years in fact. The company has so far sold 64 units as of January - still a very long way off from the 30,000 units a year it is targeting to sell worldwide by 2020.  

 

Honda’s Clarity.  Honda on the other hand is set to release its hydrogen car in California by the end of 2016. The company says that the vehicle has a range of 400 miles and have a refuel time of just three to five minutes.  

 

Lexus. Lexus is targeting to come out with its version of the hydrogen powered car in 2020 but no details as to specs and range of the car has yet been released. This is what is known so far - that the high tech display can be controlled by hand gestures!

 

Audi. The German automotive company unveiled a concept car which it called the H-tron Quattro during the Detroit Auto Show. The car can drive 372 miles on hydrogen alone.

 

Self Driving Cars.

 

Mention autonomous cars and most likely Google would be the first name to come to mind. Google has been developing self driving technology in Toyota Prius and Lexus models since 2009.

 

However, interest in self driving cars has been building up with the $1B acquisition by GM of self driving car startup Cruise Automation. This GM acquisition is sparking a flurry of activity. A long line of players with largely diverse backgrounds ranging from established automotive companies to leading technology brands have joined the bandwagon, not wanting to miss out on the technology that would define the future of transportation.  

 

Among these are: Apple’s Project Titan, Audi, BaiDu in partnership with BMW, Bosch, Delphi, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar with Land Rover, Mercedes Benz, Microsoft, Nissan, PSA Group, Tata, Tesla, Toyota, Volvo and even Uber looking to develop or source out a self driving car fleet. In all, there are about 30 corporations actively developing autonomous driving technology.

 

We are still decades away from cars becoming fully autonomous without steering wheels or pedals but experts are predicting it could happen by 2025. There are certainly still a lot of issues to hurdle before we see self driving cars populating the streets - government regulations and insurance rules, for instance need to be carefully studied to apply to the new technology. Add to this the development of infrastructure that would support driverless vehicles.

 

However, there is no stopping the march of progress. And with anticipated drop in accidents and better fuel efficiency, who wouldn’t want the convenience of a driverless car?

 

What do you think?


Tags: technology, future cars, self-driving, Google, hydrogen cars. EVs, Dyson, Goggle, GM, Toyota, hybrid cars

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