Every year, the giants of the technological world get together in Las Vegas for a shindig called CES, where they show off their wares (and presumably treat themselves to a night out). Among the most eye-catching products on display each year are usually those which involve vehicles and transport. After all, there’s nothing more aspirational than a flashy motor!
Most of this new technology, of course, will never make it to production, never mind the second-hand market. But if history is any guide, a fraction of the gizmos and gadgets on display will eventually become ubiquitous. Just think about how wacky satellite navigation, lane assist and anti-lock brakes must have once seemed.
Let’s run through a few of these feats of engineering and see if we can spot which are going to make the difference to our driving experience in decades to come, and which are going to flash momentarily in the pan.
Automated Valet Parking
In conversations about the automated future of driving, one of the strongest objections you’ll find is that driving a car is great fun, and it would be a shame to allow a robot to take that fun away. Well, that’s a point of view: but if there’s one aspect of driving which isn’t fun at all, it’s parking.
Happily, Hyundai have come up with a way to dispense with parking altogether: their Automated Valet Parking System. It’s designed with autonomous electric cars in mind, and will guide them to a recharging point, and then to a waiting area. No more manoeuvring a twenty-foot Transit through the overcrowded car park of a Premier Inn.
The timeline on this one is a little bit on the long side: the company aims to launch the tech in 2030. Whether the technology finds its way to market will depend on how many electric charging points get built in the meantime.
Sitting in a middle-ground between automated and manual driving is driver-assistant technology. We already have this in the form of lane-assist, but Nissan plans to take things a few steps further with the help of its Invisible-to-Visible technology.
The idea here is that everyone’s car is fitted with sensors, which upload data to a centralised cloud in real-time. This information is then collated and presented to every driver in the form of a real-time map of the surrounding area. Nissan have decided that information stored in this way is part of something called the ‘metaverse’. To which we say: erm, alright then. Whatever you call it, it’ll theoretically provide advanced warning that there’s a cyclist around a blind corner before he decides to dart in front of your van.
Projecting a three-dimensional hologram onto the windscreen is another sci-fi dream that’s looking more and more plausible, thanks to efforts this year from Hyundai and Swiss start-up WayRay. A holographic heads-up-display will project lane information, navigation prompts and all sorts of other amazing things right into your eyeballs, adjusted so it looks like it’s superimposed onto the road, and without the need for a headset. We’re a little more sceptical of exactly how much of an advantage this provides – as undeniably impressive as the idea sounds. But who knows? Perhaps by the year 2040 you’d be hard pressed to find a vehicle that doesn’t come with a holographic display floating above the dashboard.