Give it a few years and the car you drive now will look like the vehicular equivalent of a flip phone in 2016. And that cheap '90s beater that gets you around today will look like the Bakelite rotary dial phone your grandparents had. So considering today's car's forthcoming obsolescence, what will your auto be able to do in the future?
To those of us still driving cars built in the '90s, a 2016 edition vehicle can seem like something out of Star Trek. Automatic lights and wipers, integrated touchscreens, tire pressure monitors, independent passenger climate control, seat-back entertainment, automatic parking.
While the current BMW 7 series allows you to control stereo volume and answer phone calls with a movement of your finger, in the near future you will be able to do a lot more. Integrating movement sensors with a large screen, BMW's "AirTouch" will allow you to interact with car systems with hand gestures as if you were using a touch screen.
BMW will be revealing a "vision car" at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2016 that will offer a preview of what the system will look like. But you will have to wait a little longer before you can wave hello to one in your own car.
Hands-free driving might not sound like a giant leap—cars are already parking themselves after all. But in the not too distant future, your car will be able to take over a much larger share of the driving. Several manufacturers are developing systems that will allow the vehicle to be aware of its position in the road and automatically provide control inputs. Volkswagen is working on a system that uses cameras to monitor your car's road position.
The closest thing to a traditional superpower on this list, laser headlights would provide you with unprecedented vision at night. Audi and BMW are both developing headlights that bounce lasers off mirrors to create a diffused white beam and light the road up to 600 yards ahead.
Driving in convoy, or "platooning" as the technique is known, offers a number of advantages over standard driving. But this isn't just a bunch of people driving in a line. Rather, by using a system of radar and WiFi technology, all the cars in the line could rapidly communicate and coordinate speed changes.
Using advanced synthetic fuels would allow companies to produce highly efficient engines and reduce the impact on the environment created by both the production and consumption of fuels. All this will make your car more efficient, quieter, and cleaner—or alternatively faster and louder if that's your thing (but still with reduced emissions).
As early as 2017, you might start seeing technology on your car that allows it to communicate with the cars around it. Dubbed V2V (vehicle to vehicle), the technology allows cars to track each other and communicate location and movement information. A trial is being run in Ann Arbor, Michigan by the University of Michigan, and the Department of Transportation has 3000 vehicles equipped with prototype devices.
Cars may soon be equipped with technology that can monitor your physical condition, from heart rate to blood alcohol content, and much more besides. A system being developed by Ford can monitor a diabetic's blood sugar level and warn if it drops too far.