The automobile industry is entering an exciting and rapidly changing new era. Driven by advances in technology, the growing demand in emerging markets, and tighter emissions and safety standards around the world, auto manufacturers are reimagining how a car is designed, built, and used.
Picture yourself in a car on a highway in 2025. It is driving and you are the passenger. You’re surfing the web on a tablet or having a video conference, basically not paying attention to the road. You’ve entrusted the car with your life, and can’t imagine a better way to travel.
But on what basis? You’d only let go of the steering wheel if the car can do everything you can do, and more… and BETTER. Therefore, the car of 2025 must be equipped with cutting-edge technology that transcends human capabilities.
The car of the future will need to see beyond the binocular 180° vision that we are using to navigate. Multiple cameras will be located around the car. There is the stereo camera at the front. It replicates binocular vision via two images being merged, allowing it to perceive depth and see 3D shapes of obstacles – like pedestrians crossing the road. It can then inform the intelligent actuators in the system (brakes and steering) to avoid hitting them. Rear-view and wing mirrors will be a thing of the past. Cameras will replace them and will provide a 360° surround view. Other forward facing mono cameras will even be able to read street signs.
Like with sight, if the car of the future is to hear, we would hope that it would be better than we, as humans, can do. The increased range of a dog maybe? Or better still – the echolocation qualities of a dolphin – another active sense. Indeed, ultrasonic sensors are used to detect stationary objects – even in today’s park distance control features.
— A SENSE OF MOVEMENT
Our senses go beyond the five primary senses of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. Aside from things like pain, vibration and temperature, we have a range of senses related to our movement: balance and kinesthesia (the sense of movement and position).
Needless to say, the car of 2025 will also possess these senses. Our sense of balance is similar to the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system. Although not new in itself, this system which detects and corrects for loss of traction, is fundamental to many advanced driver assistance systems. The car’s movement sense or kinesthetic sense is provided by the motion sensors that let it know its relative position – is it going uphill, downhill etc. Your smartphone likely has these sensors already.
— THINKING AND DECISION-MAKING
The French philosopher René Descartes once said: “The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.”
As with human senses, there are shortcomings. Like our eyes, cameras may be obscured by dirt, or bright sunlight. Like our touch, active sensors can tell us that something is there but not what it is. Like our hearing, ultrasonic sensors can only function to certain distances, but then merging all of the data together – paints a complete picture of the car’s environment. This is known as sensor fusion.
“I’m definitely going the right way – I remember this landmark from the last time.” These are words we have all muttered at some point when driving. As humans, we move through our world and commit information to memory. Then if required, we can use those memories to validate what we see.
In 2025, cars will take this a step further and not only access its own memory, but also access crowd sourced data from various vehicles that will create a collective memory from which to draw information. The result: the whole world becomes familiar territory for the vehicle – thanks to cloud computing technology.
Digital maps are already being used to log all relevant “road furniture” and a secure backend connection will ensure that all data is always up to date. Dynamic mapping via a cloud connection will provide real time updates of relevant road events for accurate route planning and navigation.
Sensors and cameras enable the car to recognize visible obstacles. But what if the danger lurks around the bend or beyond a hill? Vehicles can cope with this situation by reacting in the moment, but knowing about it further in advance will make the whole process smoother. This is where communication comes in once more. When cars are able to speak with each other, a car further up the road can warn cars behind of dangers they cannot yet see and your car can react quite comfortably without you even spilling a drop of your coffee.
Cars in 2025 will be equipped to communicate V2V or Vehicle to Vehicle, Vehicle to Infrastructure or V2I (streets, lights, etc.) and with the driver. Multiple antennae will be integrated into a single unit and connected to the vehicle’s system architecture. This will provide a high speed connection to the backend, the cloud, and other cars.
When combined with motion information from sensors, it will be able to send highly accurate data to other vehicles and infrastructure. Thus, vehicles can warn each other of any road events.
Let’s not forget that the car of 2025 will still have a human in the driver’s seat! It is imperative that the vehicle communicates clearly and effectively with the driver, too. A simplified human-machine interface will ensure that the driver is aware of all relevant information – at the right time and in the right place. Augmented Reality windshield displays (also known as Head up Displays or HUD) will superimpose digital information onto what the driver sees in the real world.
This will ensure that, no matter how smart the car will get, the human driver will always be in the know – and therefore ultimately remain in control.
In addition to the technology and safety concerns, manufacturers are also looking at the automotive sales market of the future and what to expect.
— SHARED MOBILITY
Manufacturers are expecting future vehicles to be used as a shared mobility device. Like a taxi, or other ride sharing enterprise, vehicles will become less of a material ownership and more of a mobility lease or rental. This is especially the vision in emerging markets or densely populated areas, where purchasing a car is just not a viable option.
Like UBER ore LYFT, a vehicle would be available at your fingertips via an app. No need to find a parking spot, just leave the car and grab another when you are ready to leave. If you need it for a longer period of time, maybe a road trip, you would just rent it for the period of time you need. The car can drive itself, so an unmanned vehicle could easily become the next user’s ride and pick them up from their doorstep.
Concerns about greenhouse gases and pollution are driving an industry-wide change in the way cars are powered. Regulations on fuel economy and CO2 emissions are forcing carmakers to make engines more efficient. By 2025, 25% of cars sold will have electric engines, up from 5% today. But most of those will be hybrids, and 95% of cars will still rely on fossil fuels for at least part of their power. That means automakers will need to make internal combustion engines more efficient to comply with new standards. The development of alternative power sources such as fuel cells will add to overall efficiency, but only if people can afford them. The Japanese government has set a target price of ¥2.2million—around US $18,000—for fuel-cell vehicles by 2025. While they would still be a small niche in global sales, that target price would allow them to become competitive with popular hybrids.
When speaking about automotive lighting, we are not just concerned with vehicles and headlights, but with the infrastructure.
There are roughly 304 million total streetlights in the world. This number is expected to grow to 352 million total streetlights by 2025. The public outdoor lighting market is currently undergoing a period of change where legacy streetlights are being replaced with new and more efficient LED, or solid-state lighting technology. Taking this new technology a step further, these LED streetlights are also being networked together with communications to become “smart” streetlights. LED streetlights will transform cities and municipalities across the globe over the next decade.
In regards to the vehicle lighting, quality of headlights and visibility will continue to improve, but expect to see vehicles with more personality. Imagine customizable lighting colors, trim that glows or a car that appears to look over and give a big smile, as if it noticed that you have found it in the parking lot.