The biggest advances in the automotive industry lately have not been related to tires or engines or even green power: they’ve been in putting a computer in your car to read you your Facebook updates, or to play a song on demand. And, sooner rather than later, your car is going to become smarter. Much, much smarter.
For example, future cars will be designed to use their in-built GPS and traffic tracking systems to suggest the best possible route to your assumed location based on where you are currently, what time it is, and your driving habits. For example, if you get behind the wheel of your smart car at 5pm on a Monday, it will know that most likely you just want to head home, with a possible stop at the grocery store first.
In fact, more advanced versions of this system are being designed to help you avoid traffic altogether. The idea is that as cars are fitted with WiFi reception, they’ll be able to sense each other…or a whole bunch of other cars, up ahead, not moving at all. Once the car’s computer knows that this traffic jam is coming up, the GPS will route you down another road, keeping you on time and far less frustrated.
Even better, these systems can also be used to prevent car accidents (which can only improve our auto insurance rates). Just like current accident prevention systems, which use cameras and other scanning devices to locate and warn the driver of a dangerous situation, these systems would be tied into your car, and alert other drivers and car computers of a possible accident-causing problem. For example, if your brakes failed, the WiFi connection in your car would immediately let the other cars know, and warn drivers to take appropriate action (namely, clearing off the road so you can get on the shoulder and shut off the motor).
So how long before we have these magic traffic-avoiding, accident-preventing, time-saving cars? They won’t be coming along immediately. First of all, a majority of cars on the road will need WiFi connections in order for the vehicles to communicate with one another, and that’s not exactly high on the list of repairs for, say, your grandmother with the ’74 Buick she loves so much. The plan is to introduce WiFi connections over time and make them standard. Eventually, as older cars are taken off the road, the entire fleet of vehicles will have WiFi.
Secondly, these systems have to be thoroughly tested. People are, not unreasonably, a bit concerned about giving up control of the car, even though carmakers are attempting to make the car as smart as possible. Early GPS adopters probably remember what it was like when the GPS had out-of-date maps. Then, of course, there’s the issue for who’s going to pay for the various services being offered to the drivers; will the automakers foot the bill, or the customer?
Either way, you can expect to see systems like this rolled out over the next decade, so expect your car to become smarter than you, at least when it comes to getting you where you need to go.