Special Report

Next Generation Technology That Could Soon Be in Every Car

Source: Chesky_W / Getty Images

1. AR-enabled windshields

Automakers, including BMW, General Motors, and Toyota, have released 2019 cars with heads-up display (HUD) technology, giving drivers information such as speed and driving directions by turning a portion of the windshield above the instrument control panel into a display screen. Today’s HUD, however, may soon be overtaken by windshields enabled with augmented reality technology that can display information over the entire area of the glass, outlining road hazards, pointing out open parking spaces, or even suggesting areas of interest as you drive.

Source: deepblue4you / Getty Images

2. Battery-infused body panels

Electric cars are rapidly becoming more viable as battery technology catches up with consumer expectations in terms of access to charging points and driving distances. A few years ago, Volvo developed a material using carbon fiber and supercapacitors, which act like batteries, to build lightweight, sturdy car panels like hoods, doors, and roofs, which can store and discharge electricity. If costs can be reduced and the technology is deemed safe, cars in the near future may draw power from their panels.

Source: koto_feja / Getty Images

3. Biometric controls

Keys have been replaced by fobs and vehicle ignition buttons, but many of these systems are vulnerable to wireless hacking. Now, automakers are looking to biometrics to resolve the issue, with some experts saying that within two to four years fingerprint scanning — the technology commonly used to access a smartphone or to cash checks at the bank — will replace fobs in new cars. Some companies are also exploring iris scanning and facial recognition as ways for cars to recognize authorized drivers and even automatically personalize driver settings, like steering wheel and mirror positions.

Source: metamorworks / Getty Images

4. Brain-decoding technology

It sounds like science fiction, but there is considerable research into interfaces that connect brainwave activity to computers — the same technology that shows promise in helping paralyzed people communicate by using brainwaves to move a cursor on a computer screen. Nissan has been studying so-called brain to vehicle technology as a way to enhance driver performance, using headgear that tracks brainwave activity to anticipate that the driver is about to initiate a movement, such as turning the steering wheel, and perform that action more quickly. This technology could also be used to improve semi-autonomous driving by identifying a driver’s patterns and then executing them autonomously.

Source: coffeekai / Getty Images

5. Emergency A/C

Tesla last year introduced a new feature called Cabin Overheat Protection that automatically activates the air conditioning system when the internal temperature exceeds 105 degrees Fahrenheit when the car is parked and turned off. The system is not perfect, and Tesla warns in its owner’s manual against leaving pets or babies unattended even with the feature activated. With an average of nearly 40 children (and many more pets) in the United States dying every year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle, a standard monitoring and emergency climate-control system is both feasible and long overdue.