In the world of technology, the latest innovations are only as good as the next one coming. Car technology is no different. Each manufacturer is trying to beat the other in competition by offering a host of new features, whether for entertainment, safety, utility or merely innovation.
Here are the latest car technology 2016 trends. While some have already arrived others could be due soon.
1. The Google and Apple invasion
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Well, it took Google and Apple a pretty long time to get their Android and iOS systems running in the car, but 2016 has already been the year where you can plug in your smartphone as well as access apps while on the move. Apple has launched CarPlay which is a streamlined way for connecting your car’s infotainment system, and allows access to smartphone functions like messages, calls, navigation, and of course music. CarPlay is available internationally on Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, Vauxhall and other models. Google, not to be left behind, has introduced its Android-based infotainment system in India and 16 other countries. That has egged a number of developers to work on car-friendly apps.
2. Vehicles ‘talking’ to each other
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BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are all currently experimenting with systems that will interact with each other and their surroundings through in-built SIM cards and NFC chips. ‘Talkative’ models are expected soon. It stems from the concept that all next-generation cars can see potential hazards and upcoming obstruction much before the human eye can.
For instance, if a car breaks down on a perilous bend, it can send an SOS to a central server which will then warn other cars nearby. But the system, now known as Car-to-X, will work only if the vehicles and the roadside infrastructure get a generic and compatible technology. Most manufacturers are working on these lines with the European car consortium about to set up a cloud-based system for all cars.
3. Hands-free motoring
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Automated driving features have started to creep into many cars, with the first fully robot controlled taxi introduced in Singapore on 25th August. Many premium cars in the US and Europe now boasts of radar-based cruise control that happily negotiates start-and-stop traffic with minimum driver input. Such a car technology could be undeniably helpful for the over-congested Indian roads.
Law, however, is still to catch up with the entire gamut of autonomous functions. But no surprises if the next Mercedes E-Class emerges as the torchbearer of hands-free motoring. The car is expected to comprise the latest Car-to-X system, state-of-the-art safety technology, and a range of sensory mechanisms that would keep the car in its lane and away from danger. While drivers have to keep their hands on the wheel now, big automakers are already experimenting with the latest automotive technology that may offer a hands-free drive soon.
4. No parking worries
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That’s exactly the reason why most of us are happy to hand over our car keys to the parking attendant. Renault, Ford and a few other premium brands already own a system that detects reverse and parallel parking spaces. It then uses cameras and sensors to steer the car into that space. Human intervention is required only for throttle input.
Mercedes-Benz and BMW boast of the latest car technology that simply need a smartphone prod for the best parking results. The BMW 7 Series already has the company’s proprietary Remote Control Parking, slated to be included in other models early next year. The 7 Series can autonomously reverse into and exit from parking spaces. The Remote Parking Pilot system of Mercedes also does a similar job, besides catering to perpendicular parking. This latest car technology is expected to appear in the new E-Class cars expected to arrive by the turn of the year.
5. Headlights growing brains
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Not literally of course. But headlights are increasingly becoming clever. Audi using laser technology in its high-end cars has introduced a new era of innovative illumination. The automatic high-beam technology provides optimum light sans dazzling drivers coming from the opposite direction. Volvo is all set to introduce the “bending” headlight car technology to its 2016 models that automatically swivels lamps guided by steering input for better illumination of the road ahead.
Ford and Vauxhall are using ultra-bright LEDs and replacing a headlamp bulb could soon be a thing of the past. The upcoming Mercedes E-Class will have 84 high-performance individual LEDs in the front, up from 24 in the current version.
6. Gesture control replacing dials
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Earlier this year, the BMW 7 Series was the first to introduce the world to gesture control, with the infrared camera mounted on the rear view mirror. The camera detects hand gestures and can control the infotainment functions. BMW is expected to upgrade the system later this year and other carmakers are expected to follow.
Automobile manufacturers are always hunting for ways to de-clutter your dashboard. Volvo and Audi are likely to introduce virtual binnacles and touchscreen in their cars. Expect high-end cars from leading manufacturers to go entirely touch-free by next year and use interactive surfaces instead. A simple swipe from a distance can do all the trick.
7. Car infotainment system controlling your home
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Cars are becoming more than a means of transport. You can now read, write and send your emails from the latest multimedia systems. Hands-free calls and Twitter posts can be made while on the move. And going a step further, Nissan is out to prove that electric cars can be used to switch on/off home electronics.
These are early days for such a latest automotive technology. Basic home automation controls care likely to be integrated in cars next year, as on-board technology is used for controlling smart home elements like alarm and heating systems.
Continental Motors demonstrated its proprietary Holistic Connectivity innovation this year. This latest car technology is constantly connected to the internet and used to power on home heating when the vehicle is within a two-mile radius.
8. Hybrid a big hit likely
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Hybrid cars are playing their part in reducing emissions and enhance performance of modern automobiles. Internationally, even the big SUV manufacturers are turning to smaller electric cars and the trend is only expected to increase in the days ahead. NSX from Honda, and the regal Bentayga from Bentley will keep the flag flying high for hybrid cars. Volkswagen has already committed to electric motors and battery packs.
Hybrid cars haven’t been much of a hit in India. But that may change with the government providing production subsidies of up to ₹1.5 lakhs. India aims to have seven million electric vehicles on road by 2020. Maruti is reportedly ready with its Swift 2017 hybird, besides the Ciaz SHVS. 2016-17 may see more hybrid cars on the road.
9. Even hybrids can have killer looks
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The BMW i8 Spyder, a fully electric prototype, is all set to prove that alternative fuel cars are no less desirable. It’s not only the roof of the car which has changed, the German automaker has more than the latest automotive technology up its sleeve. While most of the car is tightly under wraps, gesture control is almost certain to be a key feature in the vehicle. Highly automated driving is also on the cards. Hybrid cars looking like displaced aliens, may soon become a thing of the past.
10. It’s all about sharing
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Car sharing is on the rise with cab aggregators Ola and Uber offering such rides in almost all Indian cities. Rather than purchasing a car outright, people are taking the advantage of shared rides, especially while going to and coming from office. The result is lesser number of cars on road, less vehicular pollution, and more energy savings. Elsewhere across the world, Ford unveiled its London-based Go-Drive to the public in May, while Kia came up with an identical app-based service in Korea. Cars brands offering shared service may not come to India soon, but the trend is likely to gather steam, come 2017.
Every year, car technology is taking the next step forward to ease driving. Cars today are fitted with gadgets that offer far better safety, driving assists, and more comfort. We have already experienced some car technology trends in 2016 and more are expected over the next few months.