Cars just don’t look like they used to. Gone are the heavy bodies, the tailfins and ornate bumpers. The modern vehicle looks more like an electric razor than it does a B-52 bomber. On the one hand, this has made cars safer, cheaper, lighter, easier to drive, smaller, easier to park, and cheaper to insure. But on the other, man, they just don’t look quite as cool, do they?
The ever-evolving look and build of a modern car changes just a little bit at a time. An onboard computer here, a streamlined bumper there, throw in a smaller engine when you get the chance and so on. Here are some changes we’re looking at in the near future that, added up over the next five, ten years, will leave us with cars very different from the ones we’re driving now:
Plastic gears could be coming soon to a vehicle near you. You might think that these parts would simply melt or shatter with the stress and heat put on them inside the engine of a Ford or Hyundai, but these new gears are reinforced with carbon fiber which helps them to withstand a lot of road.
Some of the more obvious benefits come down to weight and price. Replacing one or two gears in your engine with plastic would make a marginal difference, but add it up over dozens of pieces and you’re looking at a difference in the hundreds of pounds range. As for price, well, plastic comes a lot cheaper than steel. Replacing a gear might only cost you a couple bucks or, give it a few years, and you might be able to 3D-print your replacement gears right at home.
A number of new developments may help to render the automobile uncrashable sooner than you think. Intelligent, automated cars are the obvious solution, with cars zipping around the highway like bits of data over the internet, but long before the computers take over the task of driving for us, cars may become nearly impossible to crash.
We already have cars that can detect whether or not they’re about to hit a wall or another car and come to a dead stop, now here are some other inventions that may make it very hard to wreck your wheels:
- Connected cars. We’re talking about onboard computers that know where every other car on the road is, no more risk of a head-on collision every time you pass the guy in front of you.
- Headlights that track the driver’s eyes so you’re never in the dark.
- Cars that automatically obey speed limits.
These are just a few of our favorites. Consider what cars will look like when they don’t actually need to be safe, because they already are. Will we need seatbelts? Will cars need metal frames and bodies or will we be able to cruise around in lightweight plastic vehicles safe in the knowledge that we won’t need all that armor to survive an accident?
Maybe this one doesn’t seem to be as big of a deal as automated vehicles and lightweight plastic parts, but every driver in the world knows what a pain it can be to spill hot coffee or freezing cold soda all over your lap. A gyroscopic drink holder is precisely the thing you never knew you wanted.
Of course, the uncrashable car and the two-dollar replacement gear is still a few years away. In the meantime, a traffic school course can help to ensure that you drive more safely, get fewer tickets, and spill fewer drinks.