Today, cars are undergoing a phenomenal evolution the world over. Automakers are equipping them with high-tech systems that help save fuel, get directions, provide entertainment and, most importantly, stay safe. Evidently, the latest cars are being presented in a snazzy avatar to meet the requirements of the smart, savvy generation. In 2013, U.S. consumers are expected to buy nearly one million more cars than in 2012.Auto research firm Polk is predicting new car registrations to reach 15.3 million in 2013.
Among others, telematics systems are being introduced across models by manufacturers to offer communication and entertainment for the owners. For instance, Cadillac's CUE (Cadillac User Experience) manages all the modes of communication possible between a driver and the car. Inspired by the smartphone revolution, it comes with an 8-inch touchscreen centerpiece and a variety of apps. The user can connect up to 10 smartphones, MP3 players and other devices using the USB ports. It also provides weather map analysis, syncs phone contacts, and offers voice controlled apps to make driving easier and safer.
Similarly, services like Chrysler Uconnect Access can transform a car into a mobile office using built-in wireless hotspot access, free wi-fi capability and search functionality. BMW has implemented an LTE hotspot directly into its M-series models, which enables high-speed mobile internet in the car on any device with connectivity. Ford's MyFord iOS app, Hyundai's BlueLink and Mercedes-Benz's mBrace are similar apps that offer the ability to remotely honk horns, locate vehicles and objects in the path, flash lights, and much more.
Recently, Google revealed that Kia and Hyundai will use its Send-to-Car technology to ship maps, routes and directions directly from smart phones to their cars' navigation systems. Google is also working with Audi, Daimler, Tesla, and Chevrolet to bring their street view and search data to the dashboard.
However, the biggest breakthrough is that of the autonomous (driverless) cars that are being tested in Nevada, California, and Florida. A fleet of Google-developed driverless Toyota Prius hybrids and Lexus RX hybrids have been tested on Nevada roads. Volvo is also working on an autonomous driving technology for use in its vehicles. Google's technology is aiming at cars that will completely drive themselves, making humans passive participants in the driving experience. Volvo, on the other hand, is looking at a technology where humans will remain in control. The technology will take over only when the driver becomes unresponsive or misses out on a potential accident situation.
While in-car systems aim to make driving a highly pleasurable, connected, and safe experience, the autonomous vehicles will reshape our cities. For example, cars that can drop passengers and drive back may let city planners in the future to do away with large parking lots. Similarly, people can jointly own a vehicle, giving car sharing a huge impetus. Autonomous cars can also go a long way in reducing road accidents and the fatalities.
Alongside the development of environment-friendly electric vehicles, these technologies are set to change the way humans have moved around in cities in the last hundred years. Those changes will transform the auto industry, a mainstay of today's manufacturing, making automakers resemble consumer technology makers more and more. The ripple effects from this transformation will change the entire post-industrial world.