When we jump in our cars for the morning commute, we probably don’t spend too much time thinking about the technology crammed within that helps make our drive that much easier. In fact, we probably didn’t even pay all that much attention to the features list when we bought our cars in the first place, focusing instead on things like safety, fuel consumption and insurance bracketing.
Yet when you do think about it, your car is an intricate jigsaw made up of thousands of elements, each of which means we can happily motor down the road and get to where we want to go in a relatively safe personal bubble. Here are some of the technological innovations that are helping to take the effort out of driving.
Hardly the most inspiring piece of car tech, you might think. But we’ve come a long way since the acetylene-burning lamps on horse-drawn carriages. With light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps now commonplace, the next steps forward include laser lighting. This produces the same strength beam as LEDs but uses only half the energy, while increasing range. Infrared lighting will enable us to see even better in the dark, while Jaguar Land Rover is developing lighting tech that can beam warning signals onto the road.
2. Parking sensors
That pang of dread as you approach a tight parking bay has almost disappeared with the advent of parking sensors that let us hand over control to our cars, lorries and vans during tight manoeuvres. The combination of a reversing camera and developments such as Cross Traffic Alert, which detects traffic beyond the vehicles parked either side of you, has saved many motorists and fleet drivers from costly scrapes and prangs. BMW and Volkswagen are working on cars which will park themselves after you get out, via a smartphone app.
3. Windscreen wipers
Swishing away since 1903, the humble wiper has evolved to include rain-detecting variants as well as heated types to keep windscreens clear of snow and ice. Next, we could see them disappear from cars altogether. McLaren is looking at ultrasound tech that clears a screen without the need for a blade. Adapted from fighter jets, the system would generate miniscule vibrations that would shake any water droplets from the glass.
4. Electric cars
While electric cars are not necessarily easier to drive than carbon-fuelled cars, the way we recharge them in years to come could be as simple as driving over an electric road. Imagine never having to remember to recharge, or search for a charging point. The technology might be closer than we think: last year, Milton Keynes council rolled out a fleet of electric buses that recharged at each end of their route via power coils beneath the road. That would surely put an end to range anxiety once and for all.
5 Sat nav
A-Z Maps? No more do they clutter the parcel shelves of long distance drivers. A little box with a flawless sense of direction and impeccable diction now shows us the way. Jaguar Land Rover is adapting a University of Cambridge-developed holographic system that projects directions and upcoming road signals onto the windscreen, helping us keep our eyes on the road for longer. .