Trend 1 – Green is a go

Global warming, stringent regulations on emissions, fuel economy – as well as the growing demand on energy resources like fossil fuels – have all focused the attention of governments, consumers and manufacturers on the development of more environmentally vehicles.

When Tesla released the Tesla Roadster in the late 2000s, its success established the electric car as a legitimately modern vehicle. In the last few years, carmakers have plunged millions into the design and development of electric cars. As this investment starts to rev up, consumers will have more options to choose from at a price point that will suit their budget.

In the UK, electric cars are already a mainstay on the roads and there is an increased investment and roll out of charging networks.

In South Africa, the scenario is quite different. Our country depends heavily on fossil fuels to generate electricity. Even if you have an electric car, you will still need to charge it using electricity generated by power stations using coal.

Unless SA uses more sustainable and renewable energy sources like wind and solar, at a national level, electric vehicles will struggle to make a real impact on universal CO2 emissions.

Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Nissan, Jaguar, Tesla, Porsche, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Volvo, Mini, Hyundai, Toyota and Ford have announced an exciting range of vehicles that will be available by 2025.

Trend 2 – Better tech, smarter cars

It’s predicted that cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century.

The reason? Better technology. Cars are getting smarter and can now seamlessly integrate with your other devices through Bluetooth and apps like CarPlay and Android Auto.

The cars of the future will also try to make you a better driver with safety features such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and a 360-degree camera.

And the future? Carmakers are currently exploring the possibility of having panels outside of the car that can absorb solar power and then use this energy to power the car. Soon, you could use your fingerprint to start your car and a welcome system will recognise you as you’re stepping into it.

With augmented reality dashboards, a hologram-like figure can be displayed on the windshield in front of the driver, which ensures their eyes will always be on the road.

Another innovation is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, a crash avoidance system that will send information relating to location, speed and direction back and forth between cars. The goal is to keep the cars at safe distances from each other.

Car and tech industry experts predict it will be at least 12 years before fully autonomous vehicles are being sold to private buyers. By 2034, these vehicles will make up just 10% of all vehicles being bought and sold.

Trend 3 – Along for the ride

Self-driving cars are the future. Every major car manufacturer thought that this was a certainty and, in an effort not to be left behind, invested a lot of money into developing the technology to enable self-driving vehicles.

However, last year, a self-driving car hit and killed a woman walking her bicycle across a street in Arizona. The incident significantly dented the industry’s unbridled confidence.

Now, car and tech industry experts predict it will be at least 12 years before fully autonomous vehicles are being sold to private buyers. By 2034, these vehicles will make up just 10% of all vehicles being bought and sold.

While it’s relatively easy to develop software and computing power to enable a car to see, process and identify obstacles on the road with the help of radar, lidar and cameras, it is a challenge to prepare self-driving cars for unusual circumstances.

In a SA context, just think of cars making illegal U-turns, pedestrians crossing the road when the light is green for the cars, minibus taxis ignoring red lights, hawkers and animal crossings that make self-navigation a challenge.

Equally challenging is teaching self-driving cars the finer points of driving, sometimes known as ‘micro manoeuvres’. If a car is edging out into an intersection, it can be a sign that it may dart out even if the driver doesn’t have the right of way. It’s hard for the technology to get these nuances.

Revving up for the future

Paul Ingrassia, former editor at the Revs Institute, an automotive history and research centre, captured the current situation beautifully by saying, “Everyone believes this is the future, but no one knows when or how we are going to get there.”

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