Cars are already an essential part of human need and luxury. Designing cars of the future remains one of the preoccupations for all designers, and yet few dare to advance their imagination beyond a few decades. Given the nature of on-going projects and the unfulfilled consumer aspirations, one can conceptualize a future car as being self driven with hybrid fuels or pure electricity, capability of flying in air, transparent radical designs and drone assistance for several purposes.
When conceptualizing a future car for the August 1950 issue of Science and Mathematics, Raymond Loewy, the Director of Styling, designed it with a three point front resembling a rocket, keeping in view the preferences of the rocket age customers of a future age. However, while considering other rocket age properties, he rejected the possibility of a turbine engine propelling a car and was equally dismissive of plastic bodies. Events of next few decades, when Chrysler successfully developed the turbine engine car and the increasing prevalence of plastic bodies in small cars, indicate how difficult it can be to visualize future.
Given such limitations of credible imaginary conceptualization, putting forward a model car that is likely to dominate the world of automobiles by the end of this century must be considered quite a task. Though many adventures of this nature indulge in extending the imagination to the middle of the century or the year 2050, it is still rare to find speculations eighty years ahead of time. This sheer challenge is worth taking the gauntlet and coming up with the details of what the perfect car would look like in the year 2099.
Instead of letting our imagination on a wild unreasonable voyage, let us take into account the qualities that the consumers will seek in the coming generations. As the failure of turbine engines indicates, speed may not be one of them.
Instead most consumers prefer comfort, safety, economy and above all, an ability of navigate the traffic with effortless ease. If we take the ongoing experiments and likely scientific breakthroughs into account, many of them that seamlessly align with likely consumer aspirations of future generations, seem to be set for becoming the destiny of the automobile vehicles of the future.
While some people do believe that the adventure or pleasure of driving vehicles will prevent a complete disappearance of the steering wheel, it is almost certain now that the self driven cars, aligned with a central GPS driven monitoring and controlling system are going to become the norm in future. Their inevitability comes from the customer convenience and safety that this option offers, even though a realistic futurist will expect a lot of political and bureaucratic resistance on the way. Imagine your 6 year old wanting to drive her way from New York to Boston. All that she needs to do is sit in the car and take a nap or play some games, while you put in the driving instructions on your handset. In less than two hours, she could walk out of the car and into her Boarding School in Boston.
In less than a decade from now, most cars are likely to be fuelled by electric power. This already seems inevitable with the falling prices of solar energy and the increasing consciousness about carbon emission and its consequences. Our world is driven by economic motives and they make this transition a certainty, even if a less than expected advancement on the battery front delays this by a few years. On the other hand, the ease with which one can fuel an electric vehicle and the likelihood of decentralized production of solar electricity will only accelerate the process.
There are several reasons for having a demand for the second fuel in addition to electrical power. This could be due to the limitations of the battery or the glamour and status associated with a hybrid, dual fuel vehicle. Today, hybrid vehicles are usually run on gas. Tomorrow however, and in any case, long before we approach the end of this century, gas is likely to be completely replaced by hydrogen. Its preference is likely to result from consumer preferences as well as public policies in favor of cleaner fuel.
This is a far more aspirational characteristic than the first two, which are more or less a certainty. Flying cars have occupied human fancy since a long time, appearing in popular fiction and sci-fi movies from The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) to a more recent Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).
However, what makes them likely is a recent announcement by Dutch Company, PAL-V that it has developed a prototype and has started online orders for delivery in 2019, of a flying vehicle that it names New PAL-V Liberty. It has been reported as a two person vehicle that can fly up to an altitude of 11000 feet, has a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour on land, 112 miles per hour in air and a range of 310 miles by air and 817 miles by land. This new phenomenon, which is likely to be available in Europe, next year, costs a little over $600,000 as of now. With Flying Car finally going to become a reality very soon, one cannot but expect that by the end of the century, they would be quite common, if not a universal occurrence.
It is likely that given the cost implications, which are not likely to disappear even by the end of the century, we may see cheaper options of “land only” cars, along with the premium models that would invariably incorporate the flying option. An additional facility, which may also get added, could be the ability to navigate on water, adding a further premium value.
A car is still identified as much by its appearance as it is by its propelling apparatus. Thus, further developments in the design must be expected. My personal bet would be on transparent bodies that would give an impression of moving along in thin air and add to the experience of a car journey. However, this is one area with little likelihood of a universal design and a high probability of changing designs and styles must be acknowledged.
Even though the technology is going to advance hell of a lot, I still do not foresee a car that will never fail. On the contrary, I am fully convinced that even after a century, mechanical and electronic devices including automobiles would still not be infallible and require repair assistance off and on. What may change though is the manner in which such assistance is provided. As of now, most cars, when in some kind of trouble, need personalized human assistance. However, as communication advances, we are more than likely than not to see a substitution of direct human interference with one mediated through intelligent robotic drones aided with artificial intelligence (AI), which can be parked along the way, and attend to any vehicle having a snag. In any case, radical changes are projected to result from the advancement of artificial intelligence throughout the economy and there is no reason why automobile industry should be an exception.
There could be more reasons for drones to get associated with vehicles, such as for fuelling them on the go. Already, it is a viable option and one often used with large aircrafts carriers to increase their range. Given the shift to electrical vehicles, the probable limitations of range and the need to reduce weight for the sake of economy, drones can be an important tool for refueling a moving car. This can be easily done by a drone parked with extra electrical fuel along the vehicle, which can fly and land on the top of a car, connecting its electrical terminals with those of the vehicle, without requiring it to stop or slow down, and transfer additional fuel. Once the process is complete, it can fly back to its parking slot and get refueled for fuelling another car later.
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Of course, this is not all. With more than eighty years to go, one should expect more features. May be a more radical person can go to the extent of asking as to whether people will even need a car in the year 2099, for technological breakthroughs can possibly make the concept of car travel itself outdated. However, as of now, it is difficult to envisage that situation, even though a convergence of residence with place of work would most likely become a reality in the coming decades, pushing daily commutation to one’s workplace a piece of old human history!
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