Steve Walker
29/11/2010 00:54 | By Steve Walker, content editor, MSN Cars

Cars of the future - how will they change?



Cars of the future (© BMW)

Rapid change is one of the defining features of the car industry we know and love.

For more than one hundred years, manufacturers have been battling tooth and nail to build bigger, better, cleverer and faster cars that will out-class rivals and part the motorists from their cash. There's no suggestion that this lightening pace of change is going to change anytime soon.

Over the 15 years that MSN has been covering the car industry, the speed at which our cars have developed has been clear for all to see. Drive any model hailing from 1995 and it will feel decidedly dated next to a modern equivalent. That's virtually certain, but what about the differences between the cars we drive now and the ones we will be driving in another 15 years' time?

Without a functioning crystal ball, or a DeLorean with the time machine option fitted, seeing into the future is an inexact science. That's not to say we can't have a stab at it though. Here are some of the areas where the car of 2025 is likely to be rather different.


They'll be greener

Renault Twizy (© Microsoft)

The motoring agenda has been dominated by all things green over the last few years and there's little sign of the environmental focus abating as we stride forward.

The motor industry was rather unfairly cast in the role of eco-enemy a few years back but it's reacted in fine style, slashing vehicle emissions in the short term and investing heavily in alternative fuel technologies for the future.

As government legislation controlling pollution from cars tightens and we all fall under growing financial and social pressure to shrink our carbon footprints, the attraction of green cars looks certain to grow.

In the first instance, we can expect continuing improvement in the internal combustion engine technology that's powered motorcars since the beginning. Advanced fuel injection systems, variable geometry turbochargers and clever engine management software have boosted the efficiency of petrol and diesel engines and should continue to do so.

The alternatives to fossil fuels are also expected to experience a period of growth in the next 15 years or so. We already have hybrid cars but they look like becoming more common and better. Hybrids that can run solely on electric power for long periods are in the pipeline as are 'range-extender' models that use a petrol engine to charge batteries, which then power the electric motors that drive the wheels.

Fully electric cars are also on the rise. You can buy models like the Nissan LEAF now but they're sure to become cheaper in the future, even if limited range is likely to restrict their use to urban areas. If improvements in battery technology extend the range of electric cars and the power storage capacity of hybrids, sales could really take off.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars have often been touted as a magic bullet for the car's environmental problems but affordable production cars are still some way off. Many manufacturers are conducting trials of working prototypes out on the roads and some are predicting production versions within the next 10 years but major infrastructure investment will be needed for the hydrogen economy to take off.


They'll be lighter

Kia Pop (© Microsoft)

Less weight is very desirable in cars. It means less energy is needed to move them around and brings advantages in terms of performance, efficiency and manoeuvrability. For most of the last 15 years, cars have been getting larger and heavier but more recently, we've seen manufacturers starting to put a check on this weight gain.

The majority of modern cars are still made of steel but the lightweight properties of aluminium are being employed more regularly on premium models. Plastics, carbonfibre and composite materials are also likely to play a bigger role in the future.

Lightweight technologies are a beacon of hope for anyone afraid that the drive to produce greener cars is going to spell the end for thrilling high-performance models. Sports car manufacturers like Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren are at the forefront of developing techniques to minimise weight. It's a way for them to use smaller, greener engines while improving performance and handling. In short, everybody wins.


They'll be safer

Volvo City Safety (© Volvo)

New cars today are safer than they've ever been. You can't by a modern car that isn't loaded with active safety systems to help prevent a crash and passive safety technologies to minimise the danger should one occur. In the future, it seems likely that our cars will continue to push the boundaries but drivers may need to get used to handing over some elements of control.

Autonomous vehicle technology is big news in the car industry at the moment. We already have radar-guided cruise control, self-parking systems and technology like Volvo's City Safety that can detect an imminent collision and apply the brakes to avoid it. Much more is possible too but there's concern amongst the major manufacturers over how much control motorists will be willing to hand over to their cars.

Would you feel comfortable reading the paper in the back seat while your car drove you to work?


They'll be cleverer

Audi sat-nav (© Audi)

It sometimes seems as though the internet has quietly crept its way into all areas of modern life and it'll be playing an increasingly important role inside our cars in the future.

The latest Audi A8 luxury saloon can be specified as a mobile wireless internet hot spot that provides internet access for its occupants and even people who happen to be walking by. More interesting though, are the advantages that the online cars of the future will be able to bring.

By connecting with the web, vehicle satellite navigation systems will be able to direct us to free parking spaces or charging points for electric vehicles. There are also systems in development that will let cars communicate with each other, warning of accidents or congestion on our routes.

By connecting to our vehicles manufacturers may be able to detect mechanical problems before they materialise or recommend personalised driving tips to enhance fuel economy. We'll also be able to download music and video content direct to our cars from our home computers or third party websites.



They'll be monitored

Vehicle tracking (© Trafficmaster)

The changes that affect drivers in the UK over the next 15 years look like materialising outside the car as much as inside it. The number of cars on the road looks set to carry on rising and we can expect to be more closely monitored than ever before when we drive them.

It's a safe bet that some form of road charging will extend beyond the current enclaves of the London Congestion Charge zone and the M6 Toll road. That means more cameras or other means of surveillance.

Black boxes inside cars that relay information about when, where and how fast you're driving are nothing new. Car security companies like Cobra and Tracker use the technology to monitor their customers' vehicles and it's been trialled by insurance firms who offer reduced premiums to motorists who agree only to drive limited distances or at less risky times.

Tracking systems could also be an alternative to cameras when enforcing variable or average speed limits. There is, however, likely to be a groundswell of public opinion against increased surveillance on the roads.

Learn more about the UK's past, present and future on MSN's 15th birthday hub-page
15 years on UK roads - what's changed?
The 10 top-selling cars of 1995


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51Comments
02/02/2011 13:12
avatar
Nice article but do try to learn how to spell; it gives more credence. 'Lightning' - as in streak or speed is not spelt with an 'e'! If you spell it with an 'e', then the word relates to making something lighter, i.e. less heavy. 
04/02/2011 16:31
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Maybe just maybe the cars of the future mitwe be solar powered ,  how about that a solar powered car ,  just think how cheep it would be to run ,  you would never need to fill it up ,  now I know what your thinking ,  how would a solar powewed car rum at nite , in answer to your question ,  the same way the solar challenger does.    
30/01/2011 12:58
avatar
"It's a safe bet that some form of road charging will extend beyond the current enclaves of the London Congestion Charge zone and the M6 Toll road." HELLOOOO!!! We've already got it RIGHT NOW. It's called the 70% ripoff government levy the motorist pays on every litre of petrol, in addition to their annual compulsory Road Tax. As for flying cars by 2025? Flying pigs more like. Seriously, get a grip.
30/01/2011 11:57
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what the hell are people going on about ,flying cars,cameras,blackboxes  ???????? .Let me tell you first, lets get a fuel that is clean and renewable and one that no government or big industry has a hold on . NUMBER 2 do not use any materials that are  from any fossils fuels to make the cars from .NUMBER 3 who needs cameras when you have black box in the car that tells you all that is need to know .NUMBER 3 we do not need any cars that go 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds and then on to a 150 mph in 5 why i hear you say because of the black box .This world really needs to wake up to the utter rubbish some people talk about .The fact is we live in times of computer fascism , o.k. not so far right and may be a bit to the left .Still in my view we are going backwards and not forwards ?????????????????????????????????????????
29/01/2011 22:36
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I saw a news reel before the second worl war of the Hudson Terraplane (American) that could go to a field and the driver would convert the car into a viable airplane ! The trouble was it took hours to unpack the wings etc and bolt them on  so It was a complete failure ! So don't get exited will you?
29/01/2011 22:03
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leave the pickle alone, this is about flying cars...the pickle is the tastiest thing in a big mac
29/01/2011 20:57
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Actually, the best we can hope for will be cars that levitate on magnetic fields. Just dig all the roads up in the country, install electro magnets, and hey presto, zero to 100 in 3 seconds. cant stop!!, ust kill the power and you will hit the tarmac sooooo hard, you won't know what happened.
29/01/2011 18:30
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Y O Y  must I tolerate dribble like this.  Will cars fly by 2025?  People...........   get a life.  
We may already have cars that fly but if they were any good we'd all have one by now.  Then Sally Traffic would be commenting on the skyway over gloucester being clogged by a slow moving SkyTractor.  and another thing!  What happens when a less than vigilant "FlyDriver" forgets to fill up...  or buys a "trebant!" skyplane.  We'll have the things dropping from the sky like pidgeon doings!  Rot!  utter ROT!  

PS.  Does anyone know of a supplier for them yet? 
29/01/2011 17:34
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     I sincerely hope that cars of the future don't fly: many of today's drivers have enough problems handling cars in two dimensions, never mind three!
29/01/2011 17:04
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In the future, cars will fly. You think thats cool eh?
The classes will be truly devided by then, and while the rich enjoy the skies, the rest of us, the the ground dwelling scum on the surface will suffer poverty, starvation, disease, record taxation ect, bla bla bla. You get the idea....

29/01/2011 15:14
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A daft question as you can already get road legal planes that you can use as a car. If it did happen probably would be like what is in the Fifth Element, though that will be many years evan decades ahead.
29/01/2011 14:06
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McDonalds add the gherkin (not pickle) because it counts as a vegetable and therefore they pass certain laws put in place for such fatty/salty foods not to be sold. Adding the gherkin raises the 'healthy' image of the McDonalds burger (although some argue that it makes no difference!), although the salt content increases by 20% from the addition of a gherkin.
29/01/2011 13:25
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First to address TORX your question about the pickle in a big mac......MacDonalds are well aware that people don't like it but it disguises the spit from the guy preparing it......And ELNICO a devise was invented about 20 years ago that sprays a form of resin on to the tyres of a cars when driving on ice which gives really good grip on a slippery surface but it never caught on. It was trialed on TV and worked well

29/01/2011 12:47
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FLYING CARS IS EXCELLENT IDEA- INSTEAD OF SPEED LIMITS ON THE ROADS & MOTORWAYS WE WILL HAVE WATCH THE HEIGHT LIMITS !!
29/01/2011 11:54
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cars that fly are called planes!
cars that can hover are called hovercraft 

planes without wings are generally rockets.

cars have wheels -  not wings: planes have wheels but are not cars etc

Or you have a multi purpose vehicle such as 007!

 
29/01/2011 11:53
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flying cars do exist...............there powered by co2 matolic water fusion when heated to a crazy temp will create super steam funnel and its exhaust is powerful but wouldn't burn any body on its release because it only uses the first foot of its nozzle for thrust the rest is bubble air when flying over peoples heads................and yes it runs on water that's why not alot of people have seen them due to  oil and oh yes our sea would disappear......it flys well i seen it
24/12/2010 07:44
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I'm not really buying the change to aluminium; one of the great things about steel as a frame material is it doesn't burn. Aluminium burns hot and is difficult to extinguish (see USS Belknap, HMS Sheffield, etc), and is also a lot harder to work with than steel.

Al's been being blagged as a wonder-material since the sixties, but it's never going to replace steel in all applications, and I really can't see it as replacing it here.

As for lightweights, everyone doesn't win with them; they're not as safe.

22/12/2010 20:35
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could'nt agree more GALLEY SLAVE been in the trade 30 years. what trouble did you get with a ford escort.

 

21/12/2010 22:30
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Well, I want a car that runs on human poo. It'll save me alot of money because I have diarrhoea.
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Cars of the future - how will they change?Steve Walkercontent editor, MSN CarsSteve Walker2010-11-29T00:54:27Rapid change is one of the defining features of the car industry we know and love. For more than one hundred years, manufacturers have been battling tooth and nail to build bigger, better, cleverer and faster cars that will out-class rivals and part the motorists from their cash. There's no suggestion that this lightening pace of change is going to change anytime soon.Over the 15 years that MSN has been covering the car industry, the speed at which our cars have developed has been clear for all to see. Drive any model hailing from 1995 and it will feel decidedly dated next to a modern equivalent. That's virtually certain, but what about the differences between the cars we drive now and the ones we will be driving in another 15 years' time?Without a functioning crystal ball, or a DeLorean with the time machine option fitted, seeing into the future is an inexact science. That's not to say we can't have a stab at it though. Here are some of the areas where the car of 2025 is likely to be rather different. They'll be greenerThe motoring agenda has been dominated by all things green over the last few years and there's little sign of the environmental focus abating as we stride forward. The motor industry was rather unfairly cast in the role of eco-enemy a few years back but it's reacted in fine style, slashing vehicle emissions in the short term and investing heavily in alternative fuel technologies for the future. As government legislation controlling pollution from cars tightens and we all fall under growing financial and social pressure to shrink our carbon footprints, the attraction of green cars looks certain to grow. In the first instance, we can expect continuing improvement in the internal combustion engine technology that's powered motorcars since the beginning. Advanced fuel injection systems, variable geometry turbochargers and clever engine management software have boosted the efficiency of petrol and diesel engines and should continue to do so. The alternatives to fossil fuels are also expected to experience a period of growth in the next 15 years or so. We already have hybrid cars but they look like becoming more common and better. Hybrids that can run solely on electric power for long periods are in the pipeline as are 'range-extender' models that use a petrol engine to charge batteries, which then power the electric motors that drive the wheels.Fully electric cars are also on the rise. You can buy models like the Nissan LEAF now but they're sure to become cheaper in the future, even if limited range is likely to restrict their use to urban areas. If improvements in battery technology extend the range of electric cars and the power storage capacity of hybrids, sales could really take off.Hydrogen fuel cell cars have often been touted as a magic bullet for the car's environmental problems but affordable production cars are still some way off. Many manufacturers are conducting trials of working prototypes out on the roads and some are predicting production versions within the next 10 years but major infrastructure investment will be needed for the hydrogen economy to take off. They'll be lighterLess weight is very desirable in cars. It means less energy is needed to move them around and brings advantages in terms of performance, efficiency and manoeuvrability. For most of the last 15 years, cars have been getting larger and heavier but more recently, we've seen manufacturers starting to put a check on this weight gain.The majority of modern cars are still made of steel but the lightweight properties of aluminium are being employed more regularly on premium models. Plastics, carbonfibre and composite materials are also likely to play a bigger role in the future. Lightweight technologies are a beacon of hope for anyone afraid that the drive to produce greener cars is going to spell the end for thrilling high-performance models. Sports car manufacturers like Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren are at the forefront of developing techniques to minimise weight. It's a way for them to use smaller, greener engines while improving performance and handling. In short, everybody wins. They'll be saferNew cars today are safer than they've ever been. You can't by a modern car that isn't loaded with active safety systems to help prevent a crash and passive safety technologies to minimise the danger should one occur. In the future, it seems likely that our cars will continue to push the boundaries but drivers may need to get used to handing over some elements of control.Autonomous vehicle technology is big news in the car industry at the moment. We already have radar-guided cruise control, self-parking systems and technology like Volvo's City Safety that can detect an imminent collision and apply the brakes to avoid it. Much more is possible too but there's concern amongst the major manufacturers over how much control motorists will be willing to hand over to their cars.Would you feel comfortable reading the paper in the back seat while your car drove you to work?They'll be clevererIt sometimes seems as though the internet has quietly crept its way into all areas of modern life and it'll be playing an increasingly important role inside our cars in the future.The latest Audi A8 luxury saloon can be specified as a mobile wireless internet hot spot that provides internet access for its occupants and even people who happen to be walking by. More interesting though, are the advantages that the online cars of the future will be able to bring.By connecting with the web, vehicle satellite navigation systems will be able to direct us to free parking spaces or charging points for electric vehicles. There are also systems in development that will let cars communicate with each other, warning of accidents or congestion on our routes.By connecting to our vehicles manufacturers may be able to detect mechanical problems before they materialise or recommend personalised driving tips to enhance fuel economy. We'll also be able to download music and video content direct to our cars from our home computers or third party websites. They'll be monitoredThe changes that affect drivers in the UK over the next 15 years look like materialising outside the car as much as inside it. The number of cars on the road looks set to carry on rising and we can expect to be more closely monitored than ever before when we drive them.It's a safe bet that some form of road charging will extend beyond the current enclaves of the London Congestion Charge zone and the M6 Toll road. That means more cameras or other means of surveillance. Black boxes inside cars that relay information about when, where and how fast you're driving are nothing new. Car security companies like Cobra and Tracker use the technology to monitor their customers' vehicles and it's been trialled by insurance firms who offer reduced premiums to motorists who agree only to drive limited distances or at less risky times. Tracking systems could also be an alternative to cameras when enforcing variable or average speed limits. There is, however, likely to be a groundswell of public opinion against increased surveillance on the roads. 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