The auto industry is changing, fast. We have seen more disruption in the last decade than there has been for a century. The way we drive, the type of cars we buy, the fuel we use and even whether we operate the car ourselves have all begun to change. So much so that it’s difficult to imagine today what the cars of the future will look like.
Changing the concept of the car
Cars have always been closely associated with the internal combustion engine. However, technology has begun to take us beyond this idea to methods of propulsion like batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. As more governments establish higher targets for non-petrol or diesel cars on the roads in the next decade, it looks like we are reaching the end of the era of the combustion engine. Today, the market for electric cars has expanded enormously and there is a whole range of options for all budgets, with an increasing number of performance-focused design features being integrated too.
Another big change to the future of the car could be to individual ownership. Currently, although we are a one – or two – car per household society, very few people actually own their own vehicle. Instead, most people choose to rent their car – 90% of new cars are purchased using some kind of car finance scheme.
In the future, ownership could shift once again so that vehicles are shared between individuals in order to save on costs – car pool type arrangements could make cars available to drivers, as and when required, with the expense of maintenance and cost price shared. Alternatively, we may switch to simply hiring cars for necessary journeys or driving them only for sport.
The autonomous question
Although a decade ago the idea of a driverless car would have seemed like pure fantasy, this is now very much a potential reality. Autonomous cars can’t yet be used on the roads but they are much further ahead in development terms than they have ever been. There are a lot of very convincing reasons why autonomous cars could become the next big thing. Among them, the statistic that 90% of all car accidents are the result of human driver error.
Although there are some significant perception obstacles to overcome for the autonomous car to go mainstream, the reality is that the roads are likely to be a lot safer without humans behind the wheel. Autonomous cars could also make our vehicles into something of a taxi service. Rather than driving somewhere, then having to park and retrieve the car later, an autonomous car would drop passengers off and then make its own way home. It could then be programmed to pick up later at the right time.
Cars are changing at every level, from the needs that consumers have for them to the way that manufacturers are making fundamental changes to design.
Developments over the next decade could be interesting to observe – one thing we do know is that the cars of tomorrow will be nothing like the vehicles that we have today.
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