We’ve seen Mercedes’ attempt to predict the car of the future, so how about we take a shot at it? Our time frame is a we bit shorter: 2030, as Auto 2032 just doesn’t have much of a ring to it. But what difference is two years going to make? It seems like automotive time is slowing down more and more. If you think I’m suggesting the car of 2030 will look quite a bit more familiar than this one, the answer is yes.
Since 2001, Toyota has been feeding us the same basic Camry, now in its third refresh. Maybe this will be the final Camry platform? Just extrapolate its daring progress in the past eleven years forward, and by 2030, it should look something like the bottom one, which Toyota showed at the Detroit Auto Show this year, dubbed the NS4. Welcome to the future! They should have painted it beige, though.
It’s not so bad looking, actually. And with its plug-in Hybrid Synergy Drive, what else is there to predict? The future is here, maybe with a few more design tweaks. Or am I too getting too jaded? Your turn:
I want the planeboatcar in the bottom picture. Where are our flying cars? They promised us flying cars!
I would cheerfully trade the ability to watch HD video on my cell phone for an atom powered flying car!
Strangely enough, old Popular Science articles and the like seemed to completely miss the extent of changes in computers and communications while they predicted a future filled with flying cars and energy that would be “too cheap to meter”.
Everyone missed the changes in computers and communications, even the most optimistic experts. Moore’s Law is the observation that transistors per chip, which amounts to computer power per dollar, doubles about every two years. Even Gordon Moore, when he said this in 1965, expected it to last maybe ten years. It’s been fifty and it’s still going.
It’s had a huge impact on cars, and I don’t mean flat-screen GPS navigation and MP3. The smooth, reliable, super clean and efficient piston engines we all drive would be impossible without computer controls.
By 2030 self-driving capability will be common. When we prefer to drive ourselves it’ll keep us and the cars around us safer. I love to drive when the road is clear and nice. When I’m stuck on the same old freeway every morning and night I’d love to switch to autopilot and surf the web. I could snap an old car and put up the CC feature while I’m still on the road!
“Even Gordon Moore, when he said this in 1965, expected it to last maybe ten years. It’s been fifty and it’s still going.”
“The smooth, reliable, super clean and efficient piston engines we all drive would be impossible without computer controls.”
Agreed. It’s funny how all the futurists seemed to miss the rapid advances in microelectronics. As far as I can tell, modern electronic controls were pretty much all that was missing from the Chrysler / Bendix fuel injection that came out around the same time as the first integrated circuit.
“By 2030 self-driving capability will be common.”
I keep hearing about how close this is in heavy mining equipment, I expect we will see it there first. It will be easier to maintain safety in an area with restricted access than on public roads, and the price of the early technology will be a lot easier to swallow on a $6MM truck than a $30k car. After a few years I expect the technology will be cheaper and more reliable, and will find its way into cars.
Autonomous cars combined with real time traffic data (floating car data from mobile phones perhaps) could cut down on traffic congestion as the cars dynamically reroute themselves to the fastest route, and in so doing, balance the traffic across different routes on the road network.
As mentioned earlier, I think autonomous cars will take a while to catch on, but I think they will be popular in congested urban areas, or with aging people who couldn’t otherwise drive safely and who live in sprawling suburbs not well served by transit.
“I expect we will see it there first. It will be easier to maintain safety in an area with restricted access than on public roads, and the price of the early technology will be a lot easier to swallow on a $6MM truck than a $30k car. After a few years I expect the technology will be cheaper and more reliable, and will find its way into cars.”
I agree 100%.
It will show up in semi-trucks before it makes it into cars. Long haul trucking companies will be willing to pay $60-80k per unit if it allows a truck to run 24/7 with no HOS/ Driver fatigue issues.
If you think about it, they haven’t yet achieved autonomous trains yet and it’s got to be a lot easier to automate the running of something that only has to worry about conflict with other traffic at known predictable places and doesn’t ever have to worry about finding it’s route.
I believe there are a number of autonomous trains now.
The first driverless train I remember riding on was this one, back the late ’80s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docklands_Light_Railway
Heck, with how things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see driverless cars on the road (albeit in small quantities) by 2020.
Atom powered flying car in 2030? Yes, I think so.
1) Terrafugia’s flying car is FAA certified and NHTSA approved, with deliveries very soon.
2) Experimental electric airplanes are real and getting more practical all the time.
3) Our best source of baseload electric power now and in 2030 is nuclear.
So there you are, atom-powered flying cars!
The problem with flying cars is that drivers have proved that they cannot handle the two dimensions they have to deal with now. And we want to add a third? The insurance rates will kill us.
Although on the same token, driverless cars will be aggressively pushed by insurance companies so they don’t have to buy a customer a new car in the rare case that it gets in a wreck (because of either a computer glitch or drivable car’s driver).
The big changes in the next few decades will be under the hood/sheet metal. I think external design will continue to be pretty evolutionary. Underneath, however, I think we can reasonably expect, in the short term, smaller engines with DI and forced induction; in the medium term, improved plug-in hybrid systems; and by 2030, most likely sophisticated hydrogen fuel cells as well. Also, in many markets, the near-total replacement of 2WD cars by those with trick AWD systems (especially on anything better than a family sedan.) Not saying this is what I want, it’s just what seems most likely.
> and by 2030, most likely sophisticated hydrogen fuel cells as well.
Hydrogen has been the “fuel of the future” for the last 40 years. I predict that, 20 years from now, it will still be the fuel of the future.
+10 to the 10th power!
Woo hoo! I won the internet!
You don’t get it man.
It’s a conspiracy. The same people keeping Hydrogen down are the ones that put the guy that invented the 100 mpg Carb in prison man..
Let’s keep off the organic fuel, shall we?
No no no no
I don’t do that no more.
I expect we will continue to see all the powertrain technologies we have today continue to evolve, with different systems used for different applications.
More or less conventional gas and diesel powertrains for long highway trips. Maybe with natural gas for fuel, and with today’s leading edge technologies such as direct injection, continuously variable valve timing, etc. becoming cheaper and more mainstream.
“Volt” type plug hybrids for private cars that are parked 90% of the time, usually used for short commutes, but occasionally used for road trips. Plug in cars might be combined with smart metering to avoid overloading the grid during peak periods and to take advantage of renewable energy.
“Prius” type hybrids for vehicles that are always in motion in an urban environment, such as taxicabs and delivery vehicles.
“Leaf” type EVs as second cars and commuter vehicles that are seldom driven any real distance. I could see these becoming more popular as the population ages, as they would be ideal for seniors who wanted to have some mobility, but didn’t have far to go.
There might be some autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles by 2030, although I think these will take a while to gain widespread acceptance.
Agreed that styling will continue to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. I would expect to continue to see a mix of modern and retro designs.
Rich old guys will be paying top dollar for well preserved 2012 Mustang GT-500s, Corvette ZR-1s, and BMW M3s at Barret Jackson. And Hemmings will feature articles about the appeal of these simple, low tech, elemental 2012 performance cars…
Update: Despite all the changes in technology, cars will still travel about 30 MPH / 50 km/h in the city, and 70 MPH / 110 km/h on the highway. And they won’t fly…
> There might be some autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles by 2030, although I think these will take a while to gain widespread acceptance.
The CEO of Google say that fully self-driving vehicles should be available within 5 years.
I still say, let’s see a fully automated railroad before we try to automate cars, then automated buses, then automated taxis and big rigs. Let’s see the easiest things get automated first.
Throw automated ferry boats, ore carriers and tankers in there somewhere.
I think the fad for AWD will fade away. It offers little or zero real-world benefit for the way most people drive most of the time, and what benefit is has can be mostly covered by advanced electronics (traction control, stability control, torque vectoring). The added weight and expense will become increasingly hard to justify as mileage and pollution controls ratchet down ever tighter.
AWD is here to stay in places where the weather and landscape make it valuable. Anywhere you find lots of Subarus.
Hybrid and pure electric AWD is easy and efficient. Just another small electric motor and differential does the trick. Electric’s low-speed torque is ideal for AWD pulling power.
Trying to predict the car of tomorrow, here what Tex Avery tried to predict in this cartoon titled “Car of Tomorrow”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bBpDNRP5qQ
Très bien! A delightful cartoon indeed. Bulgemobile meets the pocket car. Did you notice how so many of the cars are bathtub designs with front and rear fender skirts (at least partial)? Boy, did the tail fins come as a shock to them or what? Too bad the `Indian’ joke targeted the American Indians, and not my fine countrymen.
Apologies Stephane. I was on the small screen when I posted the same thing.
Bravo for the reference!
Funny the BW picture has a whale in the water. The car resembles it.
Look closer, that’s not a whale, it’s the amphibious flying car. Looks more like a dolphin to me.
The Man, The Car, The Wife, and Her Lover?
Chauffeured comfort for Colonel and Mrs. McBigBucks?
Guess all we might, this is only a false complacence like the thirties. One day we’ll open the e-paper and see `Suddenly, its 2020!’ and all our visions of 2030 will suddenly seem quaint. I only wish the future radical designs will have as effective or better aero as today. Who knows, the next Harley Earl or Bill Mitchell might be going through college right now. To the stylists of the future!
I can never read one of these stories without thinking of the “Ford Nucleon” with reactor in the rear. 😛
The future will be much more like Paul’s illustration.
It will probably make heavy use of the Kammback design like the red Toyota and every 2004+ Prius (and the Chevy Volt, etc.).
Even sedans seem to be moving towards “hatchback”-like proportions. However, I hope they will abandon notchback trunklids on those type of designs, since they are becoming too short (2011+ Volvo S60, 2013 Ford Fusion). Just bite the bullet and make it a REAL functional hatch, not a vestigial trunklid.
Electric cars with optional plug-in hybrid powertrains.
Every time I see something like this I can’t help but think of Tex Avery’s Car of Tomorrow cartoon.
Off to the You Tube!:D
In much the same way as the malaise era followed the muscle car era, I expect performance to go down in the future. Today’s 600+ HP cars are unlikely to stick around for another 20+ years given the concerns about the environment, resource scarcity, safety, an uncertain economy, etc. There will still be performance cars, but they will be less extreme. Comparing a 2013 SRT Viper to its 2030 replacement will be a bit like comparing a 1970 Charger Daytona 1987 Shelby Charger…
I honestly don’t see our future in any of these prognostications.
Our future will be that of Europe’s present: Heavily-taxed private automobiles and fuel; and most of us on 2030 model city buses.
All dwells on what politicians do; and politicians seldom show vision or an appetite for free markets and choice.
I could be wrong; I sure hope I am. But so much can change by a minor shift in the numbers of those voting for certain parameters, against those voting against them.
Technology rules. Politicians follow.
Technology says we will all drive the personal cars we love, and they’ll be cleaner, faster and smarter.
The trick is to realize that expecting the future to be like the present, only more so, is always wrong.
Cars in 2030 will be a lot like the Tesla Model S. Electric with plenty of range and gobs of torque. Roomy, very comfortable, very smart. Freedom from oil.
Unthinkable in 1995, expensive today, mainstream in 2030. Mark my words.
I sincerely doubt it. Electric vehicles were tried early in the auto era. They failed on key points where they still fail today, and will continue to fail in the future: range and charge time. Until an electric car can go 400-500 miles without a charge, and be charged after that in 20 minutes or less, they will be a niche product at best, and that includes the Tesla.
That range and charging time will inevitably come; the question is just exactly when.
“That range and charging time will inevitably come; the question is just exactly when”
Same inevitability has been said about the cost/benefit of Hydrogen extraction to make it viable as a fuel. Personally I have more optimism in that happening than batteries magically dropping charging time to the amount it takes to fill a tank full of gas today.
The key difference being that development in Hydrogen technology isn’t driven by a profitable, established existing market. Battery technology on the other had is (portable consumer electronics).
That’s very true but every industry hits development roadblocks sooner or later. At the rapid rate new technologies are growing there’s bound to be a point where growth slows down and I suspect that will happen before powerful, rapid charging, reliable automotive batteries come to fruition.
I believe EVs are closer to being ready for prime time as daily drivers for many people. The sweet spot is somewhere around $30k for 100mi of all season range.
Current gasoline car’s cant meet that range, but nobody is going to wait around for a 20 minute charge.
Try 300mi range and 5min to charge.
Depressing, boring and ugly.
Think that about sums it up.
Just wait for the next Virgil Exner, and one day you’ll say `Suddenly, its 2020′ a lot sooner than you think. This trend of design stagnation is only because of rapid advances in manufacturing technique fueled by the explosive growth in electronics. Once automated, general-purpose cutting and shaping tools become common in all factories of major manufacturers, styling will once again become the differentiating factor that drives sales.
That would be nice but Exner wasn’t bounded by impact standards, pedestrian safety and aerodynamic efficiency(except of course the cross-wind stability fins lol). That is what styles cars today and that is only going to become more stringent and standardized.
If pure electric really does become the primary motivator, and range and charge time are factors, aerodynamics will be crucial. Kammbacks may be key aspects to “suddenly it’s 2020” but, just like the real 1960 after “suddenly it’s 1960”, those shapes won’t be embraced forever.
The past and present “Futurecar”!