8 Crazy Things Tomorrow's Cars Will Do

By Aaron Crowe on 25 March 2015 0 comments
Photo: Toyota Global

The funny thing about concept cars is that they're just that — concepts. They're futuristic ideas displayed at auto shows, designed to highlight advanced technologies and stylistic directions of cars that may never actually see the light of day.

While we don't pretend to predict which future features are likely to catch on, there are plenty of cool bells and whistles that are worth hoping for. Some are more conceptual than others, and some more likely to be seen in the next few years than scrapped. Here are our top eight:

1. Flying Cars

Even before the Jetsons made it to primetime, a flying car has been seen as a futuristic solution to every commuter's problems.

Trademarked as the TF-X, a company called Terrafugia says it's making a car that becomes airborne like a helicopter, and then flies like a plane. The company makes another flying car, called the Transition, that has wings and takes off as a plane (and amazingly is road legal for driving). You just may need to land at an airport and then drive to your destination. Both flying cars still appear to be in the experimental stages.

2. Motorcycle-Car Combos

Toyota's i-Road concept car has two wheels in the front and one in the back, with an enclosed area for two passengers. The front wheels are powered by electric motors that share a lithium-ion battery. It has a driving range of 30 miles and goes up to 30 mph, making it best for short trips.

This electric vehicle made its second appearance at the Chicago Auto Show, giving the impression that it's more of a concept than reality — for now.

3. Clean Cars

Electric vehicle innovations are already numerous, and more are on the way. Major carmakers are getting into the hybrid business, and some, such as the CLEVER vehicle designed at the Technical University of Berlin, have a compressed natural gas engine to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

If you're looking for a clean car that's beyond the concept stage, the Tesla Model X is scheduled for delivery in early 2016. It's an electric car that's designed as an SUV/minivan mashup that may have two different battery packs available. Teslas have some of the longest battery life of EVs, traveling 230-300 miles when driven at 55 mph.

4. Solar-Powered Cars

The Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept has a solar panel roof that draws power from a solar concentrator lens like a magnifying glass. A day's worth of sunlight produces a range of up to 620 miles. The 2015 version of this gas/electric hybrid doesn't have a solar roof, so we can only guess that this concept car is either still in the planning stages or shelved.

5. External Airbags

Safety technology maker TRW Automotive is developing external airbags for below the exterior of car doors to protect a car's occupants. While a full-car bubble wrap isn't part of the plan, TRW plans on having the airbags on a German luxury car by the end of the decade, likely the Mercedes-Benz S Class.

6. Extended Tailgates

Have you ever needed to haul something in your truck and the truck bed just wasn't long enough? The 2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept crossover truck is an experimental vehicle with a tailgate extension to make the bed length similar to a mid-size pickup. It has a drawer-like sliding function for longer cargo.

The Santa Cruz was at the Chicago Auto Show in February, when manufacturers judged the public's reaction to the prototype. That's another part of being a concept car — weighing the public's interest in its features. (Some may be too far ahead of their time or garner no interest at all.)

7. Large Touchscreens

The Mitsubishi GC-PHEV concept car has what Mitsubishi calls a "Tactile Table" that's a large flat touchscreen running from the center console all the way back to the second row of seats. The blue-lit screen looks like something you'd use to plan Death Star attacks. However, Mitsubishi has other uses in mind, including allowing passengers to put their smartphones on top of it and create, collect, exchange, and share information with others through the car's communication system. At least it sounds like fun.

8. No Steering Wheels

The Toyota FV2 concept car is a single-person vehicle that doesn't use a steering wheel; instead, the driver shifts their body weight to intuitively move the vehicle and steer it. The car also uses "voice and image recognition to determine the driver's mood, accumulated driving history to suggest destinations, and driving skill information to assist the user," according to Toyota. The carmaker compares it to "the relationship of trust and understanding that a rider might have with his or her horse."

If having trust in your car like you would a horse is too much to ask, then a self-driving car may be more to your liking. Those look to be a bit more realistic for the foreseeable future.

What futuristic car features are you most excited about?

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Guest's picture

Maybe in about 50 years for the flying cars. Let's drive the electric car first :)