/ Motoring

Driving in the future – what does your fantasy car look like?

I recently read about Citroën’s competition to ‘design’ a special edition car, with the winning design going into production later this year. It got us talking about our ‘fantasy’ car features…

Citroën must be aware of the risks of letting ‘Joe Public’ design a car – if they aren’t, I’d suggest they watch The Simpsons episode where Homer has free reign to put his ‘ideal’ car into production…

In reality, this competition allows users to choose body and trim colour, choice of either alloy wheels and so on – rather like specifying a new car on any maker’s website.

But the idea triggered a discussion among the Which? Car team about what features – fantasy or real – they would like added to their ideal car. Here are a few of our ideas:

Top Gun visor display

Someone suggested a visor display – like the ones fighter pilots use – which would project all the info you needed on to the visor, right in front of your eyes.

Well, you can already ask for a ‘heads-up’ display – maybe the closest car-based equivalent – on a couple of cars I know of. This type of display projects the information directly on to the windscreen, meaning you can keep your head up and your eyes on the road.

This is a £1,240 option on the Audi A6, and Peugeot do it at a knock-down price – a mere £300 secures the option on some versions of the Peugeot 508.

Back to the future

Someone else suggested they’d like a ‘flux capacitor’ – the fantasy special component that allowed Doc Brown to take his DeLorean car backwards and forwards through time!

The problem is that even if we could provide one, it would be illegal on UK roads. The Back to the Future car’s flux capacitor required you to drive at 88mph before it ‘activated’ – triggering the time travel. In the UK, it would trigger three points and a ticket before moving you through the space-time continuum!

All aboard the motorway train

Nobody enjoys driving on motorways, so one team-mate said they’d like to see a conveyor-belt system installed (rather like the travelators at airports). It would allow you to drive on, then switch your engine off and relax until you arrived at your junction. You could read a book or even have a nap along the way.

This isn’t too far away from reality. When all cars are equipped with linked-up radar-based cruise control (to maintain safe distances and speeds), we will hopefully see ‘trains’ made up of cars on every motorway. And once we do, I predict it will allow us to get more cars along congested routes at much higher speeds, far more efficiently and safely.

Going backwards to go forwards

Personally, I think that last idea will eventually lead to driverless cars, presenting an opportunity as far as safety goes. It would allow all the car’s occupants to be positioned rearward-facing (the preferred way round for babies). In a front crash, a rear-facing occupant is better protected, since crash-loads are spread across the whole area of the seat back, and head- and neck-movement are far more effectively controlled.

Of course, you’d hope that driverless cars would be less likely to have crashes in the first place, thus making the rear-facing seats redundant.

Let us know what you think of our dream designs and what features (real or fantasy) you’d like to see fitted to the future’s cars. Remember, from the seeds of imagination comes invention!

Comments
Member

Inspired by a recent discussion, I’m dreaming of a retro model – one with a full-size spare wheel. 🙂

Member

I *love* the idea of ‘motorway conveyor belts’ and driverless cars. This might be a horrible idea for those who really enjoy the feeling of driving, but for me it would be absolute heaven – pile into a car with your friends/family, sit around having a chat and catching up, then arrive at your destination after minimum stress and hassle – brilliant!

Oh, and did I mention that it should fly?

Member

I remember the old days of MotorRail, which wasn’t too bad, except for having to drive into central London, too slow loading/unloading and having to leave the comfort of your car for a long train journey in a grubby compartment with uncomfortable seats. Something fashioned on the Channel Tunnel trains, where you can stay in your car would be good.

The problem with road trains is that you can’t get out to stretch your legs, and think of the queues at Motorway service stations when we all pull up together. So maybe a car with a toilet, shower, buffet and newsagents?

Member
Phil says:
1 May 2012

Motorail is still available across other parts of europe so maybe there is a case for re-introducing it in the UK. Modern rolling stock should make it more comfortable and reduce loading times and out of town terminals would make it more accessible.

Member

I would like to see all roadside information, currently displayed on ugly street “furniture”: speed limits, directions, warnings, prohibitions, etc., etc., removed and transferred to discreet RFID tags. The information would be picked up by a small receiver in the vehicle and displayed on a heads-up screen, with the ability to recall the last 10 or so passed.

Big savings in sign installation, maintenance, crash damage and metal theft. Less obstables for pedestrians to walk into and more pleasant countryside roads and town centres. No more missed speed limits, taking the eyes off the road ahead, or having to ask the passenger: “What did that last sign say?”

Member

That would be brilliant if it can be made to work, Em.

Unfortunately, many car manufacturers have not got to grips with electronics, which should be the most reliable part of a vehicle. Far too many motorists have warning lights indicating non-existent faults on their dashboard.

Member

I think this is a brilliant idea, Em! I’d be very keen on this – also allows for really quick updating of info if e.g. speed limits change, etc.

Member
Em says:
1 May 2012

Thank you Nikki – I’ve been thinking about how to do this for years. My original idea was to paint a 1-D barcode on the surface of the roads, with a barcode reader mounted under the car. So instead of driving over rubble strips, you would just drive over a barcode and it would flash up “Slow” or “30” on the heads-up. Primitive, but workable, even with 20-year old technologies.

As you say, it would now be much easier and cheaper to update speed limits, or change road signs to allow for road closures and diversions using modern systems.

Member

But that’s why it’s a fantasy car, Wavechange!

Anyway, I’d see it as an after-fitment to begin with, rather like a sat nav, as all road users would need one. Perhaps someone like Apple or Hewlett Packard (the old company who really knew how to make precision electronics) could produce them.