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The Road Ahead

Provided by howstuffworks
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We live in a world where new technologies spring up every few seconds. It’s sometimes tough to keep up, but it’s also incredibly exciting. With such quick technological advancements, do you ever wonder what automobiles will be like in the future? Here are five technologies that could change the way we drive.

One: Self-Driving Cars

Think a car that drives itself is far-fetched? A 2007 challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense proved that a vehicle could use sensors, GPS and computer controls to navigate roads without a human driver. While autonomous cars may still be several years away, the technology is showing promise and could appear sooner than we think. Check out a self-driving Prius here:

Two: More "Smart" Technologies

Systems that observe your eyes and face for signs of alertness or intoxication are being developed to better predict hazardous situations. These could help wake you up on long drives or shut your car down when you’ve had too much to drink. It could also help you with overall control of your vehicle on uneven terrain.

Three: High-Strength, Lightweight Materials

A more comfortable car often means a heavier car. And a heavier car means a less efficient one as it takes more power to move it and thus more gas to power it. Components made from light, but strong, materials like carbon fiber-reinforced plastic are being developed to help solve this problem.

Four: Collision Avoidance Systems

It sounds like something out of the future, but select Toyota vehicles are already available with a Pre-Collision System (PCS) [1]. Using a radar unit located in the vehicle’s front grille, the PCS monitors the position of the vehicle relative to other vehicles and certain objects in the road directly ahead.

If PCS determines that a collision is imminent, the Brake Assist (BA) [2] system is placed in standby mode, a warning is displayed and a buzzer sounds.

If PCS determines that a collision is unavoidable, the system will still alert the driver via a warning light, warning display and buzzer, but will also apply the brakes and automatically retract the driver and front passenger seatbelts to prepare for such a scenario.

Five: Alternative Fuels

Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius combine a traditional engine with an electric motor. All-electric cars are considered the “cleanest” available because they produce zero tailpipe emissions (although the power to operate them usually generates some form of pollution elsewhere). Other alternative fuels are still being researched, such as hydrogen fuel cell power and other high-energy, low-emission technologies.

New automotive technology is only limited by imagination…and imagination is limitless. The road ahead will be a wonder to behold, and with Toyota helping to lead the way in the race for new technologies, the car you’re driving today could be the predecessor of the car that drives us tomorrow.