These are the cars of the future – get behind the wheel

Self driving cars, Hybrid Air powertrains, batteries that charge faster than fueling up – this is the next generation of motor vehicles

Hybrid Air power

Peugeot-Citroen, with its combined powers, has come up with a new Hybrid Air  powertrain that replaces batteries with compressed air. Around town, below 43mph, you can pootle along using the hydraulic pump/motor, which builds up charge using regenerative breaking. Then when you want to give it some gas – or when the air drive needs topping up – the petrol engine kicks in. All in all the Hybrid Air will deliver fuel savings of around 45 per cent compared to regular petrol engines – and, since this hybrid powertrain doesn't require expensive lithium-ion batteries, the car itself should be affordable – and more eco-friendly, too.

Matt Burt, deputy editor at Autocar says, "Most manufacturers are now envisaging an eclectic future when it comes to power sources, with EV having a small share of the market alongside various kinds of hybrids, fuel cells and ultra-efficient versions of more traditional internal combustion engines."

Self-driving cars

Google has been working on self-drive cars for sometime and is even testing them in Nevada now. But Audi has revealed that it’s in the running, too with an A7 that drives itself – even navigating its way around an underground car park. The parking in this video is better than we can manage – even if the autopilot does take longer to park than our granddad. Don’t expect to be reading your paper while being chauffeured to work anytime soon though, as laws and component compression still have a long way to go.

Matt says, "The in-car technology required to drive the car isn’t developed enough to make large-scale production viable at the moment. What seems more likely is that certain useful elements of self-driving cars – such as Audi’s system that enables the vehicle to park itself – will filter down into the mainstream first."

Fast charging electric cars

Korean scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) have developed a new type of lithium-ion battery that will allow for a full charge in just a minute. That’s right, faster than a petrol refill. The catch? Other than the name, it’ll be the price. So a car with Carbon-Coated Single-Crystal LiMn2O4 Nanoparticle Clusters as Cathode Material for High-Energy and High-Power Lithium-Ion Batteries may still be a ways off.

Matt says, "Nissan, to take one example, is rolling out fast-chargers at its dealers, motorway service stations and other key locations to enable owners of its Leaf EV to drive around the country without experiencing range anxiety."

Metamaterial cameras

An infra-red and microwave metamaterial sensor that works without lenses may soon be the eyes of your car. That'll mean slimline, sensitive safety cameras that can tell the car what’s going on around it – but without costing an arm and a leg.

Matt says, "Audi has developed a thermal imaging camera that can warns drivers of pedestrians crossing the road up to 100 metres ahead."

Connected cars

Prepare to stay always connected thanks to a sleuth of a new apps incoming. Leading the charge is the MyFord app that monitors CO2 levels, offers local charging station locations, and even has a social competition for who can save the most fuel.

Ford's even created the Arduino-based OpenXC module – unveiled at CES 2013 – which lets developers gather real-time data from the car's sensors and GPS receiver for use in connected apps. NFC door locks that open with your phone, Wi-Fi controlled systems that let you pre-heat the car before entering, and voice controlled Twitter are just a few in-car apps we’re looking forward to soon.

Matt says, "Connected cars – and cars connected to a central infrastructure – should become reality within five to ten years, although there are a number of complexities involved. The technology involved in making the system work isn’t particularly difficult to develop – a group of manufacturers are already working on a large-scale research project with the University of Michigan involving 3000 vehicles.

"For the system to work effectively, a BMW will need to be able to communicate with a Ford and a Mercedes, so all manufacturers will have to agree on standard equipment specification for production. This has just happened so we're one step closer. Also, there’s a question of whether the system will just be rolled out on new vehicles, or whether older cars will be able to be retro-fitted – the latter would be necessary for a truly effective infrastructure."

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