The idea of intelligent cars is not a new one. Screenwriters have been playing with the notion of cars that can talk, steer themselves and include all sorts of wild gadgets for decades. With the rapid growth of mobile technology, though, is a smart car really just a cinematic fantasy? According to the recently unveiled Project Detroit car, designed by Microsoft and the crew at West Coast Customs, the answer is no.
Many cars already utilize advanced technological components that would have seemed like science fiction a half a century ago. Cars run on biofuels and electricity, “heads-up” window displays project essential vehicle information, like gas gauge and speed. The revelation of Project Detroit, though, serves as a model of how more modern advances could play into a vehicle’s design, making it more functional and more fun.
What if the same technology that allows a driver too see the car’s speed and gas level on the windshield allowed the person riding shotgun to play Xbox Live from the passenger seat? Project Detroit shows that it’s possible. The passenger seat gaming system is one of the many ways in which Microsoft integrated their current technology into the concept car. See this video: Car OS.
On the flip side of the 2012 Ford Mustang used for Project Detroit, the rear windshield adjusts to display movies or games when the car is stopped parked, and contains a messaging system to display customized text when the car is in motion. Most of the car’s components are controlled by a smart phone, which can also be used to locate or unlock the car remotely.
A vehicle with the extensive technology loaded into Project Detroit probably won’t be on the market, or within the budget of most consumers, in the near future, but plenty of technological advances are already making their way to standard makes and models. Perhaps the most essential technological upgrades are those that make the car’s functionality more efficient and lessen the vehicle’s environmental impact.
Aside from electricity and biofuel, vehicles have been manufactured that can run on natural gas and solar power. Some vehicle manufacturers are stepping up efforts to design vehicles that can use these alternative energy forms.
Along with alternative forms of energy, fuel management systems, which monitor fuel usage in a vehicle, help drivers get more miles per gallon, which will become increasingly important as oil reserves diminish and gas prices rise. This technology is already in use by shipping companies to keep operational costs down, but can serve the same purpose of saving money and resources in consumer vehicles, as well.
BlueTooth technology has already made many vehicles hands-free, but more and more manufacturers are incorporating controls for mobile devices, including phones and MP3 players, on vehicle steering wheels for safer, more efficient control of devices while driving.
So, even if the vehicles coming down the line in the next few years are unlikely to come equipped with projection screens, some aspects of Microsoft’s design – like built-in 4G WiFi and customized horn tones – may not be all that futuristic.