Introduction: Ten Visions

Much like the automobile revolutionized transportation over a century ago, society is on the cusp of a major transformation in how people get around. Massive changes will ripple through the global economy, as well as our everyday lives. Ten respected thought leaders from the automotive and technology industries, academia, and public policy will share their perspectives on the myriad of challenges and opportunities for the future of the automobile.

When Cars Talk: Connectivity and Security

Self-driving cars will undoubtedly foster a world where people’s ties to their vehicle are lessened, making the connections between cars more critical. Inter-vehicle communication backs up onboard sensors to help navigate the autonomous landscape. This dependence on communication demands strict control of data integrity and security.

Who is in the Driver’s Seat? Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy

Removing humans from the driving equation requires replacing their senses and decision-making. Advances in sensors and artificial intelligence enable this future, as technology progressively replaces the human component. While partly a function of technological capacity, the rise of autonomy opens up a pandora’s box of ethical issues that must be addressed as well.

Human-Computer Interfaces and the Driving Experience

The set of instruments and displays found on most vehicles has been standardized over the course of decades to maximize driver ease and control. With the increased dependence on technology, and less driver responsibility, new approaches are necessary to provide feedback to drivers and to keep them engaged with the driving experience. How do you remove control from people while still keeping their attention?

The Industry Future: Manufacturing Transition

The rise of autonomy and electric vehicles not only will foster change in how people use their cars, but also in how automobiles are made. New designs, utilizing innovative production techniques and advanced materials, will require retooling by major automakers, while also creating opportunities to new market entrants. Just as manufacturers proliferated during both the automobile’s infancy and the period following the Second World War, the future of the automobile is likely to entail waves of decentralization, strategic partnerships, and eventual reconsolidation around a potentially different set of key firms.

Powering the Future

While autonomy and self-driving cars get the majority of popular attention, the most progress toward transforming automobiles has occurred in propulsion. While electric vehicles are not a new idea, modern advances in motors and, most importantly, batteries, have greatly increased their capabilities. As the future of the automobile goes electric, are the days of internal combustion numbered, and how does this affect the infrastructure and services built around the car?

Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Future of Infrastructure and City Planning

The original rise of the automobile led to wholesale changes to the infrastructure and patterns of habitation of the day. Cars enabled people to travel further to work, play, and live, leading to networks of congested highways, urban sprawl, and the rise of the suburbs. Autonomy promises another transformation in transportation and city planning, as computer-controlled cars can be more densely packed on roads, and on-demand vehicles lower the need for parking.

The Future of Ownership and Ridesharing

For the better part of a century, the car has been a central part of people’s lives. However, many people feel that the love affair people have with their car is ending, and the newer generations are increasingly uninterested in automobiles. As cars become more of a service and less of a possession, radical changes are to be expected for automakers, insurers, and many other industries that have been built up around the automobile.

Rising China: Competition or Cooperation in Future Automotive Technology

The birth of the car was a product of innovation in a core set of advanced industrialized countries. More than a century later, a new revolution in automotive design is taking place against a setting of globalized industries and technologies. New market entrants, such as China, are seeking to be leaders in the new era of autonomous automobiles. Will international competition rule the day, or will countries learn to cooperate in the establishment of standards and the sharing of technologies?

Designing the Future

Implementing the ideas driving future automotive trends will fall to the hands of the engineers and artists populating design studios throughout the industry. New technologies will require a reassessment of balance and proportion to accommodate their components. A revolution in people’s relationship with the automobile, notably the potential liberation of the driver from control responsibility, will trigger a reconceptualization of interior layout and included systems. It is the designers who will truly decide what the future of the automobile looks like.