It may seem like we are watching a "The Jetsons" rerun as we hear about the innovations and technology on automotive drawing boards. In addition to sleeker aerodynamic designs, luxury interiors that feel more like living rooms than motor conveyances, entertainment and comfort additions, and safety enhancements, we can also envision cars that drive themselves, have automatic braking to avoid collisions, and offer more power while burning less fuel.
Just a few of yesteryear's futuristic concepts that are present day realities include GPS, voice activation, speed control, built-in DVD players, variable windshield wipers, air bags, intelligent parking assist, heated seats, car CD changers and even seatbelts. Automobile designers and science-fiction fans alike imagine all sorts of enhancements, some solely to impress and others that increase safety, relive stress and make the driver's life easier.
Car shows throughout the world commonly display the latest and greatest in advanced designs. Spectators get a hint of things to come, while manufacturers get to judge the audience reaction as well as the practicality of a design. It could take a few years before the concept undergoes recommended changes, becomes a prototype and is made available to the public. Until then, we catch glimpses, hear chatter and wait (im)patiently for these technology-laden vehicles.
First unveiled at the 2012 New York Auto Show, the Honda Acura NSX, a hybrid-electric sports car is scheduled for release by Honda's Acura luxury division in the 2016 model year. The supercar is powered by a mid-mounted, direct-injected V6 engine from Honda's Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system with a gas/electric power plant and up to 400 horsepower hybrid synergy drive system. The interior is designed to fit the driver as if the human and car were one.
Toyota is turning a lot of heads with the Japanese introduction of its information network social electric city transporter concept car. It's a one-seat vehicle with responsive owner facial recognition. The car's smart system not only unlocks the doors for its recognized owner, but also allows the owner to use voice activated navigation and a phone app to control the car remotely. In the U.S., Toyota revealed an urban utility concept, the Toyota U2, with a roll back roof, fold down tailgate into a ramp and customizable rail system interior. The U2 interior can be modified to hold anything and everything a sophisticated urbanite needs including bikes and bike stands, the passenger seat can also be removed for more room. In addition to great storage capability, the U2 has improved fuel economy and good maneuverability on busy city streets.
Luxury relaxation, living room or business office accommodations, driverless technology and sliding (transferable) steering wheels were some of the features the Swiss automotive dream factory Rinspeed unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this year. The Rinspeed XchangE autonomous electric concept vehicle features a large info-ready screen in lieu of a traditional dashboard, swivel seats, touch responsive controls and a steering wheel that works with steer-by-wire technology, similar to that found in jet aircraft, instead of a mechanical steering column. With this, you can easily slide the steering wheel to your passenger to share driving.
Scheduled to begin production in Louisiana next year, Elio Motors is touting its two-seat, inexpensive, three-wheeled, 84-mpg Elio as the most economical vehicle to buy (under $7,000) and run. The American-made Elio features an electric powertrain small gas system and a light, aerodynamic design that can hit up to 100 mph. Elio equipment includes disc brakes with ABS, 15-inch wheels, a five-speed automatic transmission, and independent suspension with unequal length control arms, coil-over-spring and shock in the front, and mono-shock with coil-over-spring and shock in the rear. The major impediment to this concept's mass production and availability is its three-wheeled design. Most states consider this a motorcycle and require a motorcycle license and helmet.
Today's designers of concept cars are focused on the environment, accident prevention, functionality and transportation to fit current lifestyles.