We're living through a revolution in car manufacturing, with vehicles becoming increasingly dependent on electronics and computing. Gone are the days of purely mechanical machines: now, when you go to your local mechanic, he'll plug his diagnostic machine in before he even opens the bonnet.
Aside from the fact that repairs on new cars will soon require specialist attention – which might reassure relatives of those convinced they can fix anything with some elbow grease and a spanner – there are a number of benefits to these technological advances: cars are becoming more reliable and environmentally friendly, which could also affect our future car insurance.
For years, the main argument against electric cars was the lack of charging infrastructure. Today, the UK has more than 17,000 public electric vehicle charging points.
There are now over 500,000 registered cars on the UK’s roads that are powered by alternative fuel sources. It’s still only a fraction of the total number, but as electric cars get more sophisticated, and the parts get cheaper, this is sure to increase – after all, the number of alternative fuel cars has doubled since 2014.
Have a look at our car fuel comparison guide to find out if electric or hybrid cars are right for you.
One way car manufacturers compete is by creating new driver assistance features for their latest models. German marque BMW is at the forefront of the systems, and has recently debuted its new technology: a voice assistant service.
Much like Google Home, Amazon Echo or the Apple HomePod, BMW’s intelligent voice assistant will respond to questions and make suggestions – as well as keep you company on lonely drives. The service, which is likely to spread to other models and manufacturers, will also improve safety, as drivers won’t need to use their hands to activate various systems, or look away from the road.
Excited about the prospect of self-driving cars? What about self-driving cabs?
Google driverless car company Waymo has just put the first self-driving car – without a human driver/passenger/failsafe – on public roads in Phoenix, Arizona. They’ve even started testing their self-driving taxi service, inviting volunteers to sign up to take a free ride.
It will be a while until self-driving cars come to the UK, however. In March, the government announced a three-year regulatory review to find out if the UK’s road laws could support self-driving cars.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a car!
Alongside electric cars and self-driving cars, flying automobiles have been one of the key technological advancements buzzing around the industry.
Though not a ‘car’ in the strictest sense, many automobile manufacturers have been working on aircraft as they know that these new age flyers will compete with the automotive market.
Rolls Royce, for example, recently launched their EVTOL project (electric vertical take-off and landing) at Farnborough International Airshow 2018.
The flying machine could carry four or five passengers, reach 250mph, and travel for approximately 500 miles without re-charging.
If you’re not familiar with the kit car, it’s a car that comes disassembled in boxes, which you build yourself – much like a piece of IKEA furniture. Perhaps the most popular model is the Caterham Seven.
Though not a kit you’ll make yourself, Mercedes-Benz has recently unveiled a concept vehicle that comes in parts. However, rather than requiring assembly, the Vision Urbanetic concept will come with three modular components, allowing it to take one of two forms.
There is a car chassis and a van chassis, each of which can be attached or unattached to the third part – a wheel base. It’s like a transformer, but rather than a car and a robot, it’s a car and a van. That may seem less exciting, but Mercedes-Benz are confident the self-driving, fully electric concept solves a real issue.
‘The aim of the concept is to transport more people and goods with fewer vehicles on an almost unchanged road infrastructure in order to relieve city centres and, at the same time, meet continuously growing mobility requirements and customer wishes,’ said a spokesperson.
The most recent advances in automotive technology are helping drivers become safer, smarter and more aware of the driving conditions around them, but until autonomous cars become readily available, the onus is still on the owners to respect their vehicles and other drivers on the road.