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Automakers are always looking for that next technology, be it big or small, to make their products stand out and get an edge in the marketplace. Here’s a list of the gadgets and advances to watch out for.
Toyota FCV
The Fuel Cell Vehicle
Like an electric car, fuel cell vehicles use electric motors to power their wheels, but use a hydrogen fuel cell in place of a battery. The fuel cell gives them much farther range in a smaller space and allow for quicker refuelling, making FCVs far more practical for everyday use. The only catch is the expense of all that sophisticated fuel cell technology.

The cost hasn’t stopped Toyota or Honda, who have been hard at work to get the technology ready for the average driver. While Honda has been leasing FCVs to select customers for years, Toyota will be the first major automaker to offer one for sale. The Toyota FCV will make its U.S. debut in summer 2015. No official dollar price has been released, but the Japanese price is equivalent to almost $70,000. Toyota predicts the FCV will have a range of about 430 miles, and can be refueled in about 3 minutes.

Self Driving CarsSelf Driving Cars
Do you dream of a world where a robotic car will parallel park itself, apply the brakes, adjust speed, and even help the driver keep from drifting out of their lane? If so, I’ve got good news: cars already offer those features. So it is inevitable that companies are doing their best to make fully autonomous cars which have little need for steering wheels, gear shifts, or pedals.

Google is at the forefront of this technology, having logged over 700,000 miles of human-free driving on real streets. In May of 2014 they revealed their most recent prototype, a car with no steering wheels, pedals, or gear lever - only a button to stop and start the car.

It’s all part of Google’s long term vision of a world where robot taxis can be summoned with a button press to whisk passengers away to their destination.

For those worried about entrusting life and limb to the same technology that brought pop-up ads and former Youtube star Justin Bieber, chew on this: during those 700,000 miles, the computer drivers have not caused a single accident.

Anti-rain headlightsAnti-rain headlights
Turning on headlights in rain or snow can sometimes do more to obfuscate vision than improve it, as the light reflects off the precipitation and back into the driver’s precious eyes. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University may have the solution: lights which actually work to avoid shining on the rain drops.

Next to some on the other items this may not seem as world changing but its notable for the sheer gee-whiz factor. The system combines headlights made from multiple LED lights with cameras and a computer system fast enough to pinpoint thousands of raindrops or snowflakes at once.

Those systems cooperate to identify a raindrop as it falls in front of the headlight, calculate its trajectory, and then turn off the specific set of lights which would otherwise reflect back on the driver. This all happens in a scant 13 milliseconds.

Airless tiresAirless tires
How would you like to never change a flat tire again? If tire makers get their way that may be a possibility for tomorrow’s cars. Bridgestone and Michelin both continue research and development on non-pneumatic (airless) tires, and the neon results look like something off a moon lander. But despite the goofy look, airless tires promise to be far more durable than their air-filled cousins, which after all, are really just glorified balloons.

Not to pop anyone’s balloon but the airless tire is not ready for primetime. Right now the tires are only available on lighter vehicles such as ATVs and slower ones such as construction equipment. However, eventually makers hope to make one suitable for passenger cars. Bridgestone’s latest effort can go up to 40 miles per hour while bearing heavier loads than earlier prototypes.

Self Cleaning paintSelf Cleaning paint
Some people love to wash their cars. To them, it is a ceremony and ritual... an act of love, even. I am not one of those people. So I was gladdened to hear that Nissan is testing a car covered with a special paint called Ultra-Ever Dry, a paint that repels a variety of oil- and water-based goo, leaving it sparkling clean. Nissan is encouraged by the early results, which have pitted the paint against rain, spray, frost, sleet, and standing water. Nissan says the technology likely won’t be standard, but they will offer it as an aftermarket option.

Ultra-Ever dry is hardly the first product which can repel dirt and water but Nissan’s announcement is the most prominent attempt yet to apply the technology to automobiles. As the coating improves, expect more automakers and dealers to embrace the technology as a profitable option. / Issue 183 - September 1227
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