By Leigh Howe

2004 is looking good for automotive companies as the industry continues to push new product launches.  The automotive industry will be a major force in this year’s economy.  What is driving life into the automotive industry?  Consumer confidence and the economy are up, but technological advances are also major factors.  The coming innovations and technology are outlined below.

Safety is on first.     Auto safety over the past decade has been about air bags and antilock brakes. However, technologies that compensate for veering, tailgating, and dozing are nearing the showrooms.  The point is to prevent accidents from happening in the first place, not just protect the passengers when there is an accident.

Examples of coming automobile safety technologies:


(Dearborn, MI) 
Video sensors that detect objects in a driver’s blind spot and   trigger warnings during turns2006
(Stuttgart, Germany)
Radar-assisted cruise control that maintains separation from other cars at low speeds (devices
for highway speeds are already in some cars)
DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Honda (Tokyo, Japan), Nissan (Tokyo, Japan)Video sensors that track lane position and warn drivers against drifting into other lanes2007
(Munich, Germany)
Camera that tracks eyelid movements and triggers an alarm to alert drowsy drivers2008
DaimlerChrysler, Ford, GM
(Detroit, MI)
Data flow computer that tracks high-stress driving actions and blocks nonessential information2008

          MIT Technology Review October 2003, “Building a Better Driver” by Peter Dizikes

Fuel-saving features.  Even though the industry seems to be uncertain which technology will eventually win, the Japanese are developing hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles and the Germans are stressing high-mileage diesel engines.   Hydrogen fuel cells, though a longer term play, are also an option for the automotive market.

Advanced electronics.  Electronics have replaced most mechanical systems in cars; however, many technologies have only been available at the luxury-car level.  Now, more and more of the advanced electronic features will be available in midrange-models.  Some examples include the following:

  •  Credit-card style systems will likely replace car keys within the next three years.  These systems are already available in some Cadillacs, Infinitis, and BMWs.
  • Every car will come equipped with a computer-like screen in the dash.  This will embed more GPS systems and provide the ability to add maps and locate hotels and restaurants, among other destinations.
  • Wi-Fi will be enabled in most every car to provide weather, news, and other information.  Gas stations and restaurants will become wireless hot spots.
  • Remote diagnostics will be available to assist in roadside troubleshooting.  Dealers and manufacturers will be able to collect data directly from your car.
  • Voice-activated systems, which are already available in BMWs and Lexus, will be far more common.

Sources and More Information.