Driving Technology: The Future Is Now

The automobile is undergoing the most sweeping technological changes since it was invented more than a century ago. A bold statement, but true. The gasoline-burning internal combustion engine no longer holds a monopoly as new propulsion systems come to the fore. One of the most exciting is the hydrogen fuel-cell electric drive system that delivers decent range and quick refueling and is pollution-free at the tailpipe. Another is the battery-electric car that can now provide the same acceleration and thrills as any conventional supercar—maybe even more.

“The average new luxury car contains more lines of software code than a jet airplane.”

The other big news is the marriage of the automotive and computer industries. The rule of thumb these days is that the average new luxury car contains more lines of software code than a jet airplane. One important area of innovation is driver assistance technologies such as adaptive cruise control, lane control and crash avoidance systems. They are a big step toward the ultimate ideal of autonomous driving. Google proclaims that the era of completely autonomous driving has arrived, but the auto industry believes drivers will have to remain at least minimally engaged with their vehicles for the foreseeable future.

The greater challenge for automakers, at least for now, is learning how to unleash the full power of the Internet, social media and smart phones in their cars, SUVs and trucks in a way that
does not distract the driver and cause accidents. After years of experimentation, the best methods of doing that are appearing.

Once again, Chief Executive teamed up with Edmunds.com to pick three exciting technologies on the market this year. We also offer a glimpse of what is on the horizon.

William J. Holstein and John O'Dell :