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Cars of the future: five high-tech changes to come

The Liberty Insurance group has been in business for more than a hundred years, and in that time our people have seen all sorts of automotive technology changes, from the early days of wind-up engines all the way to the self-driving cars of the 21st century.

Thankfully, we’ve also seen major improvements in road safety and the environmental effects of driving, particularly over the last fifty years. And they say the best is yet to come – many experts predict that the next decade will bring faster and more extreme advancements in automotive technology than ever seen before. Here, we take a peek at some of the high-tech changes that our future might hold.

1. Self-Driving Cars

It’s long been the stuff of science fiction but we’re now closer than ever to making self-driving cars a reality. There are still a number of hurdles to cross – not least teaching ‘robot cars’ how to adapt to unpredictable human driving – but experts think that we might soon start to see them appear on our public roads in the form of taxis, delivery vehicles and public transport. They’re likely to be very expensive initially, but companies such as Honda, Mercedes and Google are all pushing ahead with plans for commercially-available AI-driven cars in the near future.

2. Intelligent Headlights

Being dazzled on a dark road might soon become a thing of the past with intelligent headlights. Some versions, like Citroën’s, use a miniature camera in the rear view mirror to dip the car’s headlights when it encounters oncoming traffic, switching back to a main beam when the vehicle passes. Others, like the ones Mercedes-Benz use, adapt their position and luminosity depending on the driving situation. However it’s used, this type of intuitive technology usually entails faster responses than humans are capable of, which is likely to make driving at night more comfortable, and quite possibly safer too.

3. Digital Mirrors

Long considered a basic but essential part of motoring, the humble wing mirror and rear-view mirror are set to be revamped in the years to come. A number of major manufacturers (including Audi) are experimenting with digital or virtual reality versions, which, they say, will offer a better user experience, safer driving and improved views of the road or other road users. Some prototypes use cameras built into the doors, rather than a ‘wing’ that juts out of the car; these offer real benefits for drivers of narrow roads, who regularly find themselves paying for cracked and damaged mirrors.

4. Driver-Monitoring Systems

While we await the technology that’ll take us out of the driving seat altogether, researchers are working on improving our ability to negotiate the roads safely. Tiredness and distraction continue to be among the biggest dangers to drivers, with the Road Safety Authority estimating that driver fatigue is a contributory factor in as many as one in five fatal crashes in Ireland every year. At the moment, cameras can monitor for impaired driving signs and the technology exists to send a warning or switch on additional safety features. We may be able to go a step further in the future, though; experts predict that cars will be programmed to respond to signs of dangerous driving by pulling over to a safe place, or switching to autonomous driving until they’re given the all-clear for a human to take over again.

5. Fuels of the Future

The history of modern motoring began with electricity, then moved to petrol and diesel and now it looks like we’re heading back to electricity again, with McKinsey & Co estimating that there could be more than 70 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030. We’re all aware of the financial and environmental cost of fossil fuels such as diesel and petrol, but the future might be more than just electric. Increasingly, manufacturers are looking at alternative fuel sources, and hydrogen in particular. It’s more environmentally friendly than most other fuels, emitting just oxygen and water as waste products, but its volatility will remain a challenge to overcome.

Car technology moves fast, so it’s important that your insurer does too. Liberty Insurance offers car insurance for the drivers of today, tomorrow and well into the future. Whether you’re driving a petrol Peugeot 208 or an electric Nissan LEAF, we’ll have the right policy for you, ensuring you get peace of mind as well as protection (subject to underwriting T&Cs). Liberty’s #InsuranceExplained makes insurance simpler for the real world, making it easier for you to get the best insurance you can.