With the start of a new year, I thought that it would be worth jumping ahead two decades into the future for a glimpse into your vehicular future. 2035 will be the culmination of the most incredible transformative period in the history of the automobile. Spanning the next twenty years, nothing will be the same about the cars we know and love; the only thing that will remain constant will be that we will still feel love for our motorized friends. Technology and the realities of human frailty will cause a convergence of technologies that will culminate in the car of 2035. The question is, when you firmly believed that you would never buy one – when will you actually give in and lay down your hard earned digital currency to have one delivered?
Steel as we know it today will essentially be done. High strength and ultra-high strength steel will be the norm for vehicles of all types where other materials are not used for one reason of another. The extreme strength, weight savings, and economies of scale will help HSS and UHSS take the top spots of the steel food chain. Aluminum and derivative alloys will also be in the mix from cost conscious vehicles through mid-size, with aluminum components throughout a number of chassis as well. The twist will be that all of the aluminum and aluminum derivatives will come from 100% recycled sources; making your Pepsi today your Peugeot tomorrow. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic or the catchy acronym CFRP, will spread far and wide beyond BMW’s “I” series to become commonplace amongst all of the world’s automakers. The grandfatherly pre carbon fiber material will still be around of course, but not merely for the ranks of super cars. Consistent cost reductions will allow many sizes and types of vehicles to be made from the former stuff of dreams.
Although flux-capacitors will still not be available, several interesting choices will propel your ride. Battery power will lead market share if counted as purely electric and plug in hybrid electrics are counted as one group. Ever increasing range coupled with cost reductions make the choice too compelling to ignore for governments, industry, and consumers alike. Fossil fuels will rank second, and let’s be honest – it was a good run. Mostly regulated to range extenders, choices will come in the form of one to six cylinders with the added power boost from several turbo chargers and a huge helping of software to keep the high strung engines running at peak horsepower and fuel efficiency. The only 8/10/12 cylinders you will see will be in the remaining hypercars that have not gone the route of partial or full electrification, of course those in a museum or crossing the auction block. Performance will not suffer however as 150 horsepower per liter will be more than adequate for your needs. Five minute battery pack swaps and perhaps even modular plug and play engine swaps will meet your quick need for speed fixes.
Automated driving will be the greatest leap forward in safety and reducing the number of automotive fatalities in the USA to fewer than 5,000 per year. By 2035 expect that 100% of new vehicles and 80% of all total road vehicles will have everything from automated braking and lane departure to fully automated driving at all speeds. Fully automated driving will be standard equipment and mandated by law for all vehicle classes. Do not get upset by this fact as you will still be able to drive if you want to at any time simply by grabbing the wheel – the difference is that the system will prevent you from swerving into oncoming traffic, rear-ending someone, hitting a pedestrian, wrapping yourself around a pole, or the best part, driving while intoxicated and doing a combination of any or all of the above.
The best part about 2035 is a combination of power and choice. The power of information from the internet and the choice to buy from any outlet you choose form direct from the factory to Amazon delivering the car to your house will bring happiness to the new and used car buying experience. Dealers will have adjusted their practices to remain relevant in the marketplace and will even find themselves thriving in an open and fair landscape. Walking into a dealer you will be free to browse and can be helped at any time by a knowledgeable and friendly hologram, then be approved for a loan on the spot. If you prefer a live human salesperson, they will be available as well of the traditional experience and sell to you only when requested. If you want to use your Apple Pay to buy a car off the internet and have it dropped off at your house which would be great for everyone that loves shopping online already. At first it was strange buying things online, then it was only strange buying expensive things, then it was only clothes, then it was cars – now it can all come to you on your terms.
It may sound like a fantasy for some, and it may sound like a nanny state nightmare for others. There is no denying that the future of the automobile has already begun and will accelerate faster than the transition from your old dumbphone to your new smartphone. You will have more materials and engine choices, more freedom to buy hassle free, more efficiency, and most critically much more safety. These are all good things. Although most would want flying cars or a time traveling DeLorean, the rapid advancement in the evolution of the automobile assures us the one thing we all want most of all – its survival.