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Ai INNOVATION, SINCE 1895 has looked into its automotive crystal ball and examined industry trends and news reports to come up with 15 innovations we predict will be available in cars sometime in the next 10 years.

“You can find some of these innovations on the market today, and the technology exists to incorporate many of these innovations in the near future,” said Patrick Olsen,’s managing editor. “Cost and consumer demand will help determine whether these innovations become standard, become options for select luxury vehicles — or never make it out of development.”

Cool Stuff That’s Been Talked About in the Automotive Community

Advanced Flexible Fuel Systems

In addition to widely available hydrogen-powered cars and clean diesel cars, envisions a car that could run on all types of fuel interchangeably. You could have one car that could run on gas, diesel, hydrogen, E85 and electric power. Your mileage would increase and you could use whatever fuel was cheapest — or available. Research into hydrogen fuel cells has been in the works for years, and there are already cars that can run on E85 and gas, as well as hybrids that can run on gas and battery power. Now we just need to figure out how to combine all the technologies into one car.

Active Tires

Airless tires would be great, but wouldn’t it be even cooler to have tires made from some sort of synthetic compound that could change to handle different road conditions with the push of a button? One set of tires could take you from summer to winter or, better yet, handle an unexpected rainstorm.

True Autopilot

In some ways, we’re still far from the cars most of us thought we’d be driving by now. True autopilot — where the navigation system guides the car to its destination while the driver sits back and relaxes — is a huge, futuristic step in the right direction. Whether through an extension of GPS or with the aid of magnets in the road, research into this technology is already under way.

Down the Road (Coming in 3-5 years)

Lane Changer Warning
Time frame: Three years

Cars would monitor traffic in adjacent lanes to let the driver know when it’s safe to change lanes. The 2007 Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 already offer similar technology on a limited basis.

Camless Engines
Time frame: Three years

Like the human body, engines demand airflow based on workload. A complex array of tubes, valves and camshafts facilitates this process, but it has nowhere near the flexibility of our lungs. Camless technology bridges the gap, better controlling the amount of air that’s drawn into the engine. The result: More power, less pollution and better mileage. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will likely be one of the first cars to have this gas-saving technology.

Self-Repairing, Self-Cleaning Paint
Time frame: Three years

Imagine paint that can better resist and repair minor scratches and withstand marks from things like greasy fingers and tree sap. Nissan has already developed a topcoat made from an elastic resin that prevents some scratches — unfortunately it only lasts three years.

Navigation Systems With Real-Time Traffic Information
Time frame: Three years

All cars with navigation systems would be able to integrate real-time traffic data in order to alert drivers to road construction issues or traffic snarls while providing alternate routes. Similar systems are already available on handheld devices and in some luxury cars, like the Acura RL and Cadillac CTS.

Self-Parking Cars
Time frame: Four years

Self-parking cars would utilize a system that parks a car with either minimal or no help from the driver. Toyota introduced a system in Japan in which the driver keeps his foot on the brake while the car parallel parks itself. BMW recently created a version the driver can operate from outside the car for squeezing into those tight garage spots.

Electric Window Tinting
Time frame: Five years

Electric window tinting could take windows or a moonroof from clear to tinted to even opaque with the push of a button. Maybach already offers a panoramic glass roof that can be switched from opaque to transparent, but not many of us can afford a Maybach.

Around the Corner (Here now, or within 2 years)

Keyless Entry and Ignition
Time frame: One year

A number of cars already offer keyless entry and ignition, but their use isn’t widespread. Combine that with biotechnology access (like the fingerprint scanners at grocery stores and on some laptop computers) and the key chain is on the road to obsolescence.

Adaptive Brake Lights
Time frame: Two years

Adaptive brake lights get brighter or larger depending on how hard the brake pedal is depressed, telling the driver behind you how quickly you are stopping. Mercedes-Benz has already experimented with adaptive braking on a limited number of U.S. models, but safety regulations prohibit wide implementation.

Computer Center
Time frame: Two years

Computers used for the operation of your car have been around for some time, but this is a master in-dash computer that can manage navigation, phones, email, CDs, a PDA and every other new techno-gadget we come up with. Some Chrysler models are slated to have a system called MyGig with Bluetooth capability and a built-in hard drive that can rip CDs like your home computer.

Collision Mitigation Systems
Time frame: Two years

Already available on the Acura RL, collision mitigation systems prepare the car for an accident when one is deemed unavoidable. Brakes are applied and seat belts are tightened to prevent injury.

Automotive Black Box
Time frame: Two years

Airplanes have the ability to record trip details, so why not cars? An automotive black box could be invaluable in an accident, keep tabs on a new driver, help frequent speeders monitor their miles-per-hour — or it could be a big invasion of privacy. Reports indicate that two-thirds of models built by General Motors and Ford already have data recorders, but accessing the information isn’t easy.

Economy Mode
Time frame: Two years

If drivers can’t change their driving behavior to increase gas mileage, cars may do it for them. In economy mode, a car turns off non-essential systems, turns down the A/C and even engages cruise control to conserve fuel. The 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid features an economy mode that limits A/C use, and several models (such as the Honda Odyssey) can deactivate cylinders depending on driver demand.

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