10 Best Car Innovations of 2016
Cars are becoming more like giant computers on wheels everyday.
We're not just talking about advancements in driver-less tech, either. Automakers know that cars today have to be smart and easy to use, and that means including innovative features like virtual displays or even drone landing pads.
A lot of these innovations can still only be seen in concept cars, but they offer a glimpse of how companies are working to radically change the car of the future. Scroll down for a closer look.
10. This concept car is loaded with innovative features, but the one we can't stop talking about is its wheels.
The wheels on the BMW Vision Next 100 concept are essentially one with the car, allowing them to make this beautifully sleek movement when the steering wheel is turned. It's a really tiny detail, but it shows a new interesting in rethinking the general design or aesthetic of a car. We just hope changing a flat tire isn't too cumbersome if that ever comes to fruition.
9. OK this one is a little far-fetched, but we would be remiss not to give Toyota some credit for building a car made almost entirely out of wood that can, in fact, drive.
The two-seater is made up of 86 handmade panels that were assembled using a method called 'Okuriari', meaning they were put together using joints instead of nails. It's obviously not street legal since it's made of wood, but it can actually drive.
The car doesn't speak to the future like the other cars on this list, but it does reminisce on the past, which is why Toyota built it. Toyota said it went with wood because as it ages it will bend and darken, symbolizing the passage of time. The dashboard will also count the passing years up to a century. It's a nice reflection of engineering ingenuity that tips its hat to automotive progress.
8. This concept SUV offers a sneak peak of an inevitable future of cars driving around without any mirrors.
Lexus recently leaked a photo of its UX concept SUV, and it shows that the side-view mirrors have been replaced with cameras.
This isn't the first time we've seen a concept car without mirrors, but it's worth paying some extra attention to the feature showing up on a Lexus. Japanese automakers got the OK in June to make and sell mirror-less cars, making it one of the first countries to embrace the technology. Considering Lexus is owned by Japanese automaker Toyota, we're likely to see more of this tech in use going forward.
7. This futuristic, TRON-esque concept car gives a real look at how car interiors are bound to change with advances in autonomous tech.
The interior of the Rolls-Royce Vision 100 concept car showcases the kind of future we want to see when driver-less cars are made readily available. Since there's no need for a driver, the entire interior is a two-seater, silk sofa staring at a beautiful OLED TV screen.
It's encouraging to see automakers experimenting with car interiors, something that hasn't changed much from an aesthetic perspective in several years. Other automakers have experimented with revamped interiors, like front seats that turn to face the rear, but this is one of the more intimate and luxurious interiors we've seen yet.
6. Mercedes' stunning Maybach concept highlights how radical the cabin of the future will look.
Several automakers are experimenting with heads-up displays and transforming the cabin into a more futuristic, sleek cockpit.
The Maybach really takes it to another level, though. It has a bank of digital displays all over the cabin, including the windshield.
It's a concept asking us to bid goodbye to clunky infotainment displays.
5. This concept car's welcome system gives us a hint of what it will look like to live in a future where you share a car, rather than own one.
The concept mini car was built for a future where ride-sharing is common — something you can summon when you need it, but drives other people you may not know otherwise. Naturally, not owning a car means losing a certain amount of personalization with it.
But the Mini Vision can identify who you are and greet you with a personalized light display. The doors then swing open in a sleek fashion so you can hop right in. It's a small innovative feature that shows how automakers are considering ways to make a car still feel like your own even when ride-sharing.
4. How could we not draw attention to this driveable electric car that looks like a straight-up spaceship?
Designers from a shoe company dubbed United Nude spent five years building this eccentric electric car. There aren't any doors, so electric actuators lift the entire body up so you can hop inside. It doesn't lose its bizarre nature once you get inside, either, as it comes with a hexagon-shaped steering wheel.
It only has a range of 31 miles, but it's 31 miles of a super sweet ride.
3. This wild, $2.5 million hydrogen car is entering production.
Italian design house Pininfarina first unveiled the concept car in March, but production models are slated to arrive in 12 to 14 months. Called the H2, the car has a killer acceleration time of 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 186 mph.
Hydrogen cars are interesting because they have perks EVs still don't have, like longer ranges and a faster refuel time. But without a real network of hydrogen stations to support them, hydrogen cars will have a difficult time going mainstream.
Still, the H2 entering production shows some promise for seeing more of these cars in the future, even if just in a limited capacity.
2. This bizarre-looking electric van is designed to work with a drone to optimize package delivery.
Mercedes' Vision Van is part of a $562 million investment over the next five years to create a network of all-electric vans and drones for a rapid delivery service.
The van has a fully automated cargo space that loads packages and alerts the driver when approaching a drop-off location for one of them. It will then push that package through a hatch on the roof so a drone can grab it and fly it to the right location.
It's still unclear when we'll see the van in use, but it's an interesting step for Mercedes to revolutionize the logistics of package delivery.
1. Tesla's latest battery upgrade announcement is such a huge milestone for electric cars that it ranks first on the list.
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, issues holding electric cars back is the range issue. It can be difficult to justify shelling out thousands for a car that can only drive 100 miles or so on a single charge. No one wants to deal with the anxiety of running out of battery and not being near a charging station, as my colleague Matt DeBord experienced.
That's why Tesla CEO Elon Musk's recent announcement about the battery upgrade is such a big deal. The new battery upgrade extends the range of the Model S with Ludicrous mode to 315 miles per charge, making it the first electric car on the market to exceed 300 miles of range. Tesla, as well as other automakers, still have ways to go in the electric car space, but this is a milestone worth remembering.
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