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Future Commute 3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

Article by
Maggie Villiger


I aim for the highway onramp, I click on the adaptive cruise control and relax a little bit as our car maintains the appropriate following distance from the car ahead of us, even as the heavy traffic speeds up and slows down. Michael turns his attention to the stereo. His DJ skills are rewarded when his sister shrieks "Ooooh, I love this song! Mark it!" The song's title is added to our favorites list, but that's not enough. "Mom, can we please buy the album? It's sooooooo good!" I am about to say no, but relent in the name of a peaceful commute. Michael taps the screen a few times, digital files are invisibly directed to our stereo from an online store, and we are the proud owners of music that I would be happy never to hear again. I have to admit the stereo sounds good though, particularly with the active noise control system canceling out the drone of highway travel.

Diagram of heads up display

Head up display systems allow drivers to continue to watch the road while also reading data like speed or warnings

(Click to enlarge)


Rrrrrumble! I jerk the wheel back to the left. All the tunes-related distraction had led me to drift a wee bit out of my lane. Luckily the car's lane assistant had been watching the lines and given me a cyber-rumble strip warning. No harm done. I click on the massage mechanism in my seat, to help me ease out of the adrenaline rush that I just got from the lane assistant. The car starts to slow itself down. Just as I start to say aloud "I wonder what's going on..." a message comes up on the heads up windshield display that there's a traffic slowdown up ahead due to an accident at Exit 15. I appreciate not having to take my eyes off the road to read the display.

And I must admit I love having the smart contact between the road and the car. For some reason just knowing why traffic has slowed down makes jams that much more bearable. I'm a big fan of construction crews beaming out their locations via radio signal, all the better to plan an alternate route. The best is when there's some kind of obstacle or condition around a curve ahead — now I don't have to rely on my eyes to see cars braking (or even worse, not braking) when they approach an icy bridge, for instance. The bridge tells my car to expect icy conditions beyond the bend and my car behaves accordingly.

Rendering of 'angry' and 'sad' autos

Toyota and Sony have developed a car that can express the driver's — and its own feelings. Using eyes (headlamps), eyebrows, mouth (grille), ears (door mirrors) and LEDs, which light up as appropriate. Thie red car is 'angry' — maybe the driver braked sharply or swerved. The blue car is 'sad' — maybe it just got a flat tire. Courtesy Toyota.


When we reach the accident location, the emergency crew is already onsite. I must say, now that cars automatically notify the roadway system when they are disabled, the response time is lightning fast. Unfortunately there's no technology yet to combat rubbernecking. As we inch our way past the accident, I see that one of the cars involved is displaying its 'emotions' with an angry expression.

The LED 'eyebrows' over the headlights are arched and the hood glows red. I take the opportunity to point out the perils of road rage to the kids. "I love to see the cars when they're happy," says Claire. "And they wag their antennas!" It's a little hokey to me, but what the heck, the next generation seems to like it.

3 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

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