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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In Minority Report, the Steven Spielberg thriller that opens June 21, Tom Cruise plays a police detective who bombs around Washington, D.C., in a red clamshell-shaped Lexus, tracking down future criminals. The year is 2054, and Precrime, a psychic technology that enables "previsualization," makes it possible to identify and punish killers before they strike. Precrime advocates promise a zero U.S. murder rate within six years. Now picture this: Someone's accused of murdering a person he hasn't yet met.



Solar panel roof. Solar panels have been used to power A/C in hot, parked cars.

Speed-sensitive ride-height adjustment on wheels, plus adaptive springing and damping. Similar technologies employed by BMW, Cadillac, and Mercedes today.

Satellite-based navigation and guidance. Widely available now.

Rear view via closed-circuit TV. Already available in the Infiniti Q45.

Personal computer with Internet link, customized music, news, stock quotes. OnStar system will soon offer most of these features.


Carbon-fiber-reinforced composite body repairs itself after damage. Self-healing composites are in development. Repair job probably won't look like Earl Scheib's best work anytime soon, however.

Fuel cell drives a 670-hp electric motor. Plausible, though breakthroughs in fuel cell or hydrogen storage are required. 670 hp beats that of an Indy car.

Laser-guided cruising. A precursor has been studied in California: Magnetic pins embedded in the road enable cars to cruise at highway speeds while driver writes film script.

Infrared system intervenes to prevent collisions with fixed or moving objects. Certainly possible, but likely a decade away.

Automatic valet system parks vehicle and returns it to owner via remote command. Conceivable. Would hacking yield an automatic theft system?

Controls responsive to voice and gestures. Jaguar and others offer voice recognition. But gestures? Don't give a driver the bird.


Body color changes to suit mood or attire. Distributing color within the composite is no problem; making it variable is not so simple; previsualizing a color to go with your mood and your clothes could be a nightmare.

DNA recognition security system. Remember Gattaca? Mighty costly anytime soon.


Back to the Future, 1985
At 88 mph, Michael J. Fox's DeLorean, equipped with a custom "flux capacitor," created a gateway through time.

Blade Runner, 1982
Harrison Ford's futuristic cop car was inspired by the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of the Navy's Harrier jet, but built around the chassis of a VW Bug.

The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977
James Bond thwarts nuclear Armageddon, again, with a Lotus Esprit doubling as a submarine. A submersible was outfitted with an Esprit's body panels for the stunt.

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6,809 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Future of cars

Future cars

What's coming in electronics

After months of delay, the era of digital radio has finally begun. First, it's coming from the sky. XM Satellite Radio has begun broadcasting its satellite-based digital service nationwide. XM's competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio, is expected to phase in its service in selected regions over the next few months, and be national by late summer or early fall. Both subscription-based services will provide a CD-quality digital signal, coast-to-coast radio reception, and about 100 channels of programming for about $10 (XM) or $13 (Sirius) per month. Special digital-ready radios (starting at about $250) will be needed to receive either service and are gradually entering the market from both automakers and aftermarket car-audio equipment manufacturers.

Perhaps as early as 2003, conventional free radio stations will be shifting to digital signals, which will carry the same programming as their AM or FM frequencies. Again, special radios will be needed to receive these signals. The extra bandwidth of the digital signal may allow stations to send additional data to the car-such as weather, traffic, news, sports, and, yes, advertising-which could be visually displayed on a monitor integrated into the radio.

The car radio is likely to become more linked to the home computer, as more radio models will be able to play MP3 files, a music format typically downloaded from the Internet. For 2002, many aftermarket CD receivers will offer MP3 playback capabilities, with the automakers' systems not far behind. Depending on the radio, MP3 files will be able to be played from CD-R and CD-RW discs recorded on the computer or from solid-state flash-memory modules, such as those used in digital cameras. (Flash memory comes in a variety of incompatible formats, so when considering an MP3 device, make sure it uses the same storage format as the digital camera you may already own.)

Rear-seat entertainment systems are also becoming more widely available, with both aftermarket and automaker systems moving quickly from video tapes to DVD. Vehicle manufacturers are striving to take advantage of the multichannel capabilities of DVDs to provide more precise audio reproduction. BMW is the first automaker to offer a seven-channel audio system (in contrast to conventional four- or five-channel systems). It's available in the new 7-Series. Expect seven channel systems to become mainstream before mid-decade, bringing the same level of audio performance to vehicles that many people currently enjoy in their home-theater systems.

GPS navigation systems are becoming available in lower-priced models, such as the redesigned 2002 Toyota Camry. The 2002 Infiniti Q45 features an advanced three-dimensional onscreen map display and a voice-activation system, which allows the driver to control major audio, climate control, and navigation functions through verbal commands. Still a work in progress, voice-control systems-intended to help a driver keep his or her hands on the wheel and eyes on the road-will likely continue to evolve, allowing the driver to control more functions. Systems that help cancel outside noise are also being developed to improve speech recognition.
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