Autonomous, self-driving cars like the “Google Car” are still years away (although the Google Car has already logged hundreds of thousands of miles during testing) but in the near term, big changes are just around the corner. There are already cars on the market that can help you avoid accidents, warn you when you’re drifting into another lane, and even park themselves, but what does near future hold in store? For one, many of these features that are now high-priced options will become standard equipment, and even required by law.
Here are three technologies that exist right now and that you could get when you buy your next car:
Stop-Start: This shuts off your engine at a stop lights and turns it back on when you release the brake to save gas. Many hybrids already have this, but with the requirement that new cars and trucks sold in the U.S must average at least 54.5 MPG by 2025, it’s expected that it will be phased in as standard on all models.
Auto-Braking: Enabled by combining radar, lasers and camera info, this feature will stop your car before an impending crash. Systems that already do this will soon become more sophisticated and more affordable. Statistics show that cars already equipped with this feature are involved in 15% less collisions that those without.
More Advanced Cameras: Car cameras will soon be able to read road signs, interpret the colors of traffic lights, and allow the car to automatically steer away from obstacles. Back-up cameras are already familiar fixtures on many cars, and they will be a government mandated requirement by 2015.
And Now...The Danger!
All of the above are wonderful innovations, but they do come with a risk: they are dependent upon computers to work, and computers can be hacked. Experts are already all over this threat, and the people at Symantec (who make Norton anti-virus and security software) are continuing to develop countermeasures to prevent your car from being “taken over.”
Imagine hackers using a version of “ransomware” to take your car hostage. (Ransomware is a computer virus that freezes a user’s computer unless a payment is made.) As far as we know, this hasn’t happened yet, but with some developers rolling out smartphone apps that control some of a car's functions, it’s just a matter of time before scammers take a crack at exploiting them.
how do you protect yourself from such attacks? Well, awareness is the
first step. Auto manufacturers are taking these potential threats very
seriously and working to make their systems more secure, now and into
the future. The government is also addressing the issue, with a recent
Senate hearing being held to explore putting safeguards in place to head
off potential attackers. Plus, you can rest assured that security
software firms will be releasing “auto-protection” software just as soon
as there’s a demand for it.
Of course the ultimate danger that no one is talking about is what I will call “The Terminator Syndrome,” in which cars become self-aware machines. While they might not take over the world, it could be very annoying. For instance, what if you’re car became neurotic and developed an obsessive–compulsive disorder and was constantly taking itself (and you along with it) through the car wash? But, I digress...
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