Over the past year or so, much better compact cameras and cheap microprocessors from China have made drones available for as little as €500. Basically you could film your own drift video using spare tire money.
Most drones need a very skilled pilot and hours of maintenance to keep them in the air. However, a company called Helico Aerospace Industries recently launched a Kickstarter project called AirDog. It's basically a drone that follows you around everywhere you go. They designed it for sportsmen, but the possibilities are actually limitless.
If they ca do it on a Kickstarter budget, than surely BMW or Ford can afford to make something mind-blowing. Just imagine yourself carving corners on a winding mountain road or drifting down mount Fuji, all the time filmed by your personal eye in the sky. It would be like a real-life Need for Speed.
2. Programable Modes Right now, my phone has 3 different apps just to take photos, one that works like a magnifying glass and another that makes time lapse videos by doing one shot every few seconds for hours and stitching them all together. The point is, you can't just have one driving mode for the car, and maybe these could be developed in an open source environment, since transmissions and engines are often shared between companies.
You could buy apps for the drivetrain or the infotainment system that get updates and bug fixes over the internet. Just to give you a personal, real-world example of how this might work, the gearbox in my car isn't great around town, where it selects the highest possible cog to give me good fuel economy. The downside is, I don't feel in total control as it coasts. It also has trouble climbing the curb and reversing slowly. If I could buy a $5 app called ParKurb that can figure out better revs and clutch movements, I would in a heartbeat.
We live in a consumer society where constantly buying new, cheap things gives many people a sense of satisfaction. Think of iTunes and how it basically saved the music industry. Nobody wants to spend $30 on an album at the record story any more, but ¢99 for a song download seems to be perfect.
3. Valet Mode Professing the arrival of a self-driving car is like telling people Wikipedia will replace conventional libraries. From Google to Mercedes, Audi to Apple and Ford to Lexus, everybody wants to make one. And they will… with time.
Personally, giving up the steering wheel is not something I look forward to. Already, the numb sensation of most new cars drives me crazy. But there are occasions where you're… incapacitated after having too much fun and require a taxi. Wouldn't it be nice to have a valet mode that gently and safely delivers you to your home in the lap of personal luxury?
Just like my phone knows when I'm looking at the screen and where my face is, the car of the future should be able to open the door for me or to pop the trunk when I have bags in my hand. I know there are systems for that already, but they're embarrassing to use and balancing on one foot with heavy luggage in hand can be tricky.
And what about searching 30 minutes for a parking spot? That is not fun at all and can't even be called driving. I'll allow a computer to do that for me any day of the week. And wouldn't it be great if you could set an alarm for the car to come and pick you up wherever you are after… say 2 hours? Of course it would!
4. Active Aerodynamics It's a buzzword among supercar enthusiasts, but unless you can afford a Bugatti Veyron or Pagani Huayra, there's no way to experience it. Cars traveling at regular road speeds don't need pop-up wings and spoilers. However, active aerodynamics are so cool they simply needed to be on this list.
5. Self-Cleaning Paint Ever since Nissan announced it was working on a special paint finish that repels dirt, we've been talking about it every week at the office. Everybody here agrees this needs to be put into production, not 10 years into the future, but right now.
Visits to the car wash eat up too much time. There's also the environmental aspect of the chemicals and the wasted water to consider. Even if you could only get self-cleaning paint in white and it has orange peal finish, it would still be perfect for company cars, buses, trucks and all sorts of commercial vehicles.
6. Bolt-On "Accessories" I've looked at enough skinny tires and 3-cylinder engines to know we're never going to have flying cars for the masses. There simply isn't a reason for such outlandish technology, at least not as long as we use electricity or gasoline to get about. But our cars could do so much more if we could figure out ways to make bolt-on parts for them.
I'm not talking about brightly colored plastic inserts for your dash and chrome tips, but about something much better. You know how there are a million accessories for a professional DSLR camera? Well, wouldn't it be great if you could drive your Prius into a special dock that turns it into a convertible or better yet, one of those ecranoplanes that can fly just meters above the water for short distances. Places like the Mediterranean coast and the Indonesian archipelago are made up of thousands of islands, most of which are not inhabited because regular people can't access them.
Already, we're seeing signs of "lateral thinking" from Nissan and Toyota, who after the 2011 earthquake in Japan decided to find ways of powering homes using hybrid batteries.
7. Self Servicing, Self Repair Another key area where owning a car could be made easier is in the servicing department. Everybody puts up with the yearly visits to the local auto shop. But this is the 21st century, people. Couldn't fixing your car be as easy as installing an antivirus program?
Mechanical problems would be self-diagnosed by the on-board systems and sent out via internet connection. Robots could then bring the spare parts and make repairs while you're at work or sleeping, without the car ever having to leave your driveway. Tesla has already wowed us by doing updates wirelessly on the Model S and there are car companies that pick up and return vehicles after the repairs, so it's doable.