Welcome back SF writers, to the fifth episode of the Mad Inventions Series, or M.I.S. for short, a place to generate ideas for your SF stories based on our technological developments. Today we briefly look at cars.
It is customary for Italian people to receive a name and a driving license at birth. Or at least I think that’s the case, considering the fact that any regular family seems to end up with one car per person, along with the amount of driving we do. Sometimes we even drive from the bedroom to the bathroom. Growing up in the middle of Rome, I cannot recall a friend who didn’t have a car (most had a scooter and a car!) or that would have opted for a bus when they could drive there instead – and keep in mind that ‘drive there’ could even mean 100 metres down the road. It was a time when KITT was a perfectly acceptable idea of a hot date.
Most of my British friends give looks of horror and fear whenever we discuss driving in Rome or Naples, but for me it’s half the fun, I guess – you’ve got to have your wits about you, that’s for sure!
Cars have come a long way. The year 1886 is regarded as the birth year of the modern car. In that year, German inventor Karl Benz built the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, though they didn’t become widely available until the early 1900s. Over the course of the century, the development of cars was quite incredible, stretching the limits of cost, shape, size and fuel type.
As space becomes more of a luxury, especially in the cities, and the environment fights back, cars are adapting to our needs. So, let’s look at what areas are in development these days.
Autonomy. We want our future cars to drive themselves. They come in all shape and sizes, and suitable for all sorts of wallets. Granted, quiet country roads seem more likely to begin with, but it does come with pros: if you have been out drinking, you won’t have to worry about driving home; if you are visually impaired, the car can help you move around more comfortably; if you need to travel long distances, the self-driving car will allow you to sleep, work, read, do your nails, etc.. The car’s system is less likely to make a mistake when judging safety distances, or how wide a gap is. This autonomy applies to the car overriding your commands: sensors are being developed which will make the car brake, even if you floor it.
Access to the vehicle. We all grew up with keys; then came the little battery-operated controllers. Next, our cars will go the way our phones are going, thanks to biometric systems: fingerprints or retinal scans will grant you access.
HUD windows. Head-Up Display (HUD) technology will be able to display vibrant images on your windshield. Very handy for directions, decor and movie screenings for your passengers.
Safety. Cars can be shut down remotely, thanks to telematic company OnStar, much to the dismay of car-chase lovers. How will that affect films of the future, I wonder? Health is also a key factor here, as seatbelts and steering wheels that can monitor your vitals are being built so that, if you keel over, the car stops and calls an ambulance.
Fly/drive. In book 1 of my Tijaran Tales series, I introduced my version of the fly-cars. Julius McCoy’s dad owned a car called a Bumble Bee 5000, on account of it looking like a giant bumblebee, from the black-and-yellow stripes to a pair of tiny wings on the roof; moreover, all the BBs models have their own unique paint which smells of honey. Terrafugia has been working on a fly-car of their own for a while. Their latest model, TF-X, has high-powered propellers (think vertical takeoffs), a range of up to 500 miles and speeds of at least 200 miles per hour.
Eco-friendly. Lighter materials, smaller sizes (and some of them are sooo pretty!), unique pieces for the chassis and body, and solar cells that trap energy woven into the material itself. We’re getting there, folks! Even Mercedes has joined the race with BIOME, the car that can be ‘grown’ in a lab, rather than assembled on a production line. You heard me. They’re aiming for a product fully in line with nature: BioFibre. We’ll keep an eye out for this one, for sure.
So, what are we to do with cars and SF writing?
- When was the last time you invented a car and took time to describe it?
- Is there a novel you’re working on where a new car model could be introduced?
- Imagine a scene from your book set inside a futuristic car: now shape the vehicle to suit the scene.
- What mischief could a ‘futuristic car’ get up to?
And stay away from Stephen King’s Christine, ’cause she’s downright evil!