Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA), Ford Motor Company (F), Garmin Ltd. (GRMN): Three Futuristic Car Technologies That Already Exist

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The recent Hyperloop announcement by Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has spurred a lot of conversation about the future of travel. But while Hyperloop technology may be years away, some really cool car technology is already on the road.

The three car technologies under consideration may not be in most cars, yet they’re already making big waves in the auto industry – and they’re paving the way for the car tech of the future.

Robot-driven vehicles

No, we’re not talking about Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s autonomous vehicles – although that’s some amazing tech. Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has it’s own version of driverless vehicles that it currently uses to conduct strenuous road tests. The car company uses robots to drive vehicles through tests that are too intense and time-consuming for humans. The robots help Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) meet vehicle development timelines while protecting human testers at the same time.

Ford Transit robotic testing. Source: Ford.

The robots are used primarily on Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s “Built Ford Tough” durability testing and allow the company to conduct unlimited tests until standards are met – where a human tester may only be able to do one test a day. The robotically driven vehicles steer, accelerate, and brake on their own – and follow specific routes based on GPS navigation. While the vehicles function on their own, an engineer in a control room can stop or course-correct vehicles at any time.

Head-up displays

This technology has technically been in cars since the 1980s – when GM incorporated the idea from fighter jets – but it’s really come into its own lately. While luxury car brands like BMW are committed to head-up display – or HUD – technology, Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ:GRMN) is bringing it to the masses. Last month, the company introduced a portable HUD, an aftermarket head-up display unit that projects navigation, speed, and turn-by-turn lane information onto a windshield or screen.

Garmin Head Up Display unit. Source: Garmin.

The device pairs with a smartphone via Bluetooth and uses the Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ:GRMN) StreetPilot1 or NAVIGON apps for navigation information. But Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ:GRMN)’s HUD unit isn’t the only way for the masses to get their hands on the technology. The 2014 Mazda 3 – which starts at just under $17,000 – will include HUD technology as well. It’s one of the cheapest vehicles to incorporate HUD, showing that the technology is making its way into more inexpensive car models.

Downloadable features

Much like Neo downloading new skills in “The Matrix”, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s Model S can receive vehicle improvements with a simple update to the car’s computer. Rather than having to wait to release new features in redesigned models, the company can simply update current vehicles.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s working on such an update to help drivers plan trips based on how much electricity they’ll use while driving from one destination to another – and suggest where to recharge the battery. The company told CNET back in May that it plans to do updates every two to three months for the Model S – down from about 10 updates when the vehicle first launched.

Tesla Model S. Source: Tesla.

While a car can’t receive limitless upgrades via software – at some point new hardware would need to be added – the Model S is a prime example of the future of upgradable vehicles. Part of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s ability to do this comes from NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA)‘s technology. The Model S uses two of the company’s Tegra Visual Computing Modules for the infotainment and navigation systems. Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) was the first to incorporate NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA)’s system into a vehicle, but with the possibility of updating vehicles on the fly, it’s likely we’ll see more car tech trending toward this type of system.

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