How technology is changing the way you drive

If you thought the future of automotive technology was self-driving cars, you'd only be half right. Over the next few years, the way you interact with your car will change as much as the vehicle itself.

While many luxury cars boast a formidable amount of design and engineering under the bonnet, through the power of modern electronics, you're now able to enjoy a mind-boggling array of high-tech features, literally at our fingertips.

Beyond A to B

When Brendan Michel, BMW Future Mobility Manager, talks about the technology behind modern cars, you can hear the excitement in his voice.

"Driving today is more than just getting you from A to B – it's how you get from A to B," said Mr Michel.

"Features such as RTTI [Real Time Traffic Information], which shows traffic congestion and offers corrections to your trip to save time, are now built into your ConnectedDrive navigation system.

Driving today is more than just getting you from A to B – it's how you get from A to B...

Brendan Michel

Back-up safety plan

Speaking at a recent BMW event, where the king of the models on display was the company's new 5 Series sedan, Mr Michel barely stops for breath as he talks about the tech taking us ever closer to completely autonomous driving.

"With active cruise control you gain automatic stop-and-go functions," said Mr Michel. "You can be in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but you don't have to brake; you don't have to accelerate. The car will keep a set distance from the car in front of you. This also includes emergency braking – if you're about to run into the back of another car, it will slam on the brakes and bring you to a complete stop."

To boldly go...

The seventh generation of the German automaker's most successful business sedan, the new BMW 5 Series is quite a leap into the future of automotive design.

Making each and every trip smooth and undemanding is handled in a number of ways. The car's latest generation iDrive system features gesture and voice control, giving you command of the large 10.1-inch touchscreen with the wave of a hand.

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For the modern executive, the built-in WiFi can handle up to 10 devices, ensuring every screen you use stays connected and up to date.

Invisible touch

Within a matter of years we will begin to see the humble dial and rocker switch in your car dashboard disappear; replaced by literally nothing. Say hello, to ultrahaptics.

By employing ultrasonic waves to stimulate physical sensation, you will soon be able to twist a dial in thin air with your thumb and forefinger, and receive the same tactile response that you would from a solid object.

Forming an active part of BMW's HoloActive Touch system – a concept extension of iDrive that debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show this year – drivers will soon interact with their car in a subtle manner, ensuring their concentration stays on the road.

As unique as you are

Similar to today's smartphones, your future luxury car will offer a unique level of personalisation. When you step into the driver's seat, your car will scan your face and make preset adjustments to everything from the driver's seat and mirrors, to air-conditioning and HUD instruments.

BMW recently announced a partnership with Microsoft, which will see the latter's digital personal assistant, Cortana, integrated into future car models. You will soon be able to ask Cortana to remind you on the day of your wedding anniversary, then search for a florist along your route and make dinner reservations at your spouse's favourite restaurant.

Step aside, Bond

Once the staff of spy movies, Land Rover is currently working on a remote control feature that allows you to drive your SUV from a smartphone. Just use your fingers to select gears up and down, accelerate, brake and steer.

This could be particularly handy if you're backing a cabin cruiser down a boat ramp and need to keep an eye on your angle of approach, or if you simply want to reverse at full speed through a multi-storey carpark while being pursued by enemy agents. Pierce Brosnan, eat your heart out.

From transport to leisure space

Driving, or being driven, in the future will be less about getting from A to B, and more about enjoying an extension of your living space. Even now, many luxury sedans offer the same conveniences of everyday life: like streaming news updates or stock information on a personal HD monitor or video conferencing facilities – all while en route to your destination.

The Mercedes-Benz F 105 concept takes this idea to its logical conclusion, serving as a sophisticated multi-purpose setting, where every surface becomes a viewing screen. Once in autonomous mode, passengers can face centre and enjoy each other's company, or discuss business matters while utilising high-speed connectivity services to operate as if their were in a bricks and mortar office setting.

Take a browse through the gallery above to see what's coming up, or what you can enjoy right now, in the cutting-edge world of luxury vehicles.