5 Coolest Automotive Technologies from 2022 cool features sell cars, point blank. This has been a known fact by dealerships for years, as 8-tracks were swapped for CD players and the digital dashboard added on a head-up display. But before these technologies are integrated into our cars or the marketplace, they have to be researched, tested, and eventually sold to consumers as worthwhile.
It’s a daunting task for the engineers and developers involved, but the course of automotive history shows that these efforts are not only worthwhile but can be vital. Antilock brakes, electronic stability control, and pedestrian safety-minded design are among features that have advanced passenger safety significantly in the past 30 years. Other technology upgrades are create in the name of fun, upping horsepower, or loosening the reins on traction control. And some technologies are intende to get us out of our traditional box. With the goal of improving transportation as a whole.
Wherever you fall on the technology acceptance spectrum, from purists to early adopters. The constant push by manufacturers toward something new is unlikely to stop anytime soon. From tech we think will make a difference to systems that are just plain fun. Here are five of the coolest technologies from 2022.
We’re beyond the futuristic timelines that said we’d all be flying around in our personal vehicles by the 21st century, but the gap is narrowing between fantasy and reality. As city populations grow and density increases, making adjustments to traditional methods of moving people around will be necessary, aiding pedestrian safety and environmental conservation. Before you write this off as pie-in-the-sky conjecture or urbanist theory, it’s worth noting that manufacturers like Stellantis have readily invested in this sector.
That’s because the technology is nearly ready now, close enough for test flights and demonstrations. And it seems that one subset of these flying vehicles is taking precedence. Known in long form as electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles. In short, we refer to them as eVTOLs, and a few companies are poise to release. These bizarre-looking feats of engineering to the general public.
The physics of these machines is fascinating, using rear wings that can angle airflow into. Vertical flight and then transition to horizontal flight once at a sustainable altitude. Some manufacturers plan to use turbofan propulsion while others stick to an electric propeller style. One manufacturer even markets its model as a personal flying sports car. As the Jetson ONE only seats, well, one, and is meant for speedy maneuvering.
Companies like Lilium and Archer (with help from Stellantis and United Airlines) plan on warring with helicopters, making connections from airports to intercities a breeze. Additionally, the alleged capabilities of these flying vehicles mean that consumers (likely the ultra-rich, at least to begin with) will be able to go that last mile without having to use traditional ground transportation. Though this technology is closer than ever, the true safety and viability of these light aircraft are generally unproven, and set to face the scrutiny of the FAA.
Electric car manufacturing has made strides in the last twenty years. From the rare hybrid to a marketplace full of BEVs, the electrified revolution is here. This shift is largely the result of advanced research and lots of cash invested in the development. Of EVs, for environmental and regulatory reasons. In doing so, the process has been made easier and cheaper than before, meaning startups are now forming aroun converting old-school classics.
Specifically, we’ve seen everything from Ford Broncos and Volkswagen Type 1s to classic Land Rover Defenders and Shelby Cobras. Purists will cry out against the heresy, the injustice of replacing big block V8s and air-cooled four cylinders with electric motors and battery packs. But those who convert are usually doing so to keep their vehicle on the road for years to come, not to offend the internal-combustion lobby. Additionally, the engineering that goes into many of these builds is downright cool, with varying degrees of complexity depending on the chassis.
Companies like UK-based Electrogenic are making it ultra-easy by developing bolt-on powertrain kits for classics, ranging from Defenders to Porsche 911s. Everrati, on the other hand, takes a more luxurious approach by stretching beyond powertrain conversion to full restoration of classic Range Rovers. Kindred Motorworks allows you to choose, giving different powertrain and interior options for its converted American muscle, VW Bus, and Bronco conversions. Whichever way you go, the goal is the same: to keep these aging classics on the road.
We’ll admit that drift modes aren’t new for 2022, having been popularize by the Ford Focus RS in 2016. But the technology has become a sensation within the enthusiast community. It has become so popular that numerous manufacturers are steadily adding it to performance-oriented models.
Audi’s RS3 super sedan wasn’t the only model to get a drift mode this model year. The Volkswagen Golf R, Toyota’s GR Corolla, and even the Kia EV6 GT are all equipped with drift mode, allowing hooliganism from the factory. Senior Editor Mark Vaughn and Senior Associate Editor Wesley Wren had the pleasure of testing some of these systems this year.
“For slightly more fun, you can throw 70% of the available power toward the rear wheels. With some coercion, the tail will slide out, but it’s most happy just attacking corners with a small hint of understeer,” Wren writes of the GR Corolla. Vaughn just recently drove the Kia EV6 GT and enjoyed its drift mode, “which disables all traction control and sends all power and torque to the rear motor.”
How exactly does drift mode work? It depends on the manufacturer, but the commonality is the ability to direct power to the rear wheels. Models like the GR Corolla use mechanical limited-slip differentials and torque splits while the RS3/Golf R employs similar hardware but with a more automated torque vectoring system. Kia’s approach to getting sideways is bake into the car’s powertrain. However it happens, it’s tire-smoking fun.
Self-driving cars don’t seem to be getting any closer, as tech firms shut down and prototype investigations pile up. However, the technology that goes into producing autonomous vehicles can still be useful, even if the steering wheel and pedals remain. Specifically, LiDAR is an important piece of tech, best used in tandem with radar and cameras.
LiDAR is an abbreviation of Light Detection and Ranging and it works by using light. In the form of a pulsed laser to measure the range ahead. In automotive terms, LiDAR helps create a geothermal picture of what is ahead, something that is especially helpful when testing autonomous vehicles. However, as traffic fatalities have risen this year, it’s set to become an important tool for modern vehicles using advance driver assistance systems. In tandem with cameras, LiDAR can help prevent accidents by engaging automated braking systems significantly earlier than a radar-based system could.
One company, Luminar, is set on reducing traffic fatalities by 100 million lives. Over the next 100 years, working with Volvo and Polestar. That’s a lofty goal, one that even I won’t be around to see. The system itself is all new, built up over 10 years, and works together. With a computing core in Volvo and Polestar’s newest EV SUVs.
“Now that you can have dramatically greater safety on the vehicle, not just in autonomous mode. But all the time, there’s that opportunity for consumers. To really go out and say, ‘Hey, we need this on our cars!’,” explained. Luminar CEO Austin Russell in an interview with Autoweek. “We should be valuing our lives, we should be making this difference, we should see this democratized. Not just as a select technology on high-end vehicles, but on every vehicle.”
Ultimately, Russell doesn’t want to replace the driver, but rather add technology. Instead of making the driver redundant, like Tesla and GM’s Level 2 systems do. ADAS should be acting to fix driver mistakes proactively. Luminar’s systems aim to do just that, while saving the driver time and effort when the situation is appropriate. It’ll be a waiting game to see how these goals pan out, but the driver-centered. Mission of Luminar and other companies like Innoviz seems to be a step in the right direction.
Electric/Hydrogen Big Rigs
Whatever you choose to call them—big rigs, 18-wheelers, semitrucks, or tractor-trailers—these. Commercial beasts are the backbone of America’s supply network. After receiving freight at ports or airstrips, these trucks deliver goods to their final destination. As such, you can’t spend more than a few minutes on one of our sprawling interstate highways without. Seeing a truck and a logo-painted box, usually cruising at exactly the speed limit in the right lane.
And while we undeniably have to thank these drivers and delivery networks for most. Products that we buy, the industry itself is a bit of a dirty one. Medium and heavy-duty vehicles account for 26% of all transportation greenhouse-gas emissions. In the US (though light-duty passenger vehicles account for 57%), according to the EPA. In the realm of passenger vehicles, automakers have identified EVs as the impending solution to emissions.
Progress is also being made on the commercial side of things, as Senior Associate Editor Wesley Wren. Got to explore this year. Toyota is one of the manufacturers set on cleaning up the trucking industry with new technology. Using hydrogen as its main power source, Toyota’s concept truck looks. Like any other but underneath lies a totally new powertrain.
“This once-diesel-burning Kenworth rig has had its oil-burning engine and most of its supporting structure removed. Behind the cab, the team at Toyota fit six hydrogen fuel cells,” Wren writes. “These cells feed the fuel stack that generates electricity for the electric motors. The power travels through a four-speed automated-manual transmission of undisclosed origin before traveling to the drive axle at the rear.”
Toyota isn’t the only traditional automaker getting in on the cleanup. Hyundai is also building hydrogen-powered big rigs in partnership with a local California Air Quality District. Mercedes-Daimler has also started production of its battery-electric eCascadia truck, partially in response to California’s stringent trucking regulations.