6 Automotive Trends to Expect in 2016
2015 is just about ready to come to a close. It may be hard to believe we are at the year’s end, with all the warm weather the Northeast has been experiencing, instead of the ice and snow. So it’s time for a reality check– 2016 is around the corner, and the industry is primed for a year of major innovations. So here are six of the biggest stories and trends to expect in the year to come. More Autonomous Features You kinda knew this was coming, but it goes without saying- we’re getting closer and closer to the fully autonomous car. But before that comes there will be a period of acceptance, and part of that will be adding features here and there that make vehicles semi-autonomous. So first, we'll be getting vehicles that can nearly drive themselves in the right situations. These features will pave the way as local governments determine just how to classify and certify the fully autonomous cars that are sure to come. Ride-Sharing Continuing its Dominance We’ve reported here how ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft and others have surpassed traditional cabs in customer approval ratings. Industries like rentals are going to feel the heat from ride-sharing, as customers realize how much easier it is to get an Uber in a new city than it is to get the rental shuttle from the airport, find parking, and navigate an unfamiliar city. Combine that with expansion into new cities and Lyft's new partnership with international ride-sharing services, and the sky is the limit.
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For decades, gestures in the car meant either a wave or a "one finger salute." But now automakers are banking on gesture recognition technology to make interacting with your car that much easier. Some Volkswagen vehicles already use a sensor in front of the radio to detect when you are bringing your hand up to the dash and activates certain touch-screen features. This is destined to expand to using "swipes" and other gestures to manipulate infotainment systems without actually touching the screen.
Car Sales Level Off
According to Forbes, the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) expects overall car sales to start to decline by 2017. Auto sales have been on the rise in the last several years, but things are destined to cool off. Analysts suspect 2016 will be a record year, but will cool off after that. Experts cite a number of causes, including rising interest rates, falling used car prices, and the fact that buyers are keeping cars longer than ever. NADA expects 17.2 million cars to be sold in the U.S. this year, 17.6 million next year, and a slight drop from there is expected.
Fawning/Fuming over Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto
If you are in the market for a new car, this may become the most noticeable new feature. Carmakers love to push their own options for which they can charge extra, but they can't avoid our love of smartphones, and so an infotainment based around such a familiar interface will be a must-have feature. Some automakers are offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment, while some are trying to offer it for a price. In time, buyers will realize these systems are better than many infotainment systems. Good thing older vehicles can be outfitted in aftermarket head units that are already on sale.
RELATED: Porsche opts for Apple CarPlay over Google's Android Auto over Data Issues
Going Even More Green
The hybrid has become a generally accepted powertrain. Even if it only represents a fraction of the market, people know it and more commonly look at hybrids when shopping for a new car. Fuel cell vehicles will be the new technology to make a push for acceptance in the market, but it will require an expanded infrastructure (hybrids and EVs only need existing gas stations and power outlets, meanwhile hydrogen is mostly only in SoCal).
Even for performance vehicles, the focus on lighter weight, smaller displacement, and turbocharging is going to grow in 2016. Cars like the Ford GT, with its turbocharged V6 rather than a larger V8 should be a harbinger of things to come in the performance realm.
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