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posted on March 7th, 2018

Cars have come a long way since the first Fords rolled off the assembly line. Every time technology has advanced over the last 100 years, we’ve found a way to incorporate it into our cars.

So with the momentum of progress, how much do we expect cars to change in the coming year? What high-tech features can we expect to see incorporated into more and more car models?

1. Autopilot

Tesla has currently cornered the autopilot market with its self-driving features that come equipped on nearly every Tesla model. But Tesla won’t be alone in this niche market for very long. Self-driving cars are well on their way to becoming standard equipment in a variety of different car models, which seems to be a good thing. Experts have estimated that once self-driving cars become a standard option, they could potentially reduce car accidents by up to 90 percent.

Since most car accidents are caused by human error, if you reduce the human element from driving, you reduce much of the potential for accidents. This could save upwards of 30,000 lives in the United States alone annually.

Cadillac is the latest manufacturer to join the self-driving car craze with their 2018 CT6 Sedan.

2. Heads-up displays

Anyone who’s played a first-person-perspective video game in the last 20 years is familiar with the concept of a heads-up display, or HUD, where pertinent information is displayed in front of your eyes so it can be easily accessed.

In a car, the HUD usually appears on the windshield, bringing information like speed, RPMs, engine temperature, and fuel up from the dashboard so the driver doesn’t need to look down to determine how fast they’re driving.

HUDs have become almost standard equipment in high-end luxury cars like those offered by BMW and Volvo, but they’ve started appearing in Chevrolets, Mazdas, and Minis, too.

In the future, these HUDs may be customizable to include only information pertinent to the driver, or incorporate navigation tools, but for now, they are a great way to help keep your eyes on the road and off the dashboard.

3. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence gets a bad reputation thanks to movies like “Terminator” — where an AI takes over the world and destroys all of humanity — but it can actually be a useful tool to keep drivers safe and will probably be appearing in more models as the software becomes more mainstream.

Tesla’s cars already use a rudimentary collective AI that allows the cars to learn about traffic conditions, road changes, and other obstacles.

If one connected Tesla encounters, say, a roadblock due to construction, it can convey this information to the cloud, where it can be downloaded by other Teslas, allowing the cars to learn how best to avoid the problems.

In spite of his inherent dislike of artificial intelligence, Elon Musk has suggested that, in the future, your car may be intelligent enough to predict your destination before you even tell it where you want to go.

4. Mobile spa visits

Image: SlashGear

If self-driving cars become mainstream, what are you supposed to do during your morning or evening commute? How about a mini spa treatment while you travel? Mercedes has introduced a new “Energizing Comfort” function that provides customized spa treatments for each seat.

Offerings include temperature controls, massaging seats, customizable climate control and even audio and aromatherapy.

These functions can be customized for each seat of the car. If you need some extra energy but your passengers need to relax, you can each experience your own custom spa treatment.

There are even pre-programmed “training” programs that allow you to perform low-impact exercises designed to help you relax — just the thing you need after a long day at the office.

Mercedes is the first manufacturer to offer this sort of in-car spa treatment. But if it catches on, you may find it coming standard in any cars that are equipped with self-driving features.

5. Automatic valet parking

Finding a parking space, especially in a busy or populated area, can be a nightmare.  Self-driving features could potentially change all that. What if all you had to do was hop out at the curb and tell your car to go park itself?

Some places are already working on creating self-parking facilities. These parking lots or garages are overseen by a master program that tells the cars what parking spots are open, where to park, and when to return to pick up their drivers.

Unfortunately, it won’t work with just any car yet. It relies on existing self-driving software to work, so if your car can’t drive itself there’s no way it can park itself.

Once self-driving cars become more common, though, parking will become a breeze even in densely-populated areas.

We’re watching technology change before our eyes and we couldn’t be more excited! What high-tech features are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

Kayla Matthews is a writer who enjoys playing around with the latest travel apps and gadgets. You can find more of Kayla's work on MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, VICE, and ProductivityBytes.com.