Although Star Wars is of course set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, for most of us May the 4th – which has come to be celebrated each year as ‘Star Wars Day’ – brings to mind a futuristic world of spaceships and robots.
But back on Earth, we’re already living ‘in the future’, with smartphones more powerful than the computers that landed man on the moon, and an ever-accelerating trend towards self-driving vehicles.
Here are just a few of the futuristic developments in 2017 motoring that are turning sci-fi into fact.
Androids on the drive
Android – the Google-owned mobile operating system – has been the cause of its own Star Wars controversy in the past during disputes over whether the name infringes on the ‘droid’ trademark from the movies.
But in 2017 the most exciting innovation for automobile enthusiasts is Android Auto, which is built into this year’s models of car from Acura and Audi to Volkswagen and Volvo, and can be added as an aftermarket option to others using a compatible in-car radio.
It allows Android smartphones to connect with the in-car infotainment system, displaying apps and alerts on-screen, with direct control via steering wheel levers.
Holograms at a touch
We’re still a long way from a holographic Princess Leia giving you satnav directions, but BMW’s HoloActive Touch technology unveiled at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is not a bad start.
It uses reflections to create a holographic heads-up display, similar to those projected on to the windscreens of vehicles, but able to appear “in free-floating form” according to BMW.
This in turn allows the driver to interact with the hologram in three dimensions, using futuristic Minority Report-style gestures to control certain of the car’s functions.
Take to the water
The Star Wars landspeeder is usually seen racing through a desert landscape, and the Back to the Future hoverboard famously didn’t work on water, but by the end of 2017 the Kitty Hawk Flyer could have both of those vehicles beaten.
It’s a personal flight vehicle similar to a drone, but with a human pilot; it’s classed as Ultralight under US FAA regulations, which means you don’t need a licence to fly it; and it’s completely legal to use in ‘uncongested’ areas.
That means while you won’t see one of these no-frills hovercars on your morning commute in an urban area, you may very well see one over open water, and the first prototypes unveiled in April 2017 have been designed especially to skim over the surface of lakes.
The next episode?
Automotive technology is advancing at a truly astonishing rate, with more features from consumer electronics in general – like the Android connectivity and holographic control systems mentioned above – finding a place in modern road vehicles.
That doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have a flying car that can make the school run in less than 12 parsecs, but it means with each new year’s cars that hit the roads, a few more of the home comforts we take so much for granted are available to you while you’re at the wheel too.