?koda's "Company car of the future" predicts high-tech, eco-friendly virtual colleague vehicle

If you're into technology, there's a lot to love about Škoda's recent announcement about the future of the company car. If you're a fan of once in a while not having to work, there's a lot to be afraid of. If you're interested in what and how much cars of the future will emit into the atmosphere, then there's a lot missing.

Škoda asked the Centre for Future Studies think tank to envision what a typical company car will look like in 40 years. The Centre came back with the idea of a hyper-connected vehicle that is "eco-friendly" and allows the driver (who will become much more passive in the driver's sear) to get all kinds of work done in the car. Fleet vehicles will be "virtual colleagues" to company car drivers by 2050, is the concept.

You can read the Centre's entire prediction after the jump, but here are the highlights. The driver will have "full interaction" with all sorts of digital devices, from office computers to PDAs. The car itself will communicate with the network and nearby cars to take over most of the driving duties, and will vibrate the steering wheel or the seat to warn the driver of dangerous conditions outside the car.

Even though the Centre tried to envision the "Next Net" version of the Internet, they didn't try to predict what sorts of powertrains will move these high-tech cars. I suppose we'll have to wait to see exactly what "eco-friendly" means in the future. Go ahead and put your hand up though if you think that, in 2050, the hydrogen economy will be 10-20 years away.

[Source: Škoda]

The company car is set to be revolutionised over the next 40 years, according to respected think-tank, Centre for Future Studies. In a report commissioned by Škoda, fleet vehicles are to become a "virtual colleague" to company car drivers by 2050.

The increased robotisation of the car will ultimately hand over control to the vehicle, which will boost road safety and enable motorists to use their travelling time to watch the morning news, video conference or answer emails. Manufacturers will implement haptic systems – a set of technologies from the aerospace industry that add a sense of touch to the man-made interface - to warn of dangerous conditions or even wake up drowsy drivers by vibrating the steering wheel or activating actuators in the driver's seat, much to the relief of fleet managers across the country.

The next generation of the internet, or 'Next Net' will encompass all digital devices, from PC to mobile phone and television, and will include the ability to interact instantaneously with more than one billion web users across the globe.

Next Net will extend the office to the car, enabling the company car driver to have full interaction with the office computer and personal assistant, meaning motorists can do the majority of what is done in the office, in the car. Essentially, vehicles will become a virtual colleague with full communication interaction. Features will include technology that can read out incoming emails to the driver, allow the driver to dictate responses, permit the driver to set up meetings, update 'to-do' lists and write short memos.

Automated highway systems will operate on major commuter routes, creating trains of automatically controlled cars that travel close together at high speed. The agent-based software will also calculate the most cost-effective route for every journey.

However, with technology come perils; it will come as no surprise to many that company car drivers will lose their map reading abilities as dependence on satellite navigation becomes far more widespread.

Commenting on the findings of the study Dr Frank Shaw from the Centre for Future Studies said:

"Škoda is to be applauded for thinking about how we will use vehicles in the future. The most effective car manufacturers spot the trends of tomorrow and start building them into the cars of today.

"The key drivers of change determining the design, manufacture and usage of the car of the future are technology, energy supply and demographics. Technology will make cars safer, cleaner and more intelligent and will also provide alternatives to our oil dependency. The car of the future will be far more of a versatile, eco-friendly, cyber-connected travelling space."

Martin Burke, Head of Business Sales for Škoda, comments: "Clever car design that enhances the vehicle's experience is central to Škoda's current and future success. This report is an important part of helping Škoda engineers to think about how people will use cars in the future and design vehicles that meet those needs.

"This forward thinking is evident in our fourth model, the Roomster, and even more so in our Yeti and Joyster concept cars."

Škoda, one of the world's oldest car companies, has been making cars for over 100 years.

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