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Future Cities: The Way We Will Live

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Future Cities: The Way We Will Live | Moviestore collection/ Rex Features

How often have you watched some sort of sci-fi programme or film showcasing space age technology and wondered if and when it will be a part of our everyday lives? While the food pills and robotic dogs like those seen in The Jetsons' cartoon utopia of 2062 aren't commonplace yet, nothing is future-proof and a number of pie-in-the-sky inventions not expected to be mainstream for another 100 years are already with us.

So, what does the future hold?

According to Google's chairman Eric Schmidt, we can expect everything to be faster, much more accessible and almost without limits. Every one of us will be connected to each other, with convenience and immediacy the most noticeable changes to our lives.

One innovation that stands out is Google's automated car patent. Effectively, it's the rights to build a driverless car that reads signals from the road and lets the car's computer take complete control at certain points. A whole fleet of autonomous cars are regularly tested by the corporation. Google is not the only company to make significant developments in this area though - from car companies to Europe-wide multi-million euro projects, autonomous cars are a focal point for heavy investment.

Is a driverless car parked just around the corner? It could well be. Self-parking cars emerged in 2003 when Toyota released intelligent park assist on the ever-popular Prius and the innovation can now be ticked on the options box on many new car models.

As early as next year, Mercedes-Benz expects to roll out the new flagship S-Class with a system allowing the driver let go of all the controls and sit there while the car's brain follows the road, navigating corners and even keeping up with traffic up to 25mph. The benefits of this are numerous - it creates safer roads, eliminates driver distraction and could lower the accident rate dramatically.

In fact, the only thing holding back a completely driverless car are laws which are unable to keep up, which New York Times journalist John Markoff comments as being antiquated and stuck in the days of horse drawn carriages.

While there may be an autonomous car sitting on the driveway, what about the houses we could be living in? Of course, our homes will be filled with an ever-expanding gadget inventory from robot hoovers and interactive televisions to super-fast internet connections, but there will also be a relentless pursuit in creating living spaces that are as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. This is something to look forward to, considering it will save the planet and us money.

Technology enabled to turn lights off, the boiler down, close the curtains, and switch off the plug sockets when your phone is charged is expected to be commonplace in less than 20 years. Think of it like the tech list in your car - a sat-nav installed in your dashboard 10 years ago would have been a huge expense that only a few cars featured. Now it is standard equipment for all but the most basic models.

The way our houses are built will change too. Sustainability is key and pioneering new technology will give each home a self-sufficient setup, with ground-source heat pumps and new man-made materials to retain heat and prevent energy loss.

The same logic can be applied not only in residential areas but in the heart of cities with bustling offices and businesses. The revolutionary innovation of 3D printing can be applied here, giving architects the ability to print a scale model of the design they want to achieve there and then, potentially slashing massive planning costs and minimising time constraints. 2D renders on paper will soon be obsolete as computer programs take over. Already, the benefits are clear with new 3D printing allowing architects to incorporate wires and pipes in concrete, cutting down costs and saving space. It sounds like a simple change, but this is a huge step in governing how our future cities will be built.

And what about food and drink? Well, that food pill may not be so far off after all. Many believe that natural, organic food is as finite as oil, so changes must be made for us to survive. Scientists are working on ways to create pills containing the nutritional makeup to give us everything we need to survive. As well as the obvious convenience factor, cheap production could help make real differences in world hunger, providing the nourishment so desperately needed for famine-stricken countries.

Okay, so X-ray specs and production-ready flying cars are a way off, but the chances are that whatever seems like a distant dream today could be a reality tomorrow.

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