One of those milestones that many children look forward to is getting their driver's license. Although the day may yet be years away, many children can't wait to grab the keys, slide behind the wheel, and hit the open road to embrace the freedom that comes with being able to drive yourself anywhere you want to go.

If you've thought much about what it'll be like to drive someday, you might have also given some thought to what you'll be driving. Will it be one of your parents' cars? Or maybe your first car is five, ten, or more years in the future. What will cars be like then?

If you ask just about any adult you know, you'll probably learn that most of them heard we'd have flying cars by now. After all, the cartoons of yesteryear seemed to promise that one day in the not-so-distant future, we'd all be pilots instead of mere drivers.

So what happened to the promise of flying cars? Ever since Glenn Curtiss (sometimes called the father of the flying car) first attempted to invent a flying car with his aluminum Autoplane (it never really flew), many people have tried to get the flying car off the ground.

Unfortunately, flying cars have just never taken off. Will you see them in your day? Would you want to fly a car, or maybe a hovercraft? Maybe not. Maybe you'd rather have all four wheels firmly planted on the ground.

Since we're having fun thinking about cars of the future, let's take a look at some of the technological advances you very well may see in a car in your future. Some of these technologies are already starting to make their way into current cars, while some others may be just ahead on the horizon.

To improve the safety of future vehicles, specialized “pre-safe systems" are being designed to keep occupants safer in the event of collisions. Advanced sensors will be able to determine when a collision is about to occur, thereby triggering a variety of safety features. These systems can slow the engine, prime the brakes, tighten the seatbelts, and ready the airbags for deployment before a driver even has time to react to slam on the brakes!

If your family travels on highways a lot, you may have noticed the driver using cruise control, which keeps the vehicle traveling at a steady speed automatically. You do have to keep an eye out for slower traffic ahead, though. One day that might not be a worry. With adaptive cruise control, radar sensors in the front of the car will detect slower traffic and slow your vehicle to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.

When you do get around to learning to drive, one of the things you'll learn is how to parallel park. This not-so-simple task is often the bane of driver's education. In the future, though, you might not need to worry about it.

Self-parking systems are already starting to show up in modern vehicles. With these systems, you simply find an appropriate spot, position your vehicle next to it, and then use a touchscreen navigation system to tell the vehicle where you want to park. Then take your hands off the wheel and your feet off the pedals and let the vehicle's advanced sensors and computer system do the parking for you!

All of these technological advancements are great, but many drivers will tell you that they don't necessarily protect them from the thing they worry most about: the other drivers. When you learn to drive, you'll soon figure out that you must constantly be on the lookout for the mistakes other drivers often make that can affect your safety.

But what if your vehicle itself could communicate with other vehicles? That's the thought behind a new technology known as V2V — vehicle-to-vehicle communication. V2V vehicles use wireless signals to communicate with each other about such important factors as location, speed, and direction.

For example, suppose you were approaching an intersection, but you didn't realize a car coming from your right or left was about to run a red light and cross into your path. V2V would allow that car to communicate this fact to your car, and your car's advanced safety systems could alert you or even brake for you, thereby avoiding the accident!

Wonder What's Next?

We think you’ll see right through tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!