In the cutthroat world of cars, automakers are constantly trying to outdo their competitors. But here’s the problem: Cars have just about always been four wheels, an engine, a steering wheel, and some seats. So how do you differentiate yourself after the basic form and function, safety and emissions regulations, and cost considerations? The simple answer is by cornering the market on new tech.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. For every drive-by-wire system, lightning-fast color touchscreen, ultra-efficient hybrid system, or life-saving safety feature, there are dozens of ideas that never quite took off. Most of these never left the design studio, but more than a few did.
Whether they evolved to perfection and were eventually surpassed or were never quite ready for sale, each of these ideas offers a glimpse into a future that might have been. Looking back through the decades, here are 10 technologies automakers spent time and money trying to perfect but just couldn’t get right.
1. Hydrogen power
In 2014, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota committed to a joint program where the automakers created an infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars in Japan. But despite Honda and Toyota sinking billions into hydrogen technology, no other automaker (including Nissan) has shown any real interest in developing this alternative fuel source. Unless things change very quickly, hydrogen-powered cars still look like an evolutionary dead end.
Next: This tech spent 40 years in development before being abandoned.