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Here's How Engineers See the Future of Cars

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What are the most unusual cars you might see on Canadian streets in the future? From three-wheeled "personal vehicles" to walking cars, automotive engineers are dreaming up visions with the potential to thrill drivers of the future. A few of the new designs, however, might be suited better to the test track instead of city streets.

Canada driving autonomous research, hemp-based structures

Blackberry subsidiary QNX makes smart, connected car systems and the University of Waterloo is home to the WatCAR world centre for automotive research. WatCAR is developing a self-driving car called the "Autonomoose," based on a Lincoln MKZ hybrid SUV.

Over 120 companies in Canada are devoted to research and development in automotive tech, including autonomous vehicles, but how close are some of these great ideas to getting on the road? Vancouver-based Electra Meccanica has designed the three-wheeled electric Solo as a personal electric-powered car. Although not yet for sale, prospective owners can take 20 minute test drives in Vancouver and Los Angeles. Electra Meccanica has 64,000 pre-orders for the one-seater, and the first models are expected to appear on Canadian and U.S. streets in 2019.

Another innovative Canadian-made car blends ancient raw materials with 21st century tech: the Kestrel Hemp bio composite electric car. Calgary-based Motive Industries Inc. designed the sub-compact and created a bio composite car body out of industrial hemp. Not only is the Kestrel made out of biodegradable, "carbon neutral" hemp, it has an electric motor and the woven hemp body performed much better than steel in crash tests. The Kestrel got a lot of media attention when it was first unveiled but it's still in the prototype phase.

Are cars the only future transportation options in Canada?

Senior engineers at Hyundai unveiled the Seed prototype four-wheeled combination electric and pedal-powered vehicle at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas. The Seed looks like a four-wheeled bike with a reclining seat. The Seed starts with pedal power and can run about 100 kilometres on battery power. After that, the driver needs to pedal. Hyundai sees its primary market for the Seed in developing countries and the odd-looking vehicle is set for production in early 2020.

If you thought Segways looked a bit odd, the Segway's shorter cousin Loomo has passed its development phase and is on sale for about $2,000. Loomo is a short Segway that adds artificial intelligence and a GoPro-style camera for selfies or action filming. Loomo's AI makes it easier for riders to maintain control, maneuver, and avoid collisions.

Wheels, or legs?

Still in concept, Hyundai has created the Elevate, a four-legged "ultimate mobility vehicle." The Elevate is designed to fold into an auto-sized road-capable wheeled version which can drive on roads. For off-road mobility in extreme conditions, the Elevate's four legs can elevate its cabin and it can "walk" independently over extremely rough terrain or into disaster areas.

Some might see Honda's Autonomous Work Vehicle as a motorized 4WD little red wagon, but the off-road ready vehicle is designed to carry heavy loads of equipment for workers who need to traverse rough terrain, such as wild land firefighters. The Autonomous Work Vehicle is a combination of Honda's ATV and autonomous driving capability.

These unusual new vehicles will probably keep insurance companies busy determining how to provide the right level of insurance coverage.

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