Flying cars, at last

Crave's Amanda Kooser is  building a car of the future -- in her imagination. It's powered by hydrogen fuel cells, runs on airless tires and can easily switch into self-driving mode.

The car-of-the-future discussion, of course, is never complete without a flying car, an idea that ranks right up there with hoverboards and jetpacks on futuristic want lists. If you're going to have a flying car, it may as well be beautiful. The AeroMobil 3.0 features a gorgeous swooping design and is currently in testing. This prototype is helping to edge us a little closer to the flying car dream.

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Photo by: AeroMobil

Airless tires roll on

Bridgestone showed off its Air Free concept tire at the 2014 Paris Motor Show. It looks a bit like an overgrown fan, but the design is in line to become the next generation in tire technology. The inside is made up of resin bands, while the outside has a replaceable rubber tread. Research and refinement is ongoing, but these are the tires I want on my future dream car.

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Photo by: Stephen Shankland/CNET

Retro looks, futuristic tech

Designing a car of the future doesn't mean leaving behind the good looks of the past. Renovo Motors' electric coupe takes its handsome appearance from the 1964 Shelby Daytona. The completely electric supercar can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. I would like my personal car of tomorrow to look like a retro gem, but behave like a high-tech beast.

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Photo by: Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Hot! Heat-gathering tires

Since my future dream car is a sporty electric beast, I want it to run for as far as possible between charging stops. One way to make that happen could be with a set of Goodyear's BH03 concept tires. The tires are designed to capture both heat from the sun and heat generated by the tires flexing while the car rolls down the road. The heat energy is converted into electricity that recharges the car's batteries. The tires are just a concept, but this sort of tech is a range-extending dream.

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Photo by: Goodyear

Hydrogen fuel cells for everyone

Toyota has been busy working on its 2016 production hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai. The technology has been a big topic of conversation as a natural next step for powering cars in a way that moves far beyond gasoline. What's lacking is the hydrogen fueling station infrastructure. If these kinds of cars catch on, however, expect the fueling stations options to expand. In the future, we may all be sizing up the price of hydrogen rather than petroleum.

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Photo by: Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Let your car drive itself

Anybody who ever suffered through rush hour on the 405 in the Los Angeles area should be excited about the prospect of a self-driving car. Google's autonomous cars have logged hundreds of thousands of miles of driving time. The hope is to remove human error from the driving equation, making our roads safer and our commutes faster. Considering all the research and development that's gone into self-driving cars, it seems inevitable that the technology will soon be integrated into our future rides.

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Photo by: Google

Volvo offers up its own self-driver

Google may get most of the self-driving car glory, but other groups are working on the tech as well. Volvo modified an S60 into an autonomous vehicle. The company intends to have it on sale by 2017, which isn't far off. What's so interesting about Volvo's take on the concept is that it's extremely low-key. There are no giant devices hanging onto the roof, just small puck-like devices instead. My idea of a future car would have self-driving capabilities without visually distracting add-ons.

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Photo by: Tim Stevens/CNET

Heads-up with the Navdy display

Any future dream car needs to have some sci-fi-style tech. An easy option to go for is the heads-up display. Navdy is offering an aftermarket heads-up display that projects directions, audio information and phone call details right above your dashboard, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. In the future, this sort of display will likely come standard and won't need to be installed later.

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Photo by: Navdy

Biome concept car grown from seed

Sometimes it takes a while for conceptual technology to go from idea to reality. Mercedes-Benz' Biome concept car appeared in 2010 and is quite a doozy. The idea behind the Biome is that it's grown from genetically modified seeds. The exterior seeds grow into a super light "BioFibre" that's harvested and knitted to make the car's shell. It's all very sci-fi and is likely to remain in the concept realm, probably for all-time.

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Photo by: Mercedes-Benz

Every car is connected

The US Department of Transportation has its own ideas of what technology will be found in future cars. It may some day require vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems in new cars. The idea would be to let cars know where others cars are and if a collision is imminent, for example. This sort of tech could make our future roads considerably safer if it was widely adopted.

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Photo by: US Department of Transportation

Nobody knows you like your car

For the most part, you have to boss your car around. You have to move the seat on your own, trigger the trunk to open and adjust the settings once you're inside. A few of these things have been automated on certain car models, like the foot-activated trunk on some Fords, but it's not enough. A dream car of the future should know its driver (or drivers) and politely open the door, set the seat in the right position, adjust the temperature and basically behave like a non-sassy Knight Rider.

This illustration from an Apple patent shows how drivers could one day use an iPhone combined with geofencing features to trigger automatic behaviors (like starting up or locking the doors when you leave) from your car. This is a step in the right direction, but my future car will do all of this while knowing my personal preferences, whether or not I'm carrying an iPhone.

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Photo by: Apple/USPTO
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