Fancy a road trip?

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This week, our team reviews the latest advances in technology on four wheels – and how it’s going to change your weekly shop. You thought driverless cars had been taken off the road? Think again!

FUV – Future Utility Vehicle: Let’s face it; we all know that SUV stands not for ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ but ‘Shopping Utility Vehicle’. Used mainly by cheerful parents for the daily school run and a light shopping trip, they now account for 63% of cars sold in the United States. However, SUVs could be under threat in 2018 as retail moves online and leaves the shopping malls behind. If Amazon brings all your shopping to the house, what else could you do with a nicely designed, rugged, feature-full but slightly useless car? Apple says that within a decade the car will replace your smartphone and do all the errands pretty much by itself. In fact, California’s road authority has just approved a new permit for Apple to test its self-driving cars. An iCar for everyone?

Triathlon stars inspire carsDrivers in the US and UK bought more cars and trucks than ever in 2016, with the appetite for driving strong as ever. Car makers like Kia are keen to provide us with a multi-use vehicle format, fitting around our health and fitness-oriented lifestyles (note that gym membership in the UK has passed nine million). Kia’s new car design ‘Niro’ offers an option to have your vehicle configured as a triathlon coach, bike handler and running companion. Thanks to the soon-coming self-driving option, the car can chug along next to a runner, provide lights in the night and, as it is equipped with a fridge, offer you a cool drink at the end of a grueling training session. It also offers a shower facility to help you get ready for work without wasting time on a home visit. A brainchild of a leading triathlon trainer Skylar Wallace, the Kia design is re-defining the future of the car. Time for a ‘Fitbit on wheels’, people!

Get my laundry will you, BMW? Anyone thinking about using their car as a remote control concierge of the future will be encouraged by the quality of the existing connected-car setup. Testing the cars at New York’s International Auto Salon we discovered that BMW Connected is an app that lets you activate remote honking if your car’s parked nearby – a great little trick in case you forget where the car is parked in a massive parking garage (easily done in the US). In addition, you can activate aircon or heating from the comfort of your own bed in the morning, so when you actually get into the car 20 minutes later, its temperature is just so. Surely picking up your laundry by remote-controlled, self-driving car can’t be that far away?

Go rangers!: Poppy Delevingne (model Cara’s older sister) and comedian Jimmy Carr represented the young and successful at the recent launch of Velar, a new SUV by Range Rover. Millennials aren’t overly keen on conspicuous consumption, and even those with good jobs and a penchant for luxury don’t appreciate having acres of leather in their cars. So they’ll be chuffed to see that the new Range Rover has a seat cover option that is made from suedecloth, created from recycled water bottles and weaved into a soft, environmentally-friendly fabric (watch out vegans: the edges of the seats are still made of wool). But kudos to Range Rover for pushing recycling – watch this space for more environmentally-friendly features being announced soon.

These ARE the cars you’re looking for: If the self-driving car takes care of negotiating the traffic, what’s left for the newly idle ex-driver? Nissan thinks we’d like to play Star Wars and is offering limited edition Rogue One movie-inspired cars (a run of 5,000 only), which come with a special Death Trooper helmet, a logo on the cup holders and a few other fun features for those who’d like to liven up their commute with some action. R2D2 on the bonnet would surely keep you occupied but sadly isn’t included.

Events: For some spring Star Wars shopping therapy, and to check out the modelling skills used in the films, head to the O2 arena for the Star Wars Identities exhibit. It’s not just for kids either, grown up fans of the 40-year-old franchise will enjoy the lovingly designed exhibit and the anniversary souvenirs available at the show.