2009 Volvo C70

Today's luxury cars, like the 2009 Volvo C70, shown in New Delhi, India, in January 2008, boast features that will be found on most cars in the future.

Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

It's virtually tradition in the automotive industry that the features that will be found on the economy cars of tomorrow first appear on the luxury cars of today. To get a peek at what lies in store for the average driver, one merely needs to do a little window shopping at a high-end car dealership.



Although this custom may offend one's egalitarian sensibility, it makes sense from an economic perspective. Emergent technology is usually created on a limited scale, not in mass production. So it follows that because this technology is rare, it should be more expensive. Once it's found on widely produced automobiles, the cost for high-end technology will decrease.

­But for a luxury car to be a luxury car, its features have to stay ahead of the innovative curve. So to get an idea of what lays in store for luxury cars, we have to gaze into the crystal ball that is the concept car. A concept car is one that's not yet in production -- and may never make it there. Instead, concept cars often represent the cutting edge of technology and design. In many cases, the technology found aboard concept cars will be stripped for parts. Some aspects will be discarded; some will be used in mass-produced automobiles. If the concept cars emerging from designers' minds these days are any indication of what "luxury" will mean in 2030, then future car buyers have a lot to look forward to.

So what's on the horizon for the luxury car? Those lucky automotive engineers and designers who get paid to imagine the future have already given us a glimpse. Find out about some contending visions for the future of luxury cars on the next page.