Commutes are a nightmare -- but the rush-hour drive of the future could be a dream.
Designers and scientists are thinking up ways to keep commuters safe and happy in their daily travels between home and the workplace. FOXNews.com takes a look at the Top 10 newest gadgets and applications bent on improving that morning commute.
Bicyclists worry about being run off the road by cars, and with good reason: In head-to-head match-ups, cars almost always win. But a pair of designers have a bold idea of how to keep drivers in their lanes — and yes, it involves lasers.
A proposed system called LightLane would clearly mark, in bright red lights, where car lanes end and bike lanes begin, helping keep cyclists safe even at night when reflective devices don't quite cut it.
For commuters who have to choose between breakfast and catching the bus, companies such as TransitTracker keep tags on buses and trains so you can track them online or on your cell phone.
The system follows your ride's actual location — not an estimated schedule — so you know exactly when it will arrive at your station or stop.
Once you're on that train or bus, you can finally get back to what matters most: going back to sleep.
Thanks to an ingenious iPhone application called iNap, the phone's built-in GPS device will track your location (as long as you're above ground) and set off an alarm when you're near your destination — not too soon, not too late, leaving you little excuse to be grumpy when you actually arrive.
And if you're still grumpy, try the popular "Coffee" application, which has been around for a lot longer.
4. Attention Assist
If you drive to work, you may still be stifling your snores. Mercedes-Benz has a plan to manage fatigue, which it says causes 100,000 accidents in America each year.
Its Attention Assist technology reads telltale signals, such as the way you're steering and braking, monitoring your sleepiness and flashing an alert if you seem too tired.
Mercedes is launching the new tool in its 2010 E-Series models, which look pretty good alongside the S-Series. That line already offers a Pre-Safe system that adds a little gusto to your braking and tightens up seat belts when radar tells the car's computers that a crash is imminent.
5. Biomimetic Robot
Your car may be making sure you stay alert, but people still driving around in 1973 Pintos could pose a threat to you on the open road.
Enter Nissan, which is developing a program that will sense obstacles and incoming vehicles, instantly reacting to avert a crash. It uses a laser to give it 360 degrees of protection, modeled on a bumblebee's compound eyes that can see in most directions.
The only problem: The technology hasn't been worked into an auto yet. It remains housed inside a duck-sized robot, so don't get your hopes up unless you already ride a duck to work.
The government is working on similar systems to help avoid accidents. Its IntelliDrive technology plans to allow vehicle-to-vehicle interaction, so that if a car brakes suddenly, it can transmit a signal to cars behind, allowing drivers or computers to brake in time. So now when you start yelling at crummy drivers, your car can yell, too.
Audi is sponsoring technology that lets your car communicate with traffic systems and determine when lights will turn green, allowing you to coast through intersections.
It even calculates the speed you should maintain to get to lights at the right time, which could trick drivers into easing up and achieving better fuel economy.
It doesn't predict actual road traffic, though, so it will probably be most useful to those last few survivors in some dystopian, almost humanless future where traffic lights still rule the earth.
8. Shake It
If you've ever had your commute ruined when your iPod or cell phone runs out of juice, there's not much you can do but kick your phone around, which usually makes things worse.
But now all that misdirected anger could go to a better cause — and your kinetic energy could actually be used to charge your devices.
The technology has been around in self-winding watches and battery-less flashlights for years, but some designers are applying the charge model to music players and other small electronics to great effect.
Somewhere in America, even as you read this piece, you're probably still looking for a parking space.
San Francisco is one of a few cities to try to handle the dreaded parking drought by designing high-tech parking spots that alert you when they're empty. It set up a $23 million pilot program covering 6,000 spaces in the city — a quarter of its metered spots — that can send e-mails or text messages when they become vacant.
In the future, the system might even be able to notify drivers when their meters are about to expire and allow them to pay for more time remotely, presumably extorting massive fees that nonetheless will be much cheaper than a parking ticket.
10. Self-parking cars
If you do find an open spot, you still have to make your way in. Ford has embraced self-parking technology and plans to equip two of its 2010 models with cameras and sensors that let their Lincolns do the work for you.
This parallel-parking helper is already offered in a few cars around the world, but the Lincolns will be the cheapest on the American market to offer the service.