The automotive industry has come a long way since Francois Isaac de Rivaz designed the first internal combustion engine in 1806. Already advances such as power steering, ABS brakes and stability control are standard options on most cars sold today, but what next? We take a look at the next set of industry-changing ideas to be introduced over the next few years.

1) All Wheels Drive

Siemens VDO has developed a system called eCorner (pictured), which integrates steering, shocks, brakes and even drivetrain all directly into the car’s wheels. While it eliminates the need for an engine, changing your rims might become slightly harder than is currently the case. Expect its debut after 2010.

2) Steer-By-Wire

Automakers are already experimenting with systems that detect movement of the steering wheel sending signals to actuators on the steering arms to turn the wheels. This development would remove the need for heavier mechanical parts, however getting the reliability up to scratch might not prove an easy task. Expect it after 2010.

3) Fingerprint Security

Lose your key? Not a problem thanks to your car’s fingerprint scanner, or even facial scanner, uniquely identifying you so that nobody harmful can touch your pride and joy. Expect this nifty piece of technology after 2010 too.

4) Big Brother is Watching

Lexus has recently released a system in their LS460 that watches the driver’s face making sure he or she is continually focussing on the road. If the driver ever looks away and the car detects an oncoming collision, it readies itself for the crash.

5) Hydrogen Power

It’s obvious that crude oil won’t be powering our cars for too much longer, but the question is what will? Most carmakers agree that hydrogen seems to be the future, whether it’s used to power fuel cells or even a proper internal combustion engine. GM and BMW are already testing out mini-fleets with the technology and other makes are set to follow. Expect it to appear anytime between 2010 and 2020.

6) Social Autos

Forget Facebook and MySpace, some developers are looking at implementing a social network between cars that could monitor wheels and brakes to detect dangerous activity and signal surround cars of the upcoming danger. It’s expected around 2010.

Cameras that replace side mirrors, road-sign recognition systems, airbags in bumpers and even electronic/hydraulic valve control systems are also in development, reports Automotive News. Seemingly not too far away, it looks like the industry will be undergoing some major changes fairly soon indeed.