Jam packed with amazing features
Just a few short years ago, the biggest decision facing a new car buyer was the exterior color. Today’s consumer has a lot more to consider. Every major automaker is focused on technology. While safety tech gets most of the attention, those features are there to merely save your bacon (or tofu strip), and not designed for enjoyment.
But technogeeks need not despair. Automakers are developing awesome new features that put the fun back into functional. With nearly half of new car buyers considering In-Vehicle Technology (IVT) in their next purchase, the race is on to woo those consumers.
Head-up displays were originally developed for fighter pilots to feed them vital information without having to look down at their gauges. The same principal applies in cars. I highly recommend this feature—available from most automakers—to help combat distracted driving. In most applications, vital info is projected onto the windshield and can be customized to deliver speed, navigational directions, rpm, traffic warnings, audio selections, and more.
Basic back-up cameras are required in all vehicles manufactured after May 1, 2018. But some carmakers are upping the ante with 360-degree cameras. Using cameras on all four sides of the car, the images are digitally stitched together to create the impression of a bird’s-eye view with the car in the middle and all the surroundings visually represented. It makes parking a snap even in the tightest spots and should keep you from crushing your spouse’s perennial garden.
Speaking of cameras, Cadillac is one-upping the competition with their rear camera mirror. A trick high-definition video monitor is housed in the rearview mirror and, with the flip of a toggle, goes from a standard mirror to a monitor, streaming a wide view image. The advantage is a view unobstructed by passengers, headrests, and body structure, improving the field of vision by up to 300 percent. The rear camera is coated to shed water and dirt so the view remains clear. Once you get accustomed to it, you’ll have trouble going back to old reflective glass. As we go to press, Nissan announced a similar feature on the 2018 Armada.
I recently visited the folks at Harman International in Stamford. While audiophiles will recognize the name for their high-quality sound systems, the company has been a leader in vehicle tech for decades. They introduced the head-up display, turn-by-turn navigation, Google Earth integration, and the first iPod-to-car connector. One of their coolest new features is gesture control, developed for BMW. With a wave or a twirl of your hand, you can turn the volume up or down, answer a phone call, and even program a customized command.
For those drivers who want to record their exploits behind the wheel, or the Ferris Buelleresque shenanigans of the restaurant valet, GM’s Performance Data Recorder captures video, audio, and vehicle telemetry onto a memory card in the glove box. Available on Chevrolet’s Corvette and Camaro and Cadillac’s ATS-V and CTS-V, the PDR was designed for track use, but can be used to record any drive.
The traditional owner’s manual might soon be obsolete. Hyundai’s Genesis brand is using technology to make learning your car fun and highly intuitive. The Genesis Augmented Reality Manual delivers an interactive tour of your car’s features. You simply download an app, and hold your smartphone, or tablet, in front of the area you want to discover. Click on the individual pop-ups to learn more or watch in-depth videos. Areas covered are engine, interior, exterior, and instrument cluster.
In addition to reordering laundry detergent and playing your tunes, you can now communicate with your car using Amazon’s Alexa technology. On certain Ford and Hyundai models, owners can control tasks from the comfort of their home including lock, unlock, check vehicle driving range, engine start and stop, set cabin temperature, and check tire pressure. On the flip side, Ford also enables most Alexa voice commands to be used in the car to play music, add items to you shopping list, navigate, and even preorder your latte at Starbucks.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is reinventing the instrument cluster. While digital gauges are nothing new, Audi allows the driver to fully customize the information displayed on the high-def 12.3-inch screen behind the steering wheel. The Google Earth background for your navigation is particularly gorgeous and allows you to keep your eyes in line with your driving versus glancing to the center of the dash.
A lot of the latest technology is costly, but those on a tight budget shouldn’t feel left out. Toyota’s new Entune 3.0 touchscreen interface is standard equipment across the entire vehicle range and includes BlueTooth, music streaming, and advanced voice recognition.
Lastly, for those who want to add a bit of elegance to their driving experience, Lexus is adding kiriko cut glass trim to the door panels on their new LS luxury sedan. The technology here is in the manufacturing process with lasers recreating the intricate designs. The incredible detail of each piece, and the resulting reflective light is dazzling.
Techno? Tech Yes! Today’s headlights look wild and incorporate new technology to improve your view down the road. Next up? Lasers!