Consumers in the market for a new car may be surprised by the slew of best technology features in new vehicles today. While some are pricey options or only included in packages, some are incorporated as standard equipment on low-cost or entry-level models.
Most automakers have offered anti-lock braking (ABS), stability and traction control systems as standard or optional technology features for several years. Aside from them, however, here is a brief update on other best technology features in new vehicles:
Backup Camera – While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mulls a proposal to require backup cameras in all new vehicles by 2014, many luxury models already offer the rearview camera as either standard or optional equipment. In essence, the technology allows drivers to avoid hitting pedestrians, animals or objects hidden from view behind the vehicle – and also prevents damage to the vehicle. The technology has progressed from side mirrors that tilt down to beeps and warnings to real-time viewing on navigation screens. Backup cameras can even provide a full, sweeping rear view that assists with backing up to a trailer or parking.
Blind-Spot Detection – This short-range detection system, blind spot detection, also called side assist and collision warning, alerts drivers to cars or objects in the path when driving or parking. usually works when you put on the turn signal if it detects something in the way. How it works: It may flash a light in the mirror, cause the seat or steering wheel to vibrate, or sound an alarm.
Rollover Protection – This technology senses a potential vehicle rollover – such as when you take a corner too fast or have to swerve sharply to avoid hitting another vehicle – applies the brakes and modulates the throttle until the driver can regain control. Automakers call such systems by various names: roll-over protection system, active roll mitigation, roll stability control, proactive roll avoidance, and so on. Whatever it’s called, rollover prevention is tech that matters.
Brake Assist — Different from ABS or electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist technology recognizes when the driver is making a panic stop and automatically applies additional brake pressure to help the driver stop safely. In some systems, it may also work with the vehicle’s stability control system or smart cruise control if it senses an imminent collision.
Sensing Airbags — Occupant-sensing dual-stage airbags sense different sizes and weights, as well as seatbelt usage, abnormal seating position (such as reaching for the radio or bending to retrieve something from the floor), rear-facing child seats and vehicle speed. While the increase in overall number of airbags (some vehicles have 10 or more) is a good thing, especially in a family car, new sensing airbags provide the most up-to-date technology and protection.
Adaptive Cruise Control – Much more advanced technology than what was available just a few years ago, today’s adaptive cruise control does a whole lot more than simply adjust speed. Adaptive cruise control now helps drivers keep a safe distance from cars ahead by adjusting throttle and brakes automatically if there’s a change in traffic speed or someone cuts in front and slows down. If an imminent collision is detected, the system typically brakes hard and tightens seatbelts. When the way is clear, the system automatically returns the car to original cruising speed. Drivers can override the system by tapping on the brakes.
Auto-Reverse Windows – Auto-reversing windows (or ARS) is a new technology that’s standard on many luxury makes – at least on the driver’s window. ARS systems are found on power windows with an express-up function and help avoid injuries by stopping the window’s upward travel if an object is detected. Families with young children may find this feature important. While it may be an extra-cost item or be part of a package, the peace of mind and security ARS offers could well be worth the price.
Night Vision – It’s called different names, depending on the type of system: night vision, adaptive headlights, and so on. But what really matters is that night vision technology, whether it uses infrared headlamps or thermal imaging cameras, helps the driver see further down the road and avoid people, animals, and objects in the vehicle’s path – up to 1,000 feet ahead.
Infotainment Systems and Hand-Held Devices – New vehicles today have to have much more than just a stereo. The latest push is to offer compatibility between the car’s infotainment system and hand-held devices such as MP3 players or mobile phones. Portable device integration is probably best exemplified by Ford’s SYNC system which allows access to Twitter feeds and Internet radio service Pandora.
Steering Wheel-Mounted Audio Controls – One of the hottest new techology features in today’s new cars is steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Eight in 10 owners say they want this technology in their cars.
Satellite Radio and Navigation Systems – A study by J.D. Power and Associates found that 66 percent of vehicle owners have satellite capability in their new vehicle audio system. And 30 percent say they have factory-installed navigation systems.
In-Car DVD Entertainment Systems – A Telematics Research Group study once predicted 22 million worldwide in-car DVD systems. The truth is that factory-installed DVD entertainment systems are a must-have for many families. In-car DVD entertainment systems are found incorporated into navigation systems (although they only play when the vehicle is in Park), and in the rear, there are fold-down overhead monitors (ranging from 6 to 15 inches), front seat headrest monitors (ranging from 4 to 8 inches), and mid-console-mounted DVD players in some large sedans.
Massaging Seats – Beyond lumbar support and multi-position seats, now there’s massaging seats. Who’s aching back can’t benefit from a really good massage while on the road. Mostly offered by luxury carmakers, this technology has a lot of takers.
In addition to the safety tech features already mentioned, there is also hill-start assist, hold braking function, parking guidance, attention assist (a driver drowsiness monitor), and more. As for entertainment, include requisite USB ports, auxiliary power outlets, optional coolers/freezers and cold-water dispensers.