Test-Driving New Technology: Is It Time to Upgrade?

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Under-the-hood improvements are exciting, but consumers of today’s cars are more awed by the technological advances! The technology in new cars has slowly been developing and now, if you haven’t looked for a new car in a while, you may be pleasantly surprised to find a multitude of features that will make driving easier and safer.

A dvanced driver-assist systems include such features as automatic parking, automatic emergency braking, navigational guides, 360-degree cameras, video rearview mirror and exit warning to protect cyclists. Imagine your car parking itself while you relax instead of twisting back and forth and wondering if the parallel parking space really is big enough.

Automatic emergency braking systems will keep you from rear-ending the car ahead if you glance away at the wrong moment or the car senses that you need to stop sooner. Up to 20 car manufacturers are committed to making this feature standard on their cars by 2022.

Video cameras are everywhere. They will help you back out of your driveway without a problem; there’s a straight back camera screen and cameras on each side of the car to help you. The front-end and side cameras will make a video recording if you blow the horn.

Other cameras will help you stay in your lane, tell you that you are drifting into another lane or show you a car in your blind spot. Blind spot technology is available in many vehicle lines. A small video camera on each side of the car shows you the traffic approaching in the lane next to you that will keep you from hitting another car, a cyclist or motorcycle. The Genesis, Kia and Hyundai vehicles offer especially easy-to-see displays.

Only General Motors includes teen driver technology on some of their vehicles in Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac models. However, the safeguards are so useful that other manufacturers will undoubtedly begin following suit. The system can notify parents if the teen is driving over a certain speed. Audio will be turned off unless seatbelts are being used. Radio volume limits can be established. There is even a report card to advise parents if safety features such as automated emergency braking or forward collision alert were engaged.

Under convenience and improved service features are electric vehicles that charge faster. A full electric charge can be made in as little as eight and a half to ten hours. Homeowners can charge the car using a 240- or 120-volt outlet. On the road, Tesla has a network of Supercharger charging stations and adaptors for direct current public-charging stations. Electric vehicles are also going further on their charges. The new Tesla will cover up to 353 miles before needing to be recharged.

Over 56 percent of the 720,000 vehicles that were stolen in 2020 were recovered. Much of the credit goes to the assistance and security services included with certain vehicles such as Subaru Starlink, Kia UVO, Hyundai Blue Link and GM OnStar. These diagnostic and concierge services are convenient in themselves but really cool in allowing the call center representatives to track your vehicle’s location during emergencies or in case of theft.

Entertainment features such as Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on most cars. Many cars have entertainment features on their central display that mirror compatible phone apps. USB connectivity is standard on most cars. With your smartphone, you may be able to lock and unlock your car in addition to checking your fuel level and tire pressure. Many vehicles have digital keys to start the car remotely. Some of these apps have a yearly fee, so be sure to ask.

Head-up display, or HUD, is no longer a luxury. It’s standard on many vehicles but now anyone can get this technology with a car and a smartphone. Depending on the model of your car and the device you select, the HUD can be mounted on your dashboard, plugged into a 12-volt outlet and connected to your phone. Different messages such as your speed, navigation directions, phone calls and text messages will all be displayed in your line of sight when you’re looking at the road ahead.

For a really fun super truck, check out the Hummer EV Crab Walk, which has the famous Hummer power and the all-terrain vehicle can walk diagonally like a crab. The Crab Walk promises to help the driver get out of close spaces on the trail. It even has cameras under the body of the truck to show what you’re dealing with. In the city, it could help you park in really tight spaces.
Much of the technology mentioned is available from different vehicle manufacturers, but some is vehicle specific. In other words, a great-sounding feature may not be available on your car of choice. Still, there are a lot of options out there. ■

Sources: autotrader.com, caranddriver.com and kbb.com.