Congratulations!! You just got that new job or that big promotion at work. Now you have that itch to get something that rewards you for all your hard work, and makes your friends and colleagues jealous. So, you hop in your clunker and go to the dealership to get that new car you've had your eye on. If you’re like most buyers, you focus on horsepower, fuel economy, creature comfort and a host of other options. Here are a few of my favorites. A few of them might make you wonder if you’re on the Jetsons!
Heads-Up Display (HUD)
We’ve all done it! Driving in low visibility or bad weather, when all of a sudden it seems like the other car came out of nowhere. The U.S. Department of Transportation states that on average, nearly 6,000 people are killed and over 445,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year. When I first heard about HUD, I had a vision of Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”, flying around shooting down the bad guys.
Nowadays, a HUD is a great safety feature that shows us everything without taking our focus off the road; from how fast we’re traveling, to upcoming turns from the navigation system. Driving in low visibility conditions can increase driver fatigue and cause unnecessary stress. A HUD can offer a safer drive than most standard navigation systems; keeping your eyes on the road while still giving you visual directions to grandma’s house! I can smell the home-baked cookies from here…
The Pew Research Center reported in 2015 that, 64 percent of American adults owned a smartphone of some kind. There’s a good chance you have a smartphone, considering those statistics. If you own one, you know how important it is in your life to keep in touch with family, friends and even work. Doing it safely and conveniently from your car should be a top priority. If you don’t have a smartphone, trade in that flip-phone and get with the times!
Smartphones offer a lot more than just hands free driving. Users can access apps to navigate the globe, with real-time traffic updates; or listen to your favorite playlist with the help of Siri, or Sync. You don’t need to have the most expensive car in the world to enjoy a more entertaining and safe drive (although that carbon-fiber frame sure looks fast!). Heck, even the ultra-affordable Smart ForTwo has smartphone integration. Some automotive critics claim it may even best the integrations on more expensive vehicles.
Cellular Data Connections
Believe it or not, it’s been almost two decades since General Motors introduced the OnStar system. Press that little blue button in your rearview mirror and start talking to a human operator to help you with almost anything. It even has an automatic crash notification.
In 2014, two companies started using AT&T 4G LTE in their cars to create a Wi-Fi hotspot for everyone in the car to use. Now, you’re always instantly connected to use Google Earth and Google Street for your onboard navigation system. Plus, unruly passengers (err, kids) can stream videos to their iPad or Tablet. The problem is that you have to be located inside or near the car in order to use this feature.
Last year, a new automatic device hit the scene. With Vinli, you can make almost any car made after 1996 a hotspot using a built in 4G LTE connection. Not only does it transform your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot, but you can use the app to track your car remotely and even set up a geofence to know when the car has been driven outside a set perimeter. This is incredibly useful for monitoring teen drivers. No more late-night trips to Pointe Makeout Jessica!
A long drive can mean zoning out behind the wheel. You start to change lanes after looking in the side mirror and you hear someone start honking at you. Someone was in your blind-spot. Sensors around the car keep you safer than ever. According to Freescale, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), radar and camera systems are expected to become government-mandated in the future. This type of system is used by a number of car manufactures to let you know if someone is in your blind spot. It can even let you know if your neighbors’ child just ran behind your car as you’re backing out of the driveway. It’s this type of system that is also found in self-driving cars.
Falling asleep at the wheel used to mean a trip to the ER, a breathalyzer (by your friendly neighborhood LEO) and a rate hike on your auto insurance. Jolting awake in a corn field is an unsettling way to end the drive home. To help take the human-error out of driving, tech-innovators have been pushing the envelope to create a self-driving car.
Autopilot has been around for years, but only on aircraft, right? Believe it or not, autonomous cars date back to the 1920’s and 30’s. But the first truly autonomous cars appeared in the 1980’s starting with Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab 1. And they’re only going to become more common. According to Business Insider, 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020.
Tesla Motors is just one example of a car manufactuerer pushing into the future of self-driving cars. Their new autopilot system (implemented on October 14, 2015) in Tesla’s 7.0 software release, is fully functional in the MODEL S and the new MODEL 3 coming in 2017. Forget hands-free calling. We have now entered the era of hands-free driving!
With all of the innovation in safe technology, it’s no wonder that the roads are becoming safer and our digital lives are becoming more compatible with the drive home. The future of tech in cars is only limited by your imagination!