Automobile technology has come a long way in a very short time. One of the biggest changes has been the transition of the automobile from a mechanical device to a computerized device. Listening to our GPS chatter away is reminiscent of the fascination we had for talking cars in the 1980s. But the GPS was only the start. It seems that every new car model has a sweet feature that we never thought of before – and now can’t imagine living without.
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Just look at what computerized components we have gained in the past decade. And, yes, every one of the following features is currently available:
No more giant key chains or fobs that go “bweetbweet” to unlock our cars. We now just enter a code at an outside keypad and we’re in. Try to lock that inside!
Tire pressure monitors
Kicking the tires or looking for droopy treads is not enough to ensure that your tires are properly inflated, which keeps you safe from blowouts and optimizes your gas mileage. Direct tire- pressure monitoring systems monitor each tire using wireless radio frequencies, analyze the data and keep you informed of your tires’ status.
Blind spot monitors
Remember the old days when you had to look over your shoulder or in a mirror to see if someone was coming up on your side before changing lanes? Now there is the BLIS – Blind Spot Information System – that uses radar detection to warn you when cars are approaching from up to 45 feet away. You get both an audio warning and a visual indicator on both your side mirror and your dash.
MyKey ensures that your teen is driving as safely as possible by allowing you to program such measures as; seat belt reminders that mute the radio until the driver is buckled in, limits that actually prevent the vehicle from going over speeds that you program in, radio volume restrictions set at 44%, and the ability to inactivate safety features such as BLIS and park aid. These are offered as no-cost options on Ford and Lincoln cars. The manufacturers contend that not only do these features keep your teen safer on the road, they also significantly improve gas mileage.
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Colored dash lights
The 2011 Mustang offered seven different colors of interior lighting. But, that just wasn’t enough. The 2012 Mustang offers 125 different hues of “ambient lighting” to create the right mood.
Yup, your car can now park itself with active park assist. Using ultrasonic sensors, it steers right into that city spot for you. You maintain control of the gas pedal and shifter, but your car does the rest.
Honda’s Intelligent Night Vision System uses far infrared cameras to see for you when it’s dark. Now the roads will be safer for those who take evening strolls wearing all-black clothes.
Your iPhone, iPod, and other MP3 players now hook right into your car. MyFord Touch took it one step further and offers voice commands that allow you to make phone calls, send texts, search for local businesses, hook up to the Internet, and get instant news, sports, and weather updates. With 911 assist, the program will call emergency services for you after an accident – even if you are unconscious.
These are but a few of the options already available on current models. What could possibly be on the horizon? Some are the next manifestation of the already incredible features above, while others are brand new innovations in the works.
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You got rid of your keys, but are you having trouble remembering your entry code? Worry not – they’ve got you covered. From entering the car to starting the engine, your fingerprint may be all you need.
Besides communicating with emergency services, your car may also communicate with your insurance company, giving both you and them maintenance reminders. The program will also report on your driving habits so, if you’re a safe driver, your rates could be affected.
Unveiled at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, the in-car health monitoring system would do such things as watch your glucose levels, manage your asthma, and warn you about allergens as you drive.
Now you no longer need to steal Wi-Fi from a neighborhood coffee shop – you will have broadband available right there in your car. BMW and AT&T are partnering up to offer this as soon as next year.
Modeled after tablet computers, your new Cadillac will have natural voice recognition and touch-screen technology that links you to all the information, navigation, and entertainment you can obtain while on the move.
Not particularly an option you’d want on your new car, but something that car companies are battling nonetheless. With more computerized systems plugging into the network, this danger is growing. Manufacturers and software designers are working hard to provide safeguards, as hackers could create havoc by doing such things as randomly applying the brakes or accessing the driver’s private information.
Most of these features are planned for implementation in the next year or so, while some are changing and evolving so fast that there is no telling what the next generation of super-computerized vehicles will look like.