Let’s be honest, not every piece of new technology that arrives in the automotive world is strictly necessary (heated cupholders, anybody?). However, that is also not to say we should dismiss the arrival of all new gadgets with murmurings of how cars were so much better when there were fewer things to go wrong. Take the six features listed below as proof, each of which brings a tangible benefit to the driving or ownership experience, whether it’s related to safety, entertainment, or simply having warm hands.
Ideally here we are talking about the fully integrated systems that project a car’s speed and sat-nav commands directly on to the windscreen, rather than the cheaper alternative where a flimsy looking plastic panel flips up from the top of the dash. The purpose of such a system is to reduce how much time the driver spends looking away from the road – and it really does work. With a head-up display you can have a much clearer idea of how quickly you are travelling at any given time than would ever be possible with traditional dials.
BLIND SPOT MONITORS
One of the few downsides of cars becoming so much safer in recent years is that the driver’s view out has actually deteriorated. For that thank the chunkier bodywork that’s required to house multiple airbags and crash protection structures. Blind spot monitors are one of several driver aids designed to combat this reduced visibility by warning – via a light in the wing mirror – if another vehicle is sitting in the blind spot over your shoulder. The latest systems also incorporate rear cross traffic alert to warn you if a car is about to cross your path when you reverse out of a parking space.
Even cars with excellent visibility can benefit from having a reversing camera. These are mounted on the rear of the car, pointing outwards so as to project an image of what’s behind you on to the infotainment screen. This makes reversing both easier and safer, and is particularly useful when there are low objects behind the car you might not otherwise spot. To avoid the lens becoming spattered with dirt, some systems even hide the camera out of sight when not in use.
AUTONOMOUS EMERGENCY BRAKING
Imagine you’re driving along in slow moving traffic and you look away from the road momentarily to change the radio station. Unbeknownst to you the car ahead has stopped to let somebody out of a parking space and, before you know it, you’ve run into the back of them. The damage is only light, but there are still insurance forms to complete, repairs to organise, and implications for future premiums – and that’s before you even think about any whiplash claims that might arise. By using a camera or radar to monitor the road ahead, low speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) systems can prevent such collisions from happening by automatically applying the brakes if they detect an impact is imminent.
APPLE CARPLAY/ANDROID AUTO
It must be galling for car manufacturers when, having spent millions developing their own infotainment systems to work like smartphones, an outsider comes along and does it better. That though is precisely what you get with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which (unsurprisingly) do a much slicker job of bringing smartphone functionality into a car than any manufacturer-developed system. Key to this are the large icons, simple menu structures and restricted use of certain features when on the move, all of which mean that any function you can carry out is as simple and as intuitive as it would be on the phone itself. Better still, with these systems appearing on an increasingly wide assortment of new cars, you no longer need to spend a fortune speccing a factory fitted sat-nav either.
HEATED STEERING WHEEL
Heated cupholders might be a step too far, but never let it be said that a heated steering wheel isn’t a gadget worth having. Paired with heated seats it is capable of injecting pleasure into even the earliest of starts on a chilly winter morning. Better still, while it might sound like the kind of luxury reserved for high rollers, heated steering wheels can actually be found on a surprisingly wide selection of cars. That includes everything from Land Rovers and Jaguars right through to a Vauxhall Corsa or Kia Picanto. Toasty.
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