Automakers are always looking for ways to outfit cars with the latest and greatest. Let’s face it, we’ll buy a vehicle just to get all the coolest new bells and whistles. If you’re on the hunt for impressive, cutting-edge systems that will impress your friends and family, you may want to consider something with at least one of the following features. Just remember, none of these techs replace being aware and responsible as an individual. In other words, don’t use them as a reason to drive distracted or do anything else dangerous.
All Kinds of Automatic Steering
Different automakers have their own fancy terms for it, but automatic steering is starting to filter into production cars. By automatic steering, we’re talking about the car maneuvering to avoid hitting another vehicle, person, etc.
The Lexus LS can be outfitted with Intuitive Pedestrian Detection with Active Steering. As the name suggests, it will steer around a pedestrian who’s in the sedan’s pathway, while also hitting the brakes. It does this without swerving into another lane, which could trigger an accident.
In the Volvo XC60, the City Safety system uses automatic steering can help with not hitting pedestrians, cars, and larger animals. The blind spot information system and oncoming lane mitigation also uses automatic steering, so you don’t hit cars in the next lane over.
Music enthusiasts might want to consider purchasing a Hyundai Elantra GT or Kia Stinger, since both cars can be had with the new Clari-Fi sound system from Harman.
If you’re not an audio enthusiast, you might not be aware the music on your phone is incomplete. The digital compression process can apparently strip away up to 90 percent of the audio details in those files. That means you’re listening to something inferior to the original recording. Putting a turn table in your car isn’t practical, so the next best thing is this tech.
Clari-Fi scans audio files in real time, identifying lost details. Once those are known, the system corrects those deficiencies in the recording, basing it on the file quality and any existing info on the music. The results are impressive.
Cadillac Super Cruise
If you think Tesla is the leader in semi-autonomous driving, you might want to look at Cadillac. Its new Super Cruise system is genuinely impressive, and right now you can only get it on the CT6 flagship sedan.
Super Cruise puts various active safety systems like blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward auto-braking to work for it. To all that, the tech ads a self-steering capability that legitimately allows you as the driver to take your hands completely off the steering wheel, at least under the right conditions. LiDAR-scanned mapping helps make this innovative tech possible.
You can’t exactly take a nap while Super Cruise does all the work. A camera mounted in the steering wheel keeps tabs on the driver’s head position, ensuring you can retake control of driving duties once necessary.
Interior Camera and Mic System
Plenty of modern cars have a backup camera, which is helpful. Honda takes things a step further with the Odyssey. An optional feature called CabinWatch places a camera in the rear seating area. It’s pointed toward the front of the van, and the live feed plays on the infotainment screen. Not only will you see who can’t keep their hands to themselves, you’ll also be able to check on a baby strapped into a rear-facing carrier.
Add to that CabinTalk, which eliminates the need to shout in the Odyssey. Microphones in the front and rear portions of the Odyssey project speech from the driver and passengers through the sound system. Of course, kids wouldn’t use that to shout even louder, never.
Revitalized On the Go
If you’re lucky enough to drive the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, you can benefit from the available Energizing Comfort system. You choose one of six settings, based on your mood: Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort, and Training. Automatically, things in the cabin, like seat heating/cooling, air temperature controls, ambient lighting, the sound system, seat massagers, and the fragrance dispensing system work in unison to create a vibe.
This innovation is great if you feel stressed out by insane traffic, your boss (probably you’re the boss if you own this car), or just life in general. It transforms your S-Class into a nice safe space.
Watch Live TV
Apparently, some people still watch live television these days, instead of just subsisting on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. While being tied to some box sitting in your family room isn’t very high-tech, something being offered in the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is.
Like many other new vehicles, the Navigator is outfitted with a modem, providing mobile WiFi. Your vehicle hotspot of course can work with any streaming service, but Lincoln does one better. If you add the optional rear entertainment system, it can work with a Slingbox streaming device, meaning passengers can watch live television while you’re traveling. Now to figure out why you’d want to do that.
Near Field Communication
Think Bluetooth is the only way to connect your smartphone to your car? Honda and Cadillac both want to change that. If you get a new Accord or the upcoming Caddy XT4 crossover, it can come with a near field communication system — allowing you to your car with ease.
To be clear, this tech itself is actually somewhat old. It’s the thing that allows you to tap your phone to pay for things. Connecting your device to your car involves tapping the phone against a certain badge in the cabin. It eliminates the hassle that can be Bluetooth connectivity, but this feature for now is only available for Android devices. Sorry, Apple fans.
Augmented Reality Owner’s Manual
A growing number of cars don’t have paper owner’s manuals anymore, because you can just read up on things in the infotainment center, freeing up space in the glovebox. Genesis, the luxury spin-off from Hyundai, goes a step further by offering an app for Apple and Android devices that uses augmented reality.
Once in the app, point the phone’s camera lens at any part of the car to read up on how to use it. This takes away your kid’s excuse that they don’t know how to check the oil. There are even some videos in the app to teach you how to use certain features.
Accident Hearing Protection
One thing you probably don’t think about protecting in a crash is your ears, but your hearing can be harmed from the harsh sounds associated with a collision. Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz has zeroed in on this risk.
The Pre-Safe Sound system, which you can get on the E-Class, is kind of like a virtual airbag for your hearing. When the car’s sensors detect an impending crash, the audio system starts playing a “pink noise” tone. The frequency of that tone triggers a natural reflex in your ear canal that will dampen loud noises, essentially cushioning everything in advance. You won’t be walking around hearing a ringing for days after a crash, or worse, which is a huge and often overlooked benefit.
Off-Road Terrain Assistance Mode
If you’re the adventurous type and like to take vehicles off-roading in the mountains, you’ll be able to appreciate the capabilities of the Lexus LX. One of the more innovative trail-oriented features is Crawl Control with Turn Assist. The Crawl Control system acts sort of like off-road cruise control. You set what speed you want to go, with all the options being slow, and the vehicle maintains that speed. That leaves you as the driver free to concentrate on maneuvering the rough terrain.
When you don’t have much space to turn, like on a tight switchback with a sheer drop-off, Turn Assist makes this big SUV turn so tight, you might think it’s a sports car. The system adds brake force to the inside rear wheel, and that’s the trick.
Amazon Alexa in Your Car
Having voice controls in your car sure is handy, but some are better than others. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help, but Toyota is doing one better by being the first to bring Amazon’s Alexa to your vehicle.
Certain 2018 Toyota and Lexus cars and SUVs have this new tech, and more will be using it in 2019. Just call out for Alexa to control anything in the infotainment system, like changing the song track, satellite station, pulling up navigation directions, etc. You also can use Alexa to control smart home devices when you’re away, so if you forgot to turn on the porch light or lock the doors, Alexa has you covered.
Artificial Intelligence Infotainment Systems
While having Alexa in your car is great, Mercedes-Benz has decided to cook up some interesting infotainment tech of its own. The new MBUX interface that launched with the redesigned A-Class but will be coming on other new vehicles we actually get in North America, flexes its muscles with improved voice commands. It’s annoying having to repeat yourself and use rigid sentence structures just to get directions to the nearest Trader Joe’s.
What’s more, MBUX will learn your preferences. Do you call the same contact about the same time every Tuesday? Is there a radio station you always use when driving to the gym? The system will suggest these activities, making your routine that much easier.
Facial Recognition Unlocking and More
While the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz microbus is still in development, this new all-electric vehicle will pack some amazing tech when it debuts in 2022. Among the most impressive items is the on-board artificial intelligence, which uses NVIDIA hardware and software to operate.
That AI will be able to recognize your face as you walk up, unlocking the doors automatically. That puts a stop to thieves replicating smart key signals and driving your car away from the scene of the crime. This tech also watches your eyes to ensure you’re staying alert while driving. It even studies your driving habits intensely, customizing its own autonomous driving skills to match yours more closely, while hopefully not picking up your bad habits.
Aerodynamics have been a factor in vehicle design for decades. But thanks to tightening fuel economy standards, plus the push toward more potent powertrains and the development of better tire tech, faster cars need improved aero for stability. That’s certainly the case with the Ford GT supercar.
The body features flaps that open and close to vary the amount of downforce, plus a deployable wing. That’s not a new innovation, but the fact the wing changes shape and features a tiny gurney flap is something entirely new. Ford claims the design boosts vehicle efficiency by 14 percent, which if true is phenomenal. One thing’s for sure: it looks pretty cool.
Artificial Intelligence Controlled Preferences
Another upcoming vehicle will use AI to customize your experience. The Jaguar I-Pace is set to transform the brand as its first all-electric model. It will use Amazon’s Alexa as well, so you can ask how much range the battery has left, or what’s the best way to get to grandma’s.
More impressive is the Smart Settings AI, which learns your preferences as a driver, and then accommodates those. That includes not only interior settings, but also suspension damping, driving mode, and other performance features. You spend less time fiddling with controls and more time going where you need to be.