The last two decades have seen extraordinary rollouts in auto innovation designed to make getting around easier and safer. And it’s not about to slow down.
Here are some of the geekiest car accessories on the market today:
1. In-Car Wi-Fi Internet Access
Thanks to the invention of in-car Wi-Fi, tedious road trips have become a thing of the past. Passengers can connect their devices to stream music, access enhanced maps and tap into live traffic updates.
In-car Wi-Fi was first introduced by Audi as a built-in, luxury component in 2011. Now, many new cars come with a hotspot option. Drivers can choose a prepaid or ongoing plan, which are priced according to usage.
2. Built-In Car Vacuum
Eating in our cars is a part of life, and with kids, the mess is a given. Thanks to the introduction of the one and only, built-in HondaVAC in 2014, you can now clean your vehicle anywhere you are, without depending on the petrol station.
The vacuum operates while the engine is on and can continue running for up to eight minutes after the engine is switched off.
Through a partnership with the creators of Shop-Vac, Honda outfitted its Odyssey Touring Elite minivan with a vacuum cleaner, three-metre hose, replacement filter, canister bag and nozzle accessories.
With the ability to clean every corner of the van, the vacuum operates while the engine is on and can continue running for up to eight minutes after the engine is switched off. Crumbs don’t stand a chance.
Currently, the Odyssey Touring Elite is the only company with this practical feature. Arguably, it’s only a matter of time before other automakers follow this family-friendly brand.
3. Pop-Up Bonnet
While the invention of the airbag has proven to be valuable as far as reducing passenger injuries during collisions, the mid-2000s brought a whole new consideration to the safety of pedestrians with the invention of the pop-up bonnet.
Developed by Ford researchers, the pop-up bonnet uses sensor technology to lift the car bonnet from the engine when the vehicle collides with something. This creates more room between the bonnet and the engine to absorb the impact, lessening the severity of injury. The RAC Foundation, an international organization dedicated to improving transportation safety, heralds this development as a long overdue improvement for pedestrians, “Pedestrian Safety has been overlooked but Ford’s work is a step in the right direction.”
Ford autos were the first to implement this life-saving technology, followed by its family’s higher-end brands, Volvo, Jaguar and Mazda. Mid-range carmakers Nissan and Hyundai have since followed suit.
Automatic lane keeping cruised onto the market in 2014: a system of cameras and sensors that ‘watch’ the road ahead.
4. Auto Lane Keeping
Many car accidents are the result of human exhaustion causing drivers to weave where they shouldn’t. Fortunately, automatic lane keeping cruised onto the market in 2014: a system of cameras and sensors that ‘watch’ the road ahead and automatically turn a steering wheel to keep your car in its rightful lane.
Debuting in luxury brands Infiniti and Mercedes, this safety development hopes to be an improvement from the lane departure system — a series of vibrations or sounds to notify you — launched by Citroen in 2005.
5. Dashboard Navigation
Where would we be without GPS? Well… lost, for starters. This ingenious gadget accesses the readings of orbiting satellites to figure out your location and then directs you to your destination. And that’s only the beginning.
Even though the very first in-car GPS systems launched as early as 1995 in the luxury Oldsmobile – it was miles away from the capabilities portable GPS devices have today.
Not only can they now be installed in any car, but many feature enhanced maps (3-D in premium models); voice-activated, turn-by-turn directions; automatic reroute for wrong turns; live traffic coverage and lifetime map updates, which allow you keep current on each year’s map changes; and of course all without referencing your phone.
6. Self-Inflating Tyre System
We’re supposed to check our car’s tyres regularly to ensure there’s enough air, but the chore isn’t always top-of-mind. Thankfully, the ‘Halo’ – which helps tyres to self-inflate – rolled out in 2014.
An innovation of engineering company, Aperia, the ‘Halo’ device is bolted into the centre of the wheel. Using an internal sensor, it’s able to detect when the air pressure is low and when it is, an inner pump immediately sends air into the tyre.
Currently, this self-inflating tyre system is only available for commercial trucks. But once accessible to everyone, it will be a saviour for reducing extreme wear and wasted fuel.
If there’s a red light ahead and the car is going too fast, you’ll be sent a message and the car will stop you from crashing into the intersection.
7. Forward Collision Avoidance System
Car accidents happen so quickly. The driver has little time to react. The good news: We now have forward collision avoidance systems to respond for us.
This protective technology, first launched by Honda in 2003, is able to sense other drivers, pedestrians or objects ahead using cameras, laser or radar, then respond accordingly. Actions by forward collision avoidance systems may include prepping the brakes, alerting the driver or applying the brakes.
If a driver chooses not to act on a potential hazard alerted to them by FCAS, the system also has the ability to lower the speed or perform an emergency stop, all autonomously. Richard Robinson, from iSuppli (a corporate technology consultant firm), thinks that in the near future FCAS can help reduce accident risk for drivers, “If there’s a red light ahead and the car is going too fast, you’ll be sent a message and the car will stop you from crashing into the intersection.”
Fully loaded, FCAS are the standard for high-end brands such as Volvo, Acura and Mercedes-Benz. Nonetheless, many mid-range cars like Honda, Toyota and Subaru have increasingly been implementing the feature too.
8. Front Centre Airbag
The life-threatening issue of side-impact collisions and rollovers was given a promising solution in 2011 when GM designed the industry’s first front centre airbag.
This inflatable restraint acts as an energy-absorbing cushion between the driver and front-seat passenger.
This inflatable restraint acts as an energy-absorbing cushion between the driver and front-seat passenger, during driver- and passenger-side crashes. It does this by deploying from beneath the driver seat and situating itself between the front seats, near the centre of the vehicle.
General Motors’ GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse SUVs were among the first to introduce the technology in 2013.
9. Rear-Mounted Radar with Cross-Traffic Technology
Backing out of a parking space is always a bit of a challenge, especially knowing cars can approach out of nowhere. Thankfully, Chrysler proposed a collision-preventing solution in 2009, when it rolled out the Cross Path Detection System — the first rear-positioned radar that could spot approaching cross-traffic. Paired with outer mirror alarm indicators, this watchful technology sounds an alert when it sees a vehicle approaching while you’re backing up.
Ford followed Chrysler’s lead in 2010, with its Cross Traffic Alert system (also with mirror alarms) in mid-range Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans.
Ah, the joys of parallel parking: Finding that rockstar space, then the back-and-forth struggle to get your car into it. Fortunately, luxury car Lexus recognised drivers’ need for a sanity saver by introducing self-parking in 2006.
Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW have since added this fabulous feature, which uses front and rear bumper sensors, bumper-mounted cameras or radar to identify other parked vehicles, the size of the parking space and distance to the curb. The car’s computer then responds by turning the steering wheel to manoeuvre the car into the spot.
The driver still controls the speed of the parking, but the chore is certainly made a whole lot easier.
If you enjoyed this read, check out our article called The Evolution Of Car Safety – Top 10 Features. It discusses how cars have been redesigned over time to improve driver, passenger and pedestrian safety. To find the car insurance that is right for you, be sure to get a quote with Budget Direct.