Here's a list of ten high tech features we think should be in just about every car.
Just five or 10 years ago, almost all of the latest high tech items that have made their way into new cars were mere figments of an engineer's imagination.
Today, their efforts have rewarded us with a bevy of cool technologies that make driving more fun, safer and more entertaining. In fact, it's almost a throwback to another era to hop into a car that's just a few years old but lacks any of these technologies.
Certainly, there are some technological innovations that don't exactly float our collective boats here at Leftlane, but our editorial team put our heads together to come up with 10 technologies we have grown to love.
You can't find all of these on every new car, although they are becoming increasingly commonplace. What's around the next corner? Only time will tell, but we bet we're going to see some exciting things at next month's Geneva Motor Show, which is traditionally the world's foremost venue for emerging technologies.
Our ten favorite new tech goodies are listed in no particular order below. What else would you add to our list?
Ten high tech new car features we love
1. Electronic power steering. It was certainly not love at first sight (cough, cough General Motors, cough, cough), but we're starting to warm up to electronic power steering. Cars ranging from the Ford Mustang to a bevy of European models let users adjust steering effort, which means that Grandma can enjoy single-finger turning at parking lot speeds, while enthusiasts get the high-effort feel they want.
2. Bluetooth. Not talking on your phone is undoubtedly the safest way to get from point A to point B, but Bluetooth (theoretically) keeps both hands on the wheel for those who simply must talk. And there's another upside to this wireless technology: Streaming audio. Many new cars let you easily and wirelessly sync your Bluetooth-enabled device so you can play your tunes (or Pandora's tunes) right over the speakers.?'
3. Adaptive cruise control. Radar-based cruise control systems that automatically keeps vehicles a certain distance from other cars the highway have been around for a few years now, but the trickle-down high tech effect means this great feature is more widely available than ever before. Adaptive cruise control makes highway jaunts a far more relaxed affair, but we do fear that autonomous driving could be the next step.
4. App-based infotainment. By relying on ever-changing smartphones for concierge and entertainment apps, a few automakers have made massive strides in the world of infotainment. In-dash interfaces such as Toyota's Entune are brilliantly simple to use because they use apps installed on a phone to provide services like restaurant reservations (OpenTable) and music (IheartRadio or Pandora).
5. Passive entry. Key fobs that never actually need to touch a vehicle seemed like a gimmick when they first arrived about a decade ago, but consumer demand has shaped them into useful tools. The best systems are those that allow owners to simply run their finger or hand across a designated spot on any trunk or door handle to lock or unlock the vehicle. Still, not every automaker gets this technology right; a passive entry key fob should never need to leave a user's pocket or purse.
6. Google Earth and Garmin satellite navigation. Audi and Chrysler have tapped third parties for ultra user-friendly navigation interfaces that should be familiar to most any tech-savvy driver. Audi offers users the choice to view either a computer-generated Google map or overhead satellite views directly on a high-resolution central screen, while Chrysler is scrapping a dated navigation interface for an ultra easy-to-use Garmin software. We especially like Audi's new laptop-like touchpad (pictured above), which lets users spell out commands with their fingers.
7. Smartphone apps. A few automakers now let owners communicate with their vehicles even when they're on a different continent thanks to special smartphone apps. For example, a Chevrolet Volt owner can change the car's charging cycle or unlock the doors right from his or her iPhone or Android device from across the globe. The future implications for this technology are seemingly endless, assuming owners don't lose their phones. Oops!
8. Ambient lighting. Who knew what a difference a couple of LEDs integrated into an overhead console could make? They unobtrusively splash down a warm hue on center consoles. That said, some automakers go a little overboard with color-changing ambient footwell lighting, which reminds us of the tacky neon strips you can buy at AutoZone.?'
9. LED lights. We've driven a few vehicles with LED headlamps and we've discovered that we really like their crisp, bright light. That their use requires a little less drain on a vehicle's already overwhelmed electrical system is an added bonus. We also love razor-sharp LED tail lamps, but we're starting to think that white LED running lamps are getting a bit played-out.?'
10. Direct injection. Spraying fuel directly into a cylinder's combustion chamber not only reduces fuel consumption and emissions by allowing an ultra-lean fuel burn off, it also allows for a notable increase in power. Best of all worlds? We think so. True, direct injection, which was pioneered on the mass market by Mitsubishi in the late 1990s, isn't brand new, but it is rapidly becoming widespread in nearly every new car.