The Apple iPhone was introduced in 2007; Apple has sold hundreds of millions of them. The eighth iteration was just announced.
And desktop and laptop computers are pretty much obsolete after five years of use.
Technology moves fast. What’s hot today will be dated soon. And today’s consumers hate to be behind the times.
The automotive world is listening. And what they’re hearing is that we want communication and we want to be safe.
Although some prospective buyers will complain about the growing “Nanny State” takeover — including vehicle geo-tracking and the emergence of self-driving cars — there are clear benefits to settings that will parallel park the car for you, warn if you’re going to back into an object, and let you know if you’re drifting out of your lane or approaching an obstacle too quickly.
And though all the safety features in the world aren’t going to create a world without car accidents, vehicles with cutting-edge warning systems will go a long way toward reducing fatal car accidents, which claim the lives of an estimated 1.2 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization.
As lane departure and collision warning systems become more commonplace, analysts expect the number of smaller, low-speed fender benders will plummet, which means car owners will eventually see their insurance rates going down. And since insurers like collecting premiums and not paying claims, it’s a rare win-win.
So, as we await the self-driving systems of the future, here’s a look at some nifty features we’ll have to rely on until we’re all “driving” autonomous vehicles:
- Blind-spot warning alerts drivers if there’s an adjacent vehicle in the danger zone.
- Forward-collision warning provides a visual and/or audible warning to the driver if a crash is imminent. Automatic braking will stop the car if it’s going off.
- Lane-departure warning will let you know if you’re crossing into another lane, though it requires clearly marked lanes.
- Adaptive cruise control basically slots a vehicle into traffic, keeps it a safe distance from other vehicles and even stops and starts automatically.
But the future of driving isn’t just focused on keeping you in your lane and away from other vehicles.
Audi, BMW, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volvo — all members of the Car 2 Car Communication Consortium — are em- bracing vehicle-to-vehicle technology that will allow connected vehicles to share information about driving conditions like weather, speed, sudden braking, accidents and more.
If you already use smartphone navigating apps like Waze or INRIX, it’s a similar concept.
The state-of-the-art technology could lead to a concept called “platooning,” which would allow clusters of vehicles to drive close together and at higher speeds without slowdowns or accidents.
Toyota even has an available comprehensive package called Toyota Safety Sense, which, using radar and cameras, offers drivers forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and automatic high-beam headlights.
Volvo’s new S90’s Pilot Assist and City Safety technology offers similar features. Both will automatically brake, steer and adjust the vehicle’s speed based on sensors surveying surrounding input.
Even Ford’s F150 pickup truck is getting into the game, offering a feature that accounts for towed objects and automated trailering, which lets drivers navigate with a trailer with the turn of a knob.
Kia’s UVO eServices connected car features a parking location reminder — you can remember where your car is parked with an app — remote diagnostics, and 911 connect in the event of an accident.
Via a 12.3-inch touch screen, Audi drivers who have the Virtual Cockpit feature — available as of 2017 — can customize their view using steering-wheel mounted controls. If they punch one button, they’ll have typical instrument clusters for RPM, speed, and basic gauges. If they push another, the screen minimizes the tachometer and speedometer to the corners and pulls up the navigation system using high-res Google Earth images. Toggle again and drivers can see their connected smartphone. Again and a radio pre-set menu surfaces. Lastly, drivers can arrange for a combination of these views in whichever configuration they want.
Remember that iPhone story we started with? Most manufacturers now feature Apple CarPlay, which connects an iPhone to the car’s built-in display, enabling a driver to make calls, send texts and listen to music. Android Auto is similarly widely available, offering non-Apple users compatible usability.
And though some of these features may overwhelm less tech-saavy drivers, the brave new world they’re creating will make the roads safer for everyone.