Everyone knows about autonomous cars, but it will be a long time before they become mainstream.
Fortunately, there are plenty of other cool tech features that are available right now in higher-end cars that will soon trickle down to mainstream vehicles. Here’s a quick look at cool new features and innovative technologies that will soon be found in every car.
We all know there aren’t enough screens on things, so expect to see touchscreens soon on all car keys. BMW does this with the i8 and 7 Series, where additional information is shown on the key’s display. The key can give you real-time updates on the status of your car and allow you to control some of its functions remotely. Now you don’t have to second guess if you locked the doors or how much gas you have left, because the key can tell you. Additionally, in the i8, the key can display the current charge level of the sports car’s battery and the current range of the vehicle.
It seems like everyone and their kids and grandmas have a tablet or at least a smartphone, and in-car internet would be a huge advantage for families on the go. Owners of General Motors vehicles can buy data plans for their vehicles and use the car’s built-in wifi hotspot to share that internet with passengers in the car, while Ford and Fiat-Chrysler vehicles have a SIM card slot like a cellphone, meaning you can purchase a data plan from whichever mobile provider you want, to broadcast a wifi signal throughout the car.
See Also: What Is In-Car Internet
Car companies are now changing what you’ll be able to do with this wifi connection. The car and devices will become a part of a network, meaning that they can interact with each other. Also, being connected to a network could allow over-the-air updates to a car’s software.
While it’s arguable that gesture controls have been available since Ford introduced the “wave your foot under the bumper to open the trunk” feature, it’s becoming more common to have these gestures inside your vehicle as well. BMW currently offers the new 7 Series with a system that reads gestures so you can control the infotainment and phone call features of the car without taking your eyes off the road to push a button. Making a circle with your finger in the air, for example, will increase or decrease the volume of the radio (depending on which direction) and drivers can answer or dismiss calls with a point of their finger or wave of their hand. Sadly, there’s still no word on whether flipping the bird will honk the horn.
Rather than using information like speed and throttle position to choose the correct gear, cars can now use GPS data to anticipate changes in the road. MINI and Rolls-Royce both feature GPS-aided systems that can determine whether the car is driving up or down an incline. The car feeds that information to the transmission so that can put the car in the right gear before you need it, making for a smoother driving experience.
Traffic Lights Timer
A huge deal in the tech world is something called the Internet of Things (IoT), which is how everyday items will be connected and online. As a result of everything having an internet connection, they’ll be able to interact with each other, which means your car will be able to “talk” to the world around it. Audi has showcased a feature where the car can connect to a city’s traffic grid, and determine how long a traffic light will be on for and automatically turn off and on the engine to save fuel. It can also advise you to stay at a specific speed so you can get the green light without having to slow down or stop, which uses more fuel.
Car = Wallet
While some car owners already see their cars as a huge dump for their money, future cars will be able to spend money for you. Fortunately, it’s not like they’re going online and buying new accessories for itself, rather the car can connect to certain infrastructures or services and pay for you. This could be useful in parking lots, gas pumps, drive-thurs or toll roads, for example, so you don’t have to get out of the car or think about how long your car will be parked in a lot for. Honda, Ford and Visa are all working together and piloting this technology in California and New York. Visa showed off a demonstration at Mobile World Congress where you can pre-pay for gas from inside your car, a useful feature for places with full-service stations.
What if you didn’t need a key at all? Volvo intends to phase out keys totally, allowing you to use your phone to unlock and start the car. Using an app, you can also digitally lend the key to family members or friends, and can revoke their access as well.
Trucking for Noobs
It’s not easy to do truck stuff, especially trailering. Fortunately, new pickups are making things a bit more convenient for new truck drivers. Nissan and Ford both have features that allow you to check your trailer connections instead of having to rely on someone else. For the Nissan, you hold a button on your key and it will cycle through the lights to ensure that your trailer hookups are working correctly. The Ford system allows you to check the lights from inside the vehicle through an app on the dashboard.
Ford also makes moving a trailer easier, with its Pro Trailer Backup assist feature. Using a knob on the dashboard, you can direct your trailer, which isn’t always easy to do manually with your steering wheel.
The Tesla Model S and BMW 7 Series have features that allow your car to drive straight forward or backwards autonomously, with no one in them. These are considered rudimentary valet features, useful on your driveway or tight parking spot for when you don’t want to exit or enter the vehicle in a cramped garage or next to a closely parked vehicle.
Range Rover is also working on a tablet app to help you guide a car through tricky terrain while you’re outside of the vehicle. Being able to see any obstacles is easier from outside the vehicle, and using the tablet app you can direct the vehicle safely through things like off-roading trails.