Orlando, Florida – The American Automobile Association (AAA) has named its top picks for new vehicle technology, with several “green” items making the list. The motor club releases a biennial list of its top technology contenders, intended to improve safety, increase performance and reduce the environmental impact of some of the newest models on the market.
“Every model year, automakers find new ways to employ technology in their vehicles to enhance the driving experience,” said John Nielsen, AAA director of auto repair and buying services. “While many of the innovations continue to focus on safety and performance, we’re also seeing more new technologies that address the environmental impact of the vehicles we drive, which is evident in this year’s list.”
Nilesen warns that not every new technology necessarily has a positive effect on function or safety. “Many technologies can distract drivers who end up multi-tasking behind the wheel, which takes their focus off the primary task at hand, safely driving their car,” he said.
This year’s top picks are:
All-electric vehicles – While many automakers have electric vehicles in the works, the Nissan Leaf is the first to market from a major car brand.
Plug-in hybrids – Vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and upcoming Toyota Prius Plug-In provide the benefits of an electric car while maintaining the same driving range as conventional vehicles.
Turbocharging and supercharging – These systems have long been associated with performance, but they can also produce enhanced fuel economy when used on smaller engines, such as with Ford’s EcoBoost.
Inflatable rear seatbelts – Both Ford and Mercedes-Benz are working with this technology, which brings a large measure of the airbag protection afforded to front-seat occupants to those who are buckled up in the rear.
Start-top technology – Common in other parts of the world but only in limited U.S. use, start-stop technology shuts off the engine when the car is at a stop and instantly restarts it when the driver takes his foot off the brake pedal, similar to the system used by hybrids.
Variable valve timing – This feature, which creates more engine power while delivering greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions, was once limited to high-cost performance and luxury models, but is now available in nearly every price range of vehicle.
Enhanced stability control and rollover protection – Curve control, introduced in the 2011 Ford Explorer, senses when a driver has entered a turn too quickly. It cuts back on the throttle and, if more assistance is needed, applies the brakes.
Diesel engines – While diesel engine have been around for decades, they are no longer smelly, noisy, smoke-belching or rough-running. Modern diesels are clean, quiet, refined and powerful, and often provide a 30 per cent boost in fuel economy with a corresponding decline in carbon dioxide emissions compared to gasoline engines offering comparable performance.
Alternator recharging programs – Some alternators charge the battery primarily at higher engine speeds or when the car is slowing down, providing improved engine performance during idling and better fuel economy.