March 4, 2014
Article by Justin Pritchard
New car shoppers demand challenging things like better fuel economy and performance, expect to pay less and get more, gripe if they don’t, and aren’t willing to compromise. The only creatures more selfish and unyielding than new-car shopper eat cheerios out of a zip lock bag, engage in tantrums and soil themselves.
Of course, as technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, features once common on high-dollar luxury cruisers are now becoming more and more mainstream – and being used increasingly to put the selfish new-car shopper at ease. Some of these features are a bit of a novelty and of limited actual usefulness. Others are downright slick and useful, whether they’re in the cabin, under the hood or bolted elsewhere to the vehicle’s sheet metal.
Here’s a closer look at some of the latest in high-tech automotive advancements available as a result of consumer demand that you’ll probably find next time you visit a dealership for a test-drive.
Parking systems. Click image to enlarge
Not long ago, back-up cameras were all the rage for enhancing safety around the vehicle and allowing poorly skilled drivers to park without whacking into stuff like Jim Lahey on a Wednesday afternoon bender. Today, back-up camera systems are standard fare in numerous models like the Honda Accord and Chrysler Town and Country, while advanced parking assist systems are expanding further in functionality than ever.
Using inputs from cameras and radar, various models from Infiniti, Cadillac, Buick, Dodge, Ford and others go one step further than simply displaying an image and can actively scan their surroundings for signs of danger as drivers back up. Some models beep or display an on-screen icon if a moving object is detected behind you, possibly preventing an accident. Others can even self-apply the brakes to keep you from hitting that pesky building someone left lying around behind you. Some can even ‘see’ both ways down the laneway you’re backing into, alerting you of an approaching vehicle you may not see.
Fun fact: since back-up cameras get coated in crusty salt and become useless after about 12 seconds of winter highway driving, Nissan has even developed one that automatically cleans itself with a drop of washer fluid and a blast of compressed air fired through a small ‘tear duct’. Slick!
So, ya. Someone had to do it, and it was Honda. Their family-friendly Odyssey minivan, literally, has a ShopVac built into the rear cargo area so you can vacuum the van, the kids, the pets, grandpa, and even other vehicles in your driveway almost any time you like.
Click image to enlarge
Active Noise Cancellation
Vehicle engines are noisy devices, and extensive measures are employed to keep unwanted engine sounds out of vehicle cabins these days, including acoustic hood liners and sound-deadening engine covers.
Having cured all disease and achieved world peace, automotive engineers took sound deadening one step further, inventing Active Noise Cancellation systems. These are marketed under varying titles but work on the same principle of listening for unwanted sounds, and instantly calculating an inverse sound frequency to neutralize it.
Remember in Austin Powers when Dr. Evil says ‘Zip it!’ every time Scott tries to get a word in edgewise? Same deal. In real time, this constantly adjusted neutralizing sound is played imperceptibly through the cabin speakers, whether or not the audio system is on. The effect? A quieter and more relaxing drive, every time.
Click image to enlarge
Today, girls always be textin’. Guys too. Today’s lifestyle means just a few hours can see the average cell-phone battery emptier than the Sochi Airport on February 24th.
Then, you’ve got to find that pesky charging cord, somewhere to plug it in, and finagle that thin little adapter thing into your phone. What a cluster!
The answer? Wireless recharging.
Phones capable of this ‘charge through the air’ witchcraft are hitting the market, and automakers like Jeep and Audi are including special charging ‘areas’ in their latest models to capitalize. Just place your phone in the designated recharging area, and it’ll start feasting on delicious electrons, sans-cord.