Why motoring technology is awesome

Modern technology is fantastic. There may be plenty of claims that ‘things were better back in my day’ but, quite frankly, that is not true.

Back in my day, whenever that was, you were lucky to get an FM radio in your new car. Now there are digital DAB radios going in to every other car. ABS brakes were a new fangled technology being fitted to the top spec luxury cars, where now you’ll find it on almost every car, from the very cheapest Dacia Sandero upwards.CHAL Banner

With technology now appearing on virtually every vehicle, it is becoming difficult to differentiate one brand from another, which may be one reason why we’re now getting technological developments we just don’t need. And yes, I realise that makes me sound old.

There are keys that can set a maximum volume on the car stereo now. Yes, logic says that loud music in a car should be a distraction for the driver, but most of those guilty of sharing their thumping bass notes with the outside world are generally cruising along at twelve miles per hour outside McDonald’s on a Saturday night.

There’s lane keeping assist, just in case you are driving down the motorway and simply can’t be bothered to use just the one lane. If the rumble strips on one side of the lane and the cats eyes on the other aren’t enough to attract your attention as they thump under your wheels, I’m not sure that a gentle vibration through the steering wheel will help a great deal.

Volvo XC60 2013 Instrument Binnacle

That said, I put Lexus’ system to the test in an LS 600h once, a system that tugs the wheel gently back away from the edge of the lane, managing to drive around 10 miles of the M11 without directing the car once.

Kia, along with plenty of other manufacturers, has a sensor in the passenger seat designed to detect if there is somebody sitting there. If there is, it then checks to see if they’re strapped in. If they’re not, it sets of an increasingly irritating beep until you jolly well buckle up.

I’ll admit to not having an encyclopaedic knowledge of the average body shape of a Korean, but I do feel Kia have set the bar a tad low as just two bottles of Coca-Cola is enough to set the alarm off. Weighing around four kilogram’s, I can only assume that those two bottles equate to an average factory worker in Gwangmyeong.

It’s not all redundant though and this is where one manufacturer really can make them stand out from the crowd.

For millions, parallel parking is near impossible. On occasion, even I’ve screwed it up and I’m quite proud of my abilities to squeeze a car into any given space. Self-parking cars, once the stuff of science fiction, are now common place. Even the humble Vauxhall Adam can be specified with it, although it failed to find a space in Westfield shopping centre when I was trying it out.

But if it’s now becoming ubiquitous, how do you stand out from the crowd of car companies? Enter the Volkswagen Group who have developed a system that not only parks your car for you, but then gets you out of the space later on – just watch out for approaching traffic!

Surprisingly, it’s Ford that is coming up with some interesting new technologies that genuinely seems to make a difference.

Right down at the most basic level, the US giant has a door edge protector. Not a life changer, sure, but this bit of plastic that pings out over the edge of a door when you open it will save many a scratch and dent in the Waitrose car park, without ruining the lines of the car by having a plastic lump stuck to it at all times.

Skoda Octavia vRS 2013 TailgateThen there’s the hands-free tailgate. Carrying lots of Waitrose bags? Simply wave your foot under the rear bumper and the boot lid opens. Honestly, that’s bordering on genius.

For safety, there is the heated windscreen. I first recall seeing it on a Granada in the late 80s, where countless really thin strips of wire are laid inside the windscreen and shown a chunk of electricity, heating up the wire and defrosting or demisting a windscreen quickly. No more peering through a porthole while you wait for the heater to warm up, but few other companies have invested in similar technology.

There’s more in development, too. I’ve spoken at length about autonomous car, both for and against, but it’s surely only a matter of time before they turn up on our roads, while Mercedes is working on airbags that deploy outside the car. Coated in a high friction substance, they’ll slow the car down twice as quickly as with brakes alone, helping shave off a few extra miles per hour before the inevitable impact.

Then there’s energy storing body panels. With hybrids being generally accepted as the mid-term solution to our petrol hunger issues, building cars with panels made of polymer fibre and carbon resin that capture energy from things such as regenerative braking, yet weigh less than batteries.

BMW’s augmented reality dashboards, Honda’s vegetable-based body panels that give new meaning to ‘organic’ design, Citroen’s air powered cars and Nissan’s in-wheel magnetic drive system could all find their way on to every day cars one day.

So whilst things probably aren’t like they were in my day, it’s probably best as what is about today and what is coming in the future looks incredible. Even the pointless bits.

[button link=”http://www.contracthireandleasing.com/car-leasing-news/why-motoring-technology-is-awesome/” rel=”nofollow” color=”orange”]This article was first published at ContractHireAndLeasing.com on 24 June 2013.[/button]

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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