New cars in 2018 offer far more than a way to get from here to there. No longer just an engine and wheels, today’s vehicles are packed with sophisticated technology.
These features are designed to keep people safe, make the drive more comfortable, entertain passengers, integrate with wireless devices, and more. Cars now are even getting closer to driving themselves!
If you want to know about the top tech available in this year’s cars, check out this least of futuristic features.
1. Semi-autonomous driving
Are we getting close to the day when we can simply tell our car where we want to go, and sit back and relax while it takes us there?
This will likely become our reality sooner or later.
For now, no fully self-driving car is commercially available, though many companies – Tesla, General Motors, Audi, Google and more – are working on developing them.
However, many cars hitting the road in 2018 feature various levels of semi-autonomous driving. This means the vehicle’s systems can effectively brake, accelerate or steer the car without a human telling it to.
In some cars, there might be one or more systems that intervene in an emergency but don’t coordinate with each other. In others, the technology is able to steer and control the car’s speed without the driver’s input for short periods of time, under certain conditions.
I’ll go into more detail about some of these high-tech features. In general, the trend is towards vehicles that allow the driver to be more of a supervisor: making strategic decisions, monitoring the car and stepping in only as needed.
2. Lane departure warning
Technology to help you stay in your lane can be a lifesaver… literally!
These systems come in two main flavors. The first is lane departure warnings. These systems, using cameras, will give a visual indicator, sound or vibration to warn you if you’re drifting across a marked lane line. (They deactivate automatically if you use a turn signal.)
One level up in complexity is known as Lane Keeping Assist. These will nudge you back into the right lane if the car crosses a line when it’s not supposed to. Vehicles featuring this technology in 2018 include the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Toyota Avalon Limited, Cadillac ATS and Volvo XC90.
Accidents from crossing lanes and driving into oncoming traffic can be catastrophic, and they can happen all too easily with a momentary distraction. Lane keeping warnings and assists are invaluable safety features.
3. Rear cross-traffic alert
Did you know that one out of every 5 auto accidents take place in a parking lot?
Slow speeds create a false sense of security, while drivers are often distracted looking for a parking space and thinking about their next destination. Combine this with pedestrians, children and pets walking around the cars, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
These accidents might not be as dramatic as a high-speed collision, but they can still result in costly damage, and even fatalities.
Rearview back-up cameras can prevent many incidents. Rear-cross traffic alerts are even better. Using sensors, cars with this system will alert the driver to any people or objects crossing behind the car while trying to back up.
It will usually give a loud beep, while some vehicles will even brake automatically when needed.
The 2018 Ford Fusion, Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Jetta, among others, include a rear cross-traffic alert.
4. Automatic emergency braking
Speaking of braking, some cars will hit the brakes themselves to avoid a forward collision.
The auto industry has promised that automatic emergency braking will be standard by 2022. Even now, it can be found in many new models.
A combination of radar, cameras and lasers allow these cars to determine distance and relative velocity from vehicles in front. Likewise, they can detect pedestrians or oncoming obstacles.
Automatic emergency braking can prevent accidents or at least significantly reduce the force of impact.
The auto makers that have promised to make emergency braking the norm include Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Kia, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. Look out for it in many of their 2018 models.
5. Next-level driving experience
Luxury vehicles this year are offering more than just smooth driving, but a complete experience. Comfort, entertainment, even a mini spa treatment are in the cards! For example…
- Mercedes-Benz S-Class: Adding to heated armrests in the previous model, the 2018 sedan’s ENERGIZING Comfort system adjusts the car’s climate control, seat heating, cooling, ambient lighting, audio system programming, massage functions, and automatic fragrance dispensing system. The system includes six programs that combine these functions with color graphics, music, and simple exercises to promote “Freshness,” “Vitality,” “Comfort,” and other states.
- Hyundai Elantra GT and Kia Stinger: Audio purists have long deplored the loss of fidelity in digital records. Hyundai and Kia respond by offering Harmon’s new Clari-Fi sound system that restores digital audio to the full, rich sound of vinyl analog.
- Lincoln Navigator: The dual-screen rear entertainment system in this SUV will now support a Slingbox streaming device, so backseat passengers can live stream TV channels to pass the time on long road trips.
6. Bluetooth that actually works
Bluetooth mobile phone pairings are often problematic, even in high-tech new cars. This year, Honda has unveiled a solution called Near Field Communication.
Just by tapping your phone against a stylized “N” on the dashboard, it will be synched, allowing you to use the device without ever actually touching it. Hands-free calls and playing music are now easy.
It’s the same technology that you might already use in tap-to-pay systems like Apple Pay or Android Pay.
For now, it’s only available in the 2018 Honda Accord, and only for Android phones. However, it’s an elegant and convenient feature that I expect to be commonplace in the next few years.
7. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Let’s be honest: most of the do-it-all infotainment systems that cars come with are not so user-friendly. They’re either confusing, too complicated, or just plain finicky.
The last thing you want to do while driving is fuss around with a touchscreen. Instead, you can now replace the manufacturer’s screen with a panel by Apple or Android, just by connecting your phone.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both offer a simplified, more familiar access scheme for your car’s stereo, navigation and climate control. They let you use everything that’s stored on your phone (music, maps, etc.) plus the phone’s voice control features.
Almost every manufacturer (minus Toyota and Lexus) has promised to support at least one, though it will vary by model and trim level.
Cars these days are becoming more and more like giant, “smart” electronics. They’re increasingly capable of supporting their drivers, and the potential safety benefits are huge. (Not to mention the fun and convenience of having a car synched with your other devices!)
This era is still in its infancy. What is breakthrough technology now might be commonplace in a decade or two, and who knows what new innovations we’ll be seeing then?
The challenge now as a buyer is to sort through what’s really valuable, and what’s just an unnecessary extra gadget. Safety features like lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking, in my opinion, are top priority. Beyond that, you can enjoy exploring to find out just what technology a new car can offer.
If you want advice about finding the car with just the functions you need, Capital Motor Cars has a staff of auto experts. They know about all the latest developments and they can help you find a high-tech car that you’ll be thrilled to drive.
What high-tech features are you most excited about? What do you hope to see in next year’s cars? Share in the comments below!