The basic fundamentals of a car haven’t changed in 50 years. Automatic transmission, rear differentials, and fuel injectors have been around for a long time. Those technologies have improved incredibly over the years, but they’re all features we now consider standard.
The real breakthroughs in the auto industry now happen inside the cabin — or under the dash, to be specific. GPS, sensors, and all the modern technology that improves the driving experience is rising to the list of priorities for auto manufacturers.
Here’s a close-up look at some of the best.
No other technology as improved that way we reach our destinations more than turn-by-turn navigation. Once considered a luxury, this now standard feature uses GPS satellites to navigate on almost any road in the world. Even if you don’t have navigation built into your dash, Smartphone apps like Google Maps are one of the most popular ways in the world to get around town.
Just as millennials are a generation who may never know how to read a map, they could soon be the next generation who never learn how to parallel park. Assisted parking systems use sensors around the car to automatically maneuver into difficult parking spots without the driver touching the wheel or the gas/brake. It isn’t a standard (or even available) feature in most cars, but it is being tested with domestic manufacturers like Ford.
Although it’s a skill that may become extinct within the next decades, it’s still critical to master parallel parking now. Take a practice test on Driving-Tests.org to brush up on your skills.
Rear Drive Cameras
Another not-so-standard feature creeping its way into cars (especially those with displays for GPS navigation), is a camera at the rear of the car so drivers can see behind them when driving in reverse. This feature is convenient, although it’s not necessary — but it’s sort of like having a DVR for your TV — once you have it, there’s no going back.
Rear drive cameras are great for small parking lots and tight parking spaces on the street.
Let’s take a look at the future.
Self-driving cars have occupied the news for a few years now. Google is successfully testing an autonomous car that can drive on any road in America without a human driver, and it’s done so accident-free so far! This new venture is being tested all over Silicon Valley, and while it’s advanced enough for a full release, we as a society are not there quite yet.
Tesla Motors, an all-electric car company in California, has the next best thing, however. It’s called Autopilot, and it allows drivers to take their hands off the wheels and foot off the pedals on the highway. The car does the rest of the work.
Autopilot uses sensors in the Model S (Tesla’s premiere car model) that detect the road, street signs, and surrounding cars, to drive smoothly down the highway with zero assistance from the driver. This only works on highway, but with its success thus far, the doors for a second phase will surely open soon.
Photo: Ambrozinio at Alamy