While many of us are doing our best to reduce the amount of time we spend in the car, manufacturers are doing their best to ensure we love every second we drive. More and more gizmos and gadgets are being added to our vehicles to keep us happy while we clock up the miles. In fact, some manufacturers are working so hard that in-car tech might offer applications beyond the driving experience.
Apps, in particular, are becoming more closely aligned to what we already know and love about our smartphones. As our cars become smarter, there will no doubt be even more cross-overs. Many of the new vehicles we can buy today already have a near-full integration with the IOS and Android that exists on our phones. So what more can high-tech offer the driver and passenger?
YouTube is the place to see what can happen when cars speed out of control. Fortunately, the vast majority of viral car crash vids show miraculous survivals. Car safety technology has a huge part to play here. Adaptive cruise control, collision prediction, and auto parking take a lot of the challenges out of driving today. These things were once seen as luxury add-ons for the high-spec vehicles. Today, they’re becoming standard provisions.
The humble airbag has seen little development since its first introduction. But the sensors that trigger its deployment, combined with the in-car release mechanism, has made them much safer. Perhaps it won’t be long before we see them on the outside of the car too?
Every car manufacturer is now in a high-speed race, and each one is close to reaching the finish line already. Self-driving vehicles, once a 1980s TV show fantasy, are already here. There is still plenty of speculation about their application on roads shared by human-driven vehicles. Safety is key, but tests are very promising. They demonstrate an advance in AI to accurately predict human moves and learn from them.
Whether they become community taxis, or each of us will own one privately remains to be seen. As with all new technology, there will be bugs that need to be corrected. Early adopters are certainly excited, but some people will be apprehensive about giving up control to a coder.
There are two ways you can enjoy WiFi in your car today. The first is to create a personal hotspot on your smartphone using your own data allowance. As you travel in and out of 4G coverage, the signal will drop out occasionally. Having a SIM in the car and paying separately for this data allowance won’t stop the signal drop out as you drive out of reception areas. But it can be a lot more convenient, and still offers you a hotspot to connect to.
Using WiFi in the car keeps you connected with your Chats, video calls, emails, and remote office apps. For a driver, these things are almost useless to have, and may even become a distraction. Of course, for the kids, keeping them entertained with a Netflix cartoon could be all you need to get home without any more whingeing!
Satellite Navigation is nothing new in cars. In fact, GPS or SatNav systems usually come as standard. The display and programmable controls are built into the car console. Many, like the XV as seen at the Reynella Subaru dealer showroom, now have touchscreens for zooming. Historically, an SD memory card has been used to store the latest set of maps. This needs updating from your home computer and often incurs a charge. Some manufacturers offer a lifetime of free traffic updates to help you steer away from jams and roadworks. Now more and more are offering auto-updates of maps.
The next step is for AI to learn your preferred routes and your ideal driving time between breaks. Further app advancements should offer you audio alerts. You might hear about places of interest, fuel stops and eateries. Some of these options are available if you enter the navigation program which isn’t ideal as you drive. Some insurance companies are keen to tap into your car GPS systems to identify your driving habits too. Would you let them?
Most of us are keen to reduce our carbon footprint and use zero-emission fuel sources. If nothing else, they should be cheaper to run! Electric cars have been around for a while. They can be slower than petrol vehicles, dangerously quiet for pedestrians, and difficult to charge when you’re not at home. Hybrids have been the answer up until now.
Times are changing, and more electric charging points are available at service stations. Battery designs have developed to offer more power for longer, making them a genuine alternative to gasoline.
Passengers, especially children, are no longer satisfied with staring out of the car window for hours at a time. Now everyone must be securely strapped down in the car for safety, kids can get very bored very quickly. In-car entertainment has evolved. Gear such as tablets, phones and gaming devices are a must to have. For movie time, however, compact car dvd players are still a win. They will help hours fly-by! Video screens for the rear of the car offer access to photos, videos, movies and even TV on the go. In fact, with internet capabilities, your passengers can view anything they want.
Music and radio are still used in the car, especially by drivers. Digital radio signals still tend to be hit-and-miss, but internet radio is proving popular. Larger screens in the console mean you can clearly see the track details or program information without danger.
Augmented Reality Displays
Displays on the windscreen are nothing new. Usually, the basic information about your speed and the time will appear. These displays are now becoming more customizable. You can choose what information is available. Might you want to check your distance from the vehicle in front? Maybe you just want to know how much further to the next junction? They save you from looking down at the console and so are considered an enhanced safety feature. Still, adjusting your focus between reading and the vehicles sixty feet ahead can be tricky. At high speed, would you miss something?
Many of the in-car voice-activated assistants have been somewhat hit-and-miss. Remember the earliest BMW efforts? These days, they are accurate and fast. You can make changes to your onboard experience such as altering the radio station. Some of these are connected to your smartphone, so they’re using SIRI or your preferred choice of virtual assistant. Perhaps the most helpful options are those about interesting places around you. You can ask how far it is to McDonald's. You can find out the price of the fuel at the next service station. And, of course, you can ask about anything else that might be on your mind! Asking SIRI to read your emails out loud should perhaps wait until you’ve stopped?
Onboard Video Recording
There are more cameras on our cars than ever before, and that can be a very good thing. Nobody would ignore the parking assist camera if they had one! Placed at the front and the back of the vehicle, you can now see just how close you are getting to obstructions as you manoeuvre. The audible beep may be on its way out! Of course, there are many more practical uses for onboard video cameras.
Recording your journey from start to finish will reveal many things about your driving as well as other road users. In some places, it is illegal to record video of people without their signed consent. This seems to be ignored with little penalty for the key benefit of road safety. Still, unless the video clearly captures the driver’s face to identify them without a doubt, prosecutions are unlikely to be made. This could be regardless of the seriousness of the offence.
As for your driving, watch your speed! These recorders can log your speed, and so confirm if you have been breaking the law. They also can record sound, so don’t say anything you might regret later. Are they an invasion of your privacy? Well, some models can instantly upload to the cloud for permanent storage of captured footage. Most add-on cameras don’t record permanent footage unless a collision triggers it. You can manually override this.
The future looks to store an entire journey of hours and will only be deleted if you manually request it be. Law enforcement authorities are looking to gain more access to these cameras. If they are connected to the internet, they, or a hacker, might be able to see what it sees.
The Future Worries
Like any connected device, there will always be a vulnerability somewhere. With your phone, you might lose all your contacts, or even have to buy a new handset should it be hacked. With your car, there is a worry control of the brakes, steering, and the engine could be taken over with devastating consequences. Should we be fearful of this?
It’s true that the latest tech to push sales in the automotive industries is advancing AI and automation in other areas of our lives. And yes, it has the power to change our lifestyles. How far do you see car tech taking you?