By Chris Burdick
In the consumer electronics world, companies have to be continuously innovating to keep up with each other. This is why last year’s revolutionary $3000 Plasma HDTV only costs $1500 now. The automotive world isn’t all that different; car makers need to keep adding more technology in their cars to keep people interested, and aftermarket suppliers aren’t far behind. The industry has never been so hot with cool new gadgets to impress car buyers, gadget freaks, and car enthusiasts.
Let’s take a look at some of the coolest car technology currently (or soon to be) in the market.
10.) Night Vision
Night vision is inherently one of the coolest geek gadgets you can buy. So why not take it to the next level as put it in your car?
Mercedes and BMW are both using a night vision system to increase safety. The systems use thermal imaging to display a video image on your car’s LCD display, which could make it much easier to see at night (even though you have to take your eyes off the road to see it.) The night vision systems are also integrating object tracking so it knows when a pedestrian or animal is present.
9.) Disappearing Doors
First came Mercedes-Benz’s legendary Gullwing doors, then Lamborghini’s often-duplicated scissor-style doors, and then Koenigsegg’s impressive Dihedral Synchro-Helix doors. Not to be outdone, the aftermarket industry not only duplicated these styles, but came up with their own style – disappearing car doors.
These doors slide completely under the car when opened, eliminating the need for those pesky door handles. Check out the video:
8.) Adaptive High-Beam Headlights
Mercedes has always been known for being a leader in new technology, and they’re not slowing down. Their latest innovation, like many of their others, is designed to make driving safer.
Adaptive High-Beam headlights detect oncoming cars and adjust the light accordingly. No more flashes from angry drivers, since the system always keeps the cone of light right in front of the cars ahead while your other headlight remains pointed straight ahead for maximum visibility.
A great system for increasing safety on the highways, but as my technophobic father would say “it’s great, until something goes wrong.” I don’t know, I think it would be funny to have one headlight pointed straight and the other permanently pointed downwards.
ODBII, or On-Board Diagnostics has been standard in cars for over 10 years now, but only within the last couple years have we had so many innovative applications for it. The OBDII system was meant for mechanics and gearheads to quickly diagnose engine problems, but has since developed into a fantastic tool for anybody to analyze their vehicle with inexpensive devices.
One such device is the $100 CarChip, which plugs into your car’s OBDII port (usually under you dash.) To use, simply drive as it calculates your fuel economy, lets you log trips, and calculates up to 23 different engine parameters. Take the Car Chip out of your vehicle, hook it up to your computer, and view all of the information, graphs, and reports on your home PC.
Another revolutionary utilization of the OBDII sensor comes in the form of an iPhone app. Rev for iPhone connects to your OBDII port wirelessly (through a small device) and lets you view 360-degree G-forces and several vehicle metrics in real time as a gauge or graph. These sorts of tools are invaluable for auto enthusiasts and to diagnose problems.
6.) Car in a Bubble
If you’re OCD about your car, you might love this. Dubbed the Carcoon, this portable protective storage device will protect your car or motorcycle from dust, dirt, and the elements by encasing it in a transparent bubble. The Carcoon contains an active air filtration system to filter out any contaminants, so you can rest assured your baby is safe.
5.) Privacy Plates
We’ve all heard of the license plate covers and spray that’s supposed to block speed and red light cameras from capturing our plate number as we break the law. Problem is, they don’t work. The TricPlate takes a more active approach at shielding your numbers from the 5-0.
This $500 frame comes with a remote control which will turn the plastic over your license plate opaque at the push of a button. Since it’s discreet when not in use, it’s only obvious when you really need it to be. Is it worth the hefty $500 price tag? That depends on how many tickets you evade from using it.
4.) Black Box for Your Car
This video recorder could save your ass (or insurance deductible) in case of an accident. The $350 Paparazzi device serves as your car’s black box, recording the 12 seconds of footage before the crash and eight seconds afterward to ensure you know exactly what happened before that other car hit you. More importantly, this can serve as valuable footage in court. It records onto an SD card.
3.) Smart Rear-View Mirrors
Not being content with having our devices do only one thing, we try to cram as many features into our gadgets as possible. Overlooked until recently, our rear-view mirrors served only one purpose – to see behind us while driving without turning our heads.
Azentek’s SmartMirror has the standard mirror with an integrated touch screen GPS system, Bluetooth hands-free system to connect your phone (with caller ID,) and two video inputs for rear-view cameras. A good idea to keep your eyes where they need to be, but prohibitively expensive at $800.
Cheetah’s GPSMirror goes a more stealthy route and includes a database of known speed cameras, warning you when one is approaching. The GPSMirror will integrate with your existing radar or laser detector, but isn’t one itself. It would make more sense to me to have the detector built-in to the mirror instead of having to add another bulky device, but the idea is good and this paves way for even better smart rear-view mirrors.
2.) Collision Avoidance
One of the most recent safety features on some new cars is collision avoidance. This system monitors the distance between you and vehicles in front of you. If it thinks you’re coming up on something too fast, the system will warn you with audio warnings or seat vibrations. If collision is imminent, it will apply emergency brakes to minimize damage. Let’s hope future iterations of the technology will stop you before you hit something.
1.) Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure
This is about as close as you can currently get to a self-driving car. Many vehicles now have Adaptive Cruise, which uses radar or lasers to monitor the distance between you and the car ahead. If you have the vehicle set on cruise control and it detects the car in front of you is slowing down, the system will apply brakes to slow down with the car, then speed up once the vehicle is out of your way.
Lane Departure Correction keeps an “eye” on the road ahead and when it detects you veering out of your lane (without using your blinker,) it will apply one of a few various methods to get you back into your correct lane.
Many vehicles already have both features, such as the 2009 Infiniti EX35, but the Lane Departure system is so non-intrusive that you can’t quite use it to drive itself. Not yet.