Slide3Heated and ventilated seats Heated seats have been around for quite some time now, but that doesn’t make them any less awesome. Few sensations rival the warm embrace of heated leather around your backside in winter, except perhaps a cooled one in summer. Add in a massage function and you’ll be happy as a clam. Though the 1972 Saab 99 is sometimes credited with offering the first heated seats, Cadillac actually made the feature available on the Fleetwood luxury car in 1966. The option was quite rare, though, and warmth was distributed via carbon-cloth heating pads. Whomever is responsible, our lower backs collectively thank you.
Slide4Adaptive cruise control The next feature we’ve chosen to honor is much more modern one adaptive cruise control (ACC). Systems can vary from automaker to automaker, but all ACCs use some sort of radar/camera system to track the vehicles ahead and adjust speed accordingly. While regular cruise control holds the car at a steady velocity until the driver intervenes, ACC will speed up or slow based on the position of the cars in front, reducing fatigue. Some will even bring you a complete stop when necessary, allowing the driver to set off again with a quick touch of the “Resume” button. For best results, pair with lane keeping assist for a stress-free ride. Completely autonomous cars are still years away, but semi- autonomous features like this are a glimpse into a driverless future.
Slide5Backup cameras, parking sensors There was once a time where, in order to see what was behind you, you actually had to turn your head and look. We still think it’s a good idea, but when entry-level cars like the $15,790 Honda Fit come with a backup camera as standard, you don’t really have to. In fact, rearview cameras will be required on all vehicles under 10,000 pounds come 2018. with parking sensors enabled, backing into a tight spot has never been easier. Some cars even offer 360-degree cameras for even greater visibility. Has one of these devices saved your bumper before? Let us know in the comments.
Slide6Automatic liftgates The 2013 Ford Escape is the best car in the world – If your hands are full of groceries in the pouring rain, that is. The automatic liftgate, aka the hands-free liftgate, was first introduced on the aforementioned Escape crossover for the 2013 model year. Though the “foot- activated” system didn’t always work properly leaving frustrated commuters kicking their cars like an angry Michael Flatley it did pave the way for one of the most convenient and smart technologies out there. Thankfully, modern examples of the automatic liftgate don’t require Taekwondo training to operate. Simply walk up to your vehicle with the key fob in range and the car will sense it and automatically open for you.
Slide7Ambient interior lighting Ambient interior lighting may not be very high-tech, but boy is it fun. Normally found on high-end luxury cars like the Mercedes- Benz S-Class, LED lighting can generally be adjusted to different colors and levels of brightness, making drivers and passengers feel like they’re in a high-end club rather than a car. You can even channel Star Trek by putting the cabin into “Red Alert” mode, but you’ll have to make the sounds yourself … if you’re into that sort of thing. Non-luxury automakers are clearly recognizing the value of this feature, as ambient interior lighting has made its way downmarket. For instance, the 2015 Kia Soul offers mood lighting in five colors, the brightness of which can change based on the intensity of your music.
Slide8Keyless entry and push-button start We’re approaching a time where old- fashioned car keys will go the route of the floppy disc obsolete, clumsy, and forgotten. Most new cars offer an electronic key fob as opposed to a standard key, which allows drivers to lock, unlock, and start their vehicle from afar. And with their proximity sensors, fobs can automatically unlock a car’s door when the driver touches the handle, which is handy when you have bags, children, animals, or bags of children and animals in your hands. Once inside, you’ll find yet another function made possible by the key fob push-button start. Not only is keyless ignition the biggest advancement in vehicle starting technology since, well, the key, it immediately increases the perceived value of the car. Just hit the switch and go
Slide9Automatic emergency braking We’re thankful for some of the features on this list because they’re cool. For others, we’re thankful because they can save our lives. This one happens to be a little bit of both. Automatic emergency braking uses similar sensors to those found in adaptive cruise control systems, only here they’re used to stop the vehicle autonomously when danger presents itself. It could be a pedestrian jutting into the lane or perhaps the car ahead suddenly slamming on the brakes, but either way, automatic braking can respond quicker and more efficiently than the human brain can. Some systems even bounce radar underneath the car in front to read the vehicle two places ahead, and can warn the driver of impending danger. Cool and safe? We like that.
Slide10Driving modes Changing behavior on a whim may not be the best trait in humans, but in cars, it’s a sign of maturity. Modern vehicles can stiffen their suspensions, adjust their steering ratios, and even embolden their engine notes depending on what drive mode they’re in, and flipping between them is no more complex than turning on the AC. Cars can have any number of the following modes normal, eco, comfort, sport, sport plus, individual, and track with each offering a different flavor of performance or luxury. Everything from the Toyota Prius to the McLaren 570S has this feature, but they obviously serve very different purposes. In the Prius, these modes allow the driver to commute on electric power alone or access all of the hybrid’s power if they’re in a rush. In the McLaren, they can firm up the adaptive dampers for better handling or muffle its thunderous exhaust for more subtlety.
Slide11Traffic light prediction Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly when the traffic light was going to change? If you spend a lot of time in the city, this information could make your commute a whole lot more bearable, and it could even save you money. Believe it or not, there actually is an app for that. The EnLighten App (Android, iOS) is a free program made by Connected Signals, and it uses data from GPS and local Traffic Management Centers to predict the duration and frequency of traffic lights. With this info on hand, you could safely finish that text or take a much- needed sip of coffee, and you could even time the lights as you go, allowing you to coast and save money on fuel.
Slide12Voice recognition Voice recognition isn’t the most advanced system on our list, but when used properly, it’s definitely one of the most convenient. This technology can initiate calls, get directions, draft and read texts, play songs, and even search for local points of interest without the driver typing a single word. And when you aren’t looking at your phone, you’re (hopefully) looking at the road, which means you aren’t plowing into the car in front of you. A good voice control system might just be be your new favorite feature, but a bad one can actually be more distracting because of how much you have to wrestle with it. Thankfully, the options are getting better each year, and with the increased proliferation of natural language processing and apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, conversing with your car might actually get you somewhere.
Slide14Automatic parking Automatic parking is the answer to an age-old question why do it when your car can do it for you? The technology started popping up in the United States in the early 2000s, mostly notably in 2006 with the Lexus LS460. With sonar sensors and a rearview camera working in concert, the luxury sedan could parallel park almost completely by itself, with the driver using only the brake to stop once signaled to do so. Lexus had started a trend. Ever since, manufacturers like Ford, Audi, Jeep, BMW, and more have flirted with autonomous parking systems, and this year Tesla unveiled a Summon feature that allows Model S and Model X drivers to park their vehicles remotely with their key fob. Imagine a future where you pull up to a restaurant, hop out of the driver’s seat, and watch your car autonomously scoot away in search of parking. When you’re done, it zips right back to you like a loyal pet, waiting to take you back home. That future isn’t far away now, and for that, we give thanks.
Slide15Smartphone integration While we’re on the subject of navigation, let’s move onto one of our favorite topics here at DT Cars smartphone integration. The marriage between cell phone and car used to be limited to USB ports for charging and Bluetooth connections for calling and music, but the options today are much more plentiful. Products like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow motorists to use nearly all of their mobile’s functions from the driver’s seat, including messaging, music, podcasts, and a variety of applications completely hands-free
Slide17Electric fast charging Electric cars are great for the environment and the wallet, but long charging times initially made road trips impractical. Enter DC fast charging, which dramatically reduces charging times compared to conventional AC charging systems. While 240-volt Level 2 AC systems take hours to recharge an electric car, many DC fast-charging stations can recharge a battery pack to 80 percent capacity in around 30 minutes. DC fast charging still has a long way to go. The stations themselves are relatively expensive and thus less common than AC stations. There are also three competing standards (CHAdeMO, CCS, and Tesla’s Supercharger) which means not every electric car can charge at every station. Regardless, we’re thankful for the progress made so far.