Technology has advanced at light speed over the last decade, and automobile cockpits reflect that rapid change. Cars these days can park themselves, brake automatically to prevent a collision, detect a vehicle in your blind spot, direct headlights around corners and warn you that you’re getting sleepy. Along with all those practical and safety-oriented features, automakers have also packed cars with an array of technology to make their vehicles more fun to drive. Here are some of the latest and greatest technologies to hit the road.
On Audi models such as the A7, the MMI Navigation with Audi connect (below) incorporates practical yet space-age features from Google. The navigation system includes terrain imagery and 3D terrain views that display images of the actual road you’re driving down. The system enhances the mapping with traffic reports from Sirius-XM, and with Google voice local search, you can identify points of interest and set them as your destination without taking your eyes off the road.
Kia’s been making some cool-looking cars lately, and they’re loading them up with technology that’s well beyond what you might expect at the price point. Kia’s UVO powered by Microsoft system is voice activated with Bluetooth wireless technology, enabling hands-free calls and music streaming from Pandora, Spotify and other services.
The Hyundai Veloster coupe made waves (and Playboy’s Cars of the Year issue) with its bold and sporty design, but its technology is arguably more remarkable. For a car that won’t even set you back $20,000, the onboard technology would be at home in your man cave. It’s got a seven-inch color LCD screen (below) and USB ports to integrate any MP3 music player or iPod/iPhone, and it can stream Pandora, Spotify or other mobile-based services. You can also plug a video game console into the car and play through the screen, but only if you’re parked.
Toyota’s Entune technology combines mobile apps and data services that put a staggering amount of information at your fingertips. The system includes three years of complimentary access to the Bing search engine, Pandora, restaurant booking app OpenTable, MovieTickets.com and iHeartRadio, which gives access to hundreds of radio stations around the country. You’ll need a compatible smartphone to launch the app, which you then access via the car’s controls or, in certain cases, via voice command.
When we reviewed the Mustang GT, we fell in love with the instrument panel digital readouts on acceleration, g-forces and braking/cornering data. If DIY motor trend diagnostics appeals, the Mustang is not the only sports car with this fun feature. The Nissan GT-R also provides similar readouts, and with Godzilla’s four-wheel drive system, those could be some staggering numbers. For your own health and that of others, these tech systems are best enjoyed in a controlled environment on a track, not on the nearest freeway on-ramp.
If speed is your thing, there’s an even more useful technology making a small resurgence. Originally developed for military aircraft, GM adopted the use of heads-up displays on the 1998 Corvette. Now BMW — the first European carmaker to adapt HUD technology (below) — has added a full-color head-up display as part of the technology package on the all-new 3-Series. According to BMW, a driver takes an entire second to check the speed on a typical instrument panel. Consider this feature time less wasted.
If size matters, leave it to the Google-backed guys at Tesla to turn the center console of the Tesla Model S into a virtual home entertainment system. The whopping 17-inch touchscreen display includes USB inputs, streaming music capabilities, internet connectivity and GPS mapping. The screen — which Tesla claims is the largest ever in a passenger car — can be split into two areas, so you can have navigation up while surfing the web.
Of course, all these technological advances don’t necessarily add up to a better driving experience. Given the choice between a technologically loaded car of today and a 1960 Corvette with only an AM/FM stereo Wonderbar radio, who’s not picking the ’Vette? Technology has added amazing practicality, fun and entertainment to driving. But when the day arrives that cars literally drive themselves, for any true gearhead, that’s the day progress has gone too far.