The 2015 model year is officially upon us, and with it a smorgasbord of new and redesigned cars, trucks, and SUVs. While that’s reason enough for auto buffs, or anyone looking to buy a new vehicle, to get excited, it’s what comes inside and outside of the new slate of models that is another reason to pay attention.
We’re talking, of course, about the slew of new features that slowly but surely become standard over time. This year, we have all kinds of new things to look forward to, from new construction techniques and materials to futuristic technology that allows drivers to see in all directions, and even in the dark. There are things that many people could only have dreamed of five years ago, and it really makes you wonder where we’ll be in terms of automotive technology a decade from now.
But in the short-term, there are several new engineering and design improvements to be excited about. These new features serve a variety of purposes — from assisting drivers during their every-day activities, to improving on fuel economy and efficiency. With so many new features out there, what should you be the most excited about? What vehicles have that new quirk you simply can’t wait to try out or experience for yourself? We’ve put together a list of 10 new auto technologies, and where you can find them, for your reading pleasure.
Read on to see 10 of the coolest new auto technologies on the market.
1. Self-driving features
A long-gestating technology has been self-driving or autonomous vehicles. It’s been a long wait, but it’s finally starting to trickle into the mainstream. Pioneered by companies like Google, many automakers are now starting to adopt and implement autopilot features into their engineering, all in an attempt to make the driving process safer and more enjoyable. Volvo is one company that is spearheading the advance and should have vehicles on the market within a couple years. Tesla is also starting to implement autopilot features, and it’s likely not too far down the road before we’re all relaxing during the commute, rather than worrying about merging and speed limits.
2. Parking assist
Similar to self-driving technology, parking assistance is a feature that many new models are starting to adopt as standard. Companies like Ford, Chevrolet, BMW, and others are bringing the feature into the fold, and before long it will probably be standard across all segments. The technology itself basically works as you might expect — you find a parking spot, hit a button, and the vehicle will carefully maneuver itself into position. This is a godsend for many drivers who are stressed-out by the idea of parallel parking, or have a hard time in tight parking garages.
3. Aluminum construction
One of the more widely-reported new developments in the auto industry is the adoption of new construction materials. The most obvious is aluminum, which has been adopted by a number of manufacturers. Most consumers are looking forward to the new aluminum-based Ford F-150, which is being seen as a big gamble in the eyes of many. The F-150 is America’s perennial best-selling vehicle, and by switching things up, Ford’s running the risk of alienating its customers. Of course, fuel economy and efficiency will be improved as a result, and other automakers will be watching closely to see what happens, as this will be the largest mass-market test of aluminum alloys to date.
4. On-board Wi-Fi
This is what so many people have been waiting for: the opportunity to connect to your own, private, on-board Wi-Fi network while on the road. No more burning through all of the data allotted to you by your data plan, the world’s automakers are turning vehicles into wifi hotspots, allowing for streaming and continuous connection no matter where you go. Chevrolet and Ford are two of the leaders in this category, but, again, it is something that will likely sweep over the entire industry before long.
5. Interactive computer systems
While “interactive computer systems” may be kind of a broad description, that’s because it’s a broad subject area. Computer systems in today’s vehicles are becoming much more intuitive and interactive than in previous generations, but what is truly making them special is the ability to connect with other devices. Some cars are able to sync with wearable technology, like Google Glass, to make the driving experience pretty incredible. Of course, there are some legal hurdles to overcome.
6. Fuel-saving tech
Again, this is a rather broad description, but that’s because there are simply so many small engineering quirks and features being added to the fold that it’s hard to pick just one. As we saw before, aluminum construction could be added to the pile, but other features, like plug-in technology, direct-injection engines, and more. In fact, the average fuel economy for vehicles across the board is on the up and up, all the way to more than 24 miles per gallon. Expect that number to keep increasing.
7. Night-vision assist
For those looking at purchasing a new luxury car, be on the lookout for one of the most exciting new features out there: night-vision. That’s right, night vision has finally made its way to the streets, and is being used in cars produced by companies like Audi and Mercedes. There are plenty of videos that show how the new technology actually works, but the image above gives the basic idea. Will night vision become standard? Will regulators allow it to fly? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s still pretty damn cool.
8. 360-degree cameras
The ability to see every single angle around your vehicle is pretty extraordinary, and thanks to 360-degree cameras, it’s an advantage that many drivers can now use. Some vehicles have had this feature for a while, like certain Infiniti models, but it’s now trickling down into more consumer-class vehicles. There are also third-party cameras that you can buy and install yourself. For anyone who has had trouble navigating tight parking garages or congested, narrow streets, these cameras are invaluable.
9. Collision-avoidance technology
Though some reviewers and critics have found collision-avoidance technology to be troublesome, it’s still a fairly cool invention that will likely be perfected with time. BMW and Cadillac are two manufacturers that have been lauded for their systems, which work by using camera and radar to predict when a crash is imminent, and take control of the vehicle to try and avoid it. Again, many people are uncomfortable with having control taken from them when behind the wheel, but with more time to gestate, this technology — when paired with self-driving features as well — could become incredibly popular.
10. Attention assist
Finally, our list is completed by something that is so simple, we’ll wonder why we haven’t had it as a standard feature for years: attention assist. For drivers who are feeling drowsy or having trouble keeping focused behind the wheel, attention assist technology can prompt you to pull over or take a short break. Some people will undoubtedly find this annoying, but we’ve all had moments where our attention span has waned when behind the wheel. Again, this is likely something that will improve with time, but for now, Chrysler and Mercedes are both starting to implement it.