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High Tech Hits the Road

December 17, 2014 | Comments

There's no escaping technology. It's become pervasive at home, on the go, and in our cars. If you haven't visited an auto dealership in a while, you'll be surprised by the technology offered in many of today's new cars. Here's a mini tour of some of the features you've been missing, starting with what automakers like to call "infotainment."

Smartphone Integration

Your phone is loaded with apps you use every day, so the ability to integrate it with the car's dashboard is highly practical. It puts a wealth of options at your fingertips, allowing you to stream music through the car's sound system and get all kinds of information without having to touch your phone.

Apple's new CarPlay platform, which brings the iPhone's screen to the dashboard along with Siri voice control, is a recent example of smartphone integration.

Mobile Wi-Fi

Being able to conjure a rolling hotspot is great for passengers, drivers who work from the road, and anyone who enjoys online music services like Pandora, which is available as a dashboard app on more than 100 car models from the major automakers.

Text-to-Voice/Voice-to-Text

Dashboard tech that converts text and email messages to speech and "reads" them aloud through the car's speaker system is one of the most important safety features an automaker can offer. The driver can stay connected without having to touch the phone and respond via voice commands, pre-programmed messages (Lexus offers 15), or, in the case of BMW, a natural language dictation interface from Nuance called DragonDrive! Messaging.

Mobile Concert Hall

Car audio has improved dramatically over the past decade or so, to the point where high-power multi-speaker systems that actually sound decent have become common. Looking to take autosound to the next level, Harman - which supplies infotainment technology to nine of the 15 largest automakers - has developed QLS 3D, which adds speakers to the vehicle's headliner to literally heighten sonic realism. The system has yet to be adopted, but it's worth keeping an eye (and ear) out for.

A more sophisticated level of technology is in play under the hoods of many new cars - technology that will ultimately lead to driverless cars from a future that may not be all that far away.

Lane Departure Warning

A forward-facing camera "looks" ahead and triggers an alert if you drift out of your lane. With some systems the driver can choose between an alert-only mode and aid mode that applies torque to the steering to keep the car in its lane.

Collision Avoidance

Radar, laser beams, and cameras (or some combination thereof) scan the road ahead and issue an alert if you're approaching the vehicle in front of you at an unsafe speed; the system also readies the brakes for stopping and, in some cases, actually applies the brakes.

Blind Spot Alert

Rear-corner-mounted and side-looking radar sensors detect vehicles in your blind spot and issue an alert (Ford illuminates an indicator in the rearview mirror).

Automated Parking

You've probably seen the TV ads. Front and rear-mounted sensors detect objects around the vehicle and guide it into a parking space while you sit back and watch the steering wheel spin.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Forward sensors help the driver maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead. If you get too close, the system triggers a warning and adjusts your speed.

To learn about the latest in home technology and options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.