The Hottest 2016 New Car Features
There’s no denying that today’s autos pack more in the way of advanced technology than NASA originally employed to send astronauts to the moon.
Computers, sensors and cameras work in harmony to help make cars and trucks go fast, handle precisely, ride smoothly and get great gas mileage. Vehicles can automatically maintain a set speed and keep a safe distance from traffic on the highway, warn motorists of the presence of adjacent vehicles and/or obstructions ahead and can even apply the brakes to avoid a crash if a driver isn’t reacting quickly enough. In-car entertainment systems are light years ahead of the radios and tape decks of the past, with built-in Internet service, full smartphone integration and backseat high-definition video players to keep the kids entertained. Today’s cars can navigate their way around traffic jams, give passengers a relaxing massage while en route and even park themselves once they’ve reached a selected destination.
Those who haven’t set foot in a dealer’s showroom will already find it a brave new world, but the only thing that’s constant about technology is change. To that end, automakers are upping the ante with myriad new features and twists on existing technology that takes the humble automobile to even higher levels of complexity. We’re featuring a dozen of the hottest new car features for 2016 below and in the accompanying slideshow and best of all, they shouldn’t exact a steep learning curve to master.
Ready or not, experts say self-driving cars will be ready for rush hour traffic in just a few years down the road. In the meantime, automakers are introducing features on high-end cars that bring them tantalizingly close to being autonomous. For example, Tesla recently rolled out a new Autopilot system for its Model S electric sedan – as a downloadable upgrade no less – that can automatically keep the vehicle centered within a lane, manage its speed via traffic-aware cruise control and change lanes automatically at the tap of the turn signal indicator.
Similarly, the 2016 BMW 7 Series luxury sedan’s available Active Driving Assistant Plus feature can likewise help maintain the car within highway lane markers at speeds up to 130 mph, and will actually prevent the driver from changing lanes if there’s another vehicle in his or her blind spot.
Some of today’s cars are packing more cameras than a television studio, with electric eyes at the front, rear and along the sides of many models. Newly included on the 2016 Honda CR-V and HR-V crossovers and the Accord coupe and sedan, the automaker’s LaneWatch system provides a video view of the passenger’s side of the road whenever the right turn signal is engaged. A more active form of blind spot monitoring, it helps the driver identify pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles that may be lurking alongside the vehicle while turning or changing lanes.
For their part, the 2016 Ford Edge and Explorer crossover SUVs now offer 180-degree wide-angle cameras at the front and rear of the vehicles that can help motorists see around corners when the view is otherwise obstructed from the driver’s seat, which can be especially handy when exiting garages and alleyways. An added twist is that the bumper-mounted cameras incorporate automatic lens washers to keep the view clear under inclement climactic circumstances.
Coming early next year, the new Cadillac CT6 luxury sedan will offer a streaming-video rearview mirror that gives drivers an widescreen view of what’s behind the vehicle, unobstructed by passengers’ heads, headrests and the rear window opening. It’s claimed to improve the rearward field of vision by 300 percent, though Luddites and technophobes can switch the system back into a conventional mirror mode if desired.
In what is perhaps a true sign of our highly connected times, the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette sports car and Cadillac CTS-V high-performance sedan offer an onboard Performance Data Recorder that allows owners to record high-definition video of their driving exploits – including their epic fails – with full data overlays, and easily share them with friends on social media.
Giving Your Car the Finger.
Are you one of those agitated types that tend to talk with your hands? The latest version of BMW’s iDrive multimedia control system, debuting in the 2016 7 Series sedan, can be operated by hand gestures, thanks to a small infrared camera on the dashboard. For example, a driver can rotate an index finger near the screen to adjust audio volume, or point at it with two spread fingers to tell the navigation system to plot a course home. If a call comes in via a Bluetooth-paired phone, the driver can point a finger toward the screen to answer it or wave his or her hand to the right to dismiss it. We hope the system wouldn’t get offended should the driver raise a middle finger at it in frustration.
Keeping a Watchful Eye.
A recent survey conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and the organization Students Against Destructive Decisions found that while 71 percent of teenage drivers admit to speeding, only 38 percent of their parents realize their kids ever exceed the speed limits. Entering the expanding universe of new cars and aftermarket products that afford high-tech vehicular snooping is the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu sedan. It offers a Teen Driver feature that lets properly nosy parents monitor their kids’ driving via an onscreen data report, including distance driven and maximum speed reached. It also mutes the audio system if front-seat occupants aren’t wearing their seat belts, alerts the driver when the vehicle is exceeding a preset speed and prevents a young motorist from switching off key safety features, like stability control and park assist. Parents remain on their own to ensure there’s no back seat hanky-panky going on, however.
New cars’ media control interfaces are notoriously difficult to use and complex to master. To help simplify matters, a number of 2016 cars and trucks from various automakers are now offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity systems that replicate the devices’ interfaces on the vehicle’s display screen, bypassing a car’s media control system altogether. Riders can make calls, send and receive messages, listen to music and access select apps via the screen or voice commands. In the iPhone’s case, users can also access the Siri digital assistant, though having Siri along for the ride would probably not afford a driver access to carpool lanes.
Taking a similar, but simpler route, the redesigned Smart ForTwo microcar allows owners to roll their own infotainment systems, so to speak, via its new Cross Connect system. This enables iPhone and Android owners to attach their phones to the dashboard via an adjustable cradle and use the device’s display to control audio streaming, access navigation functions, display car and trip information and even communicate with other Smart cars down the road (assuming there are enough of them in the area) to help drivers find open parking spaces.
While several cars already offer hands-free tailgate and trunk openers that operate by waving a foot under the rear bumper, select 2016 Hyundai models refine the technology for the less coordinated among us. The automaker’s Smart Power Liftgate/Trunk enables an owner to activate a power opening feature by simply standing for a few seconds at the rear of the vehicle with the key in his or her pocket or purse. Hey – it’s tough to balance on one foot while burdened with arms full of packages, especially in the ice and snow.
Drive Like James Bond.
Finally, one new feature that’s – unfortunately – not yet available in the U.S. can be found elsewhere in the world being offered with the aforementioned BMW 7 Series. The car’s key fob packs a tiny video screen that, at least in other markets, can allow an owner to remotely pull the car into a garage or a very narrow parking space and back it out later. The idea is that it precludes having to contort oneself into or out of the car with only minimal room for the door to open. Film fans will recall that James Bond “drove” a BMW 750iL sedan via remote control in the 007 adventure Tomorrow Never Dies. Unfortunately, U.S. vehicular regulations here prohibit this particular item because drivers here are required to physically hold down a car’s brake pedal in order to shift it out of park to help prevent unintended or inadvertent acceleration. BMW is reportedly petitioning the feds to make an exception in its behalf and will offer the system here as soon as it’s allowed. Your car is almost ready Mr. Bond.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.