Technological innovation is happening at warp speed in the automotive industry. With so many new features being added to luxury and non-luxury vehicles alike, the editors at Autotrader rounded up some of their favorites and named the Must-Have Automotive Technology for 2016.
"Technology is an important part of our lives and all of the major automakers are racing to integrate the latest and greatest features into their vehicles," said Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader. "The last several years have seen great advances in automotive technology, from features that keep drivers safer to some that make the car infinitely more entertaining to drive. And in 2016, we'll see many of these features make their way into a wider variety of vehicles."
The list of Autotrader's Must Have Automotive Technology for 2016 follows:
- Advanced Backup Cameras: While traditional backup cameras are being mandated on all cars in a few years, many new models use even more advanced systems. Touting multiple angles and even 360-degree views of the car, the latest crop of advanced backup cameras make it easier than ever to maneuver into tight spaces.
- Augmented Reality Owner's Manual: Virtual owner's manuals are not new, but augmented reality owner's manuals take things a step further. With an augmented reality owner's manual, all you need to do is point your smartphone or tablet at the item in question (be it the air conditioning controls, mirrors, audio and more), and it will pull up videos, guides or other helpful tips about how to use whatever you're struggling with. The augmented reality owner's manual is just taking off, but we think it'll largely be offered as a free supplement to standard owner's manuals as it becomes more common in the future.
- Automatic Steering: Automated steering systems really are the beginning of the autonomous car and can work in two ways. Relatively common lane-keep assist systems can steer you back into your lane if you aren't paying attention and start to drift out. Less common semi-autonomous steering systems can actually steer for you, at least for a few seconds, until the system asks you to retake the wheel.
- Headlight Technology: LED headlights and automatic high beams are two new technologies that are emerging. LED headlights can save you money, as they will rarely burn out, which means you'll never have to pony up for a new bulb (or drive with one headlight out). They also have the added benefit of improving your vision on the road, as LED headlights offer excellent illumination. Many modern cars also now boast automatic high beams, which automatically illuminate on dark roads and dim when necessary.
- Improved Smartphone Infotainment Integration: Many newer cars with Bluetooth enable us to connect our phones to our vehicles to make a call and maybe even stream music to the car's audio system. Now, many cars allow a smartphone's screen to be duplicated on a car's infotainment screen, thanks to systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These technologies aren't perfect, but they come as close as possible to giving us easy in-car access to our smartphone screen.
- Smartphone Vehicle Management: Imagine using your cellphone to locate your car, start it, call for roadside assistance, and even get health reports on your car's current status. Now, you don't have to imagine it: the futuristic-sounding technology is now available from several automakers. Few things are cooler than starting your car from your cellphone, and it doesn't stop there. Some of the latest smartphone vehicle management systems go more in depth, offering the ability to do just about everything with your phone except actually drive the car.
- Self-Parking Systems: Self-parking systems are exactly that: systems that use sensors, cameras and other in-car technology to automatically park your car in parallel (or, sometimes, perpendicular) parking spaces without you having to ever lift a finger. While some systems are easier to use than others, all represent a major improvement for city-dwelling drivers who frequently parallel park—or for suburbanites who don't like parking in tight spaces when they come into town.