Did you know you can now buy a car that will park itself by remote control? What about an app that actually answers "Are we there yet?" We've got a dozen cool new pieces of tech from last year that probably flew under your radar
Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe Sound
BMW's Remote Control Parking
Bentley Bentayga's unique headlamp washers
Chrysler Pacifica’s built-in game apps
Honda Ridgeline’s in-bed “exciters”
Volvo's Pilot Assist II
Cadillac's Super Cruise
Ford F-150’s backup assist
Audi's Virtual Cockpit
Mazda's predictive i-Activ all-wheel-drive
Kia Cadenza's Smart Trunk Release
Nissan's Driver Attention Alert
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a marvel of technology, with all sorts of semi-autonomous driving features. The tech that might be lost in the plethora of buttons and gadgets is a safety feature called “Pre-Safe Sound.”
This system protects the hearing of its occupants during an inevitable crash. Granted, you hope you’ll never use this, but if the car detects an unavoidable crash, a “pink noise” is released just ahead of the impact. That noise causes the stapedius muscle within one’s ear to contract, limiting the damage.
Yes, BMW now has a piece of tech that can park a car without a driver: its Remote Control Parking function, found in the latest 7 Series. As the name suggests, parking or getting out of a space can be pulled off via the use of a remote control.
The driver simply gets out of the car and activates the system through BMW’s display key. From there, a multitude of NXP sensors and radar guide the vehicle into and out of some tight spaces with full control of the steering wheel, brake, accelerator, and gear shift. For your convenience, the engine can be stopped and started from that same key.
The Bentayga is Bentley’s first production SUV, and the British brand has gone to great lengths for it to stand out not only stylistically and under the hood, but also via its unique tech. The one that stood out the most was its specialized headlamp washers, which protrude from its side lamps for a complete rinsing. The driver activates the robotic water spray function and what follows seems like a scene straight out of a Transformers movie or Inspector Gadget TV episode.
It’s true, the most common refrain from the back row of a family road trip vehicle you’ll hear is “Are we there yet?” To solve that on-road headache, Chrysler has fitted a new app in its new Pacifica minivan called – wait for it – “Are we there yet?”
The app lets rear-seat passengers know exactly how much time and distance is left until the next destination. It doesn’t do much else, but children, teenagers, or adults can pass the rest of their time playing other games – there are nine built-in game apps included – or watching a movie from the two optional 10-inch rear video touchscreens. Front seat passengers don’t have to worry about noise, as two wireless headphones are included.
The new Honda Ridgeline has been built with tailgating in mind, and one of its most eye-catching features are six invisible audio speakers installed in the bed’s walls for protection from your cargo. Honda’s calling them “exciters” that turn the pickup truck bed into a massive speaker system for everyone to hear. The system is activated from the touchscreen when you select the “truck bed audio” source, which immediately switches the music from inside the truck to the outside bed. Simply enjoy the tunes as you party before the big game or in the park for a weekend barbecue.
Volvo’s latest safety technology, Pilot Assist II, is the first large-animal detection system available. This semi-autonomous system is featured in the new S90 sedan and can control acceleration, braking, and steering in order to avoid collisions.
Whether you’re facing a deer or buffalo – we would hope you would be able to see the latter – the car can identify it based on the density of the critter. With a range of 200 metres, radar and cameras will be able to tell if the animal is stationary or in motion. Once detected, the S90 warns the driver through flashing lights on the dash, followed by slowing down the vehicle to a speed of 15 km/h to hopefully avoid injuries to the animal and the car’s occupants.
Have you ever wanted to take your hands off the steering wheel and let the car do the work in a traffic jam? Well, soon you can, with Cadillac’s upcoming Super Cruise in its CT6 sedan. It’s a semi-autonomous aid that’s been talked up for years, originally functioning as a self-driving tool; however its first incarnation will focus on city and highway traffic jams.
Super Cruise not only uses radar and sensors for the road, but eye-tracking to monitor the driver’s focus at all times. As the road changes, the vehicle will send out visual, audio, and vibration alerts for the driver to take over control, and if that fails, the hazard lights will turn on and the vehicle will come to a slow and gradual stop and make an OnStar call.
The Ford F-150 is the most-sold vehicle in Canada, and for 2017 it comes with some extra tricks in the form of an easy-to-use backup trailer assist. The Pro Trailer Backup Assist – a segment-first technology available on special edition appearance packages in the XLT and Lariat trims – allows the driver to turn a knob to manoeuvre a trailer safely into a spot. All the driver has to do is work the gas and brakes and turn that knob to the left or right. Based on your directional inputs, the truck will take control of the steering wheel and guide you to where you want to be.
Audi’s virtual cockpit can be found in some of its latest offerings – the A4 sedan, two-door TT, Q7 SUV and sporty R8 – and shows us where the future of the auto industry is going. Forget the typical speedometer and tachometer—this new technology makes the car feel like the future. Its 12.3-inch LCD screen is high-resolution and resembles the new 3D-style touchscreens found on various other luxury models, but in Audi’s case sits directly in front of the driver like an instrument panel and can be customized to the driver’s specifications. The whole system aims for a functional and vibrant feel without distracting or confusing the driver, and without the need for a central touchscreen.
Subaru has long been known as the leader in all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles, but Mazda wants to play a role in that arena, too, with a new i-Activ AWD system. For Mazda, it’s all about the connection between car and driver, and aiming to be predictive rather than reactive.
Data is collected – including whether it’s raining or snowing, what the temperature is, if you’re driving on an incline or decline, as well as your steering angles – and used to detect possible wheel slippage ahead of the driver, allowing them to maintain balance and traction at all times.
When it comes to trunks, there are many gimmicks involving a distinct kicking or hand motion. But Kia does away with all that with its new Smart Trunk Release system. Available in the mid-size Cadenza sedan, the system will open the trunk lid when it detects someone standing behind it for about three seconds holding baggage and the car’s smart key. That seems like a smart thing for a trunk to do—what else would you be doing behind the car? Hyundai has also started to use this on upper-trim levels of its new Elantra.
Staying awake at the wheel should be an easy task, but sometimes that tired feeling can creep up on you when least expected. Automakers have offered up a couple different solutions, but what makes Nissan’s Driver Attention Alert (DAA) – available in the Maxima and Murano – stand out is how it bases its data on individual driving.
It first establishes a baseline using steering angle sensors, and from there assesses driving patterns and steering wheel corrections, while taking into account difficult changes in the road and its conditions. Once the vehicle assesses you’re tired, a chime and message is displayed on the dashboard.