Created on Friday, 26 November 2010
Technologies in today's automobiles help to create a more intimate driving experience.
In an early episode of Seinfeld, Jerry spends an afternoon looking for Kramer's car in an underground parking garage. The episode is funny because most drivers can relate.
If that scene were being filmed today, however, Jerry could have used a smart key or a key fob, which provides real-time location information.
The key or fob can also recall seat and mirror settings and preset radio stations. It will, of course, lock and unlock the vehicle, set off a panic alarm if necessary, control vehicle lighting, open all windows and unlock vehicle doors from a distance, as well as remember your last HVAC setting.
Onboard computers will verify the engine's oil level and condition, diagnose and report mechanical problems and identify the nearest dealership or gas station.
It will even tell you how to get there, and identify the restaurants along the way.
Seinfeld would have found humour in today's technology. But to owners who enjoy the technical evolution of their vehicles, and the manufacturers introducing these innovations, the latest wave of new automotive features is no laughing matter.
Vehicles today have become extensions of our identities, personalities and preferences. The amount of technology we choose to use or don't use reflects our lifestyles and driving habits, not to mention our concern for comfort and safety.
Popular technology that is becoming the norm is truly extraordinary. Voice activated, hands-free, smart phones allow us to communicate while driving. Entertainment systems can be synched with iPods, MP3 players and other devices to satisfy all forms of listening pleasure.
In 2008, Ford and Miscrosoft introduced SNYC, an in-car communications and entertainment system, which allows portable devices (iPods, Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and USB mass storage devices) to be activated by voice commands.
Likewise, the OnStar system, pioneered by GM over a decade ago,allows instant communication to a call centre in case of an emergency or general questions from a motorist. Similar applications are offered by other manufacturers.
New technologies have influenced other aspects of the automobile. For instance, most owners' manuals are available on DVDs, or online, and have been incorporated into the in-car navigation screen offered by some makers.
Driver safety has benefited from advanced technologies as well. Adaptive cruise control, tire pressure monitoring and lane departure warning systems are among the current innovations designed to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
Occupant-sensitive/dual-stage airbags have become standard equipment on passenger cars. Today's advanced airbag systems can now differentiate the sizes and weights of occupants, and deployment is determined by seatbelt usage, non-standard seating position, rear-facing child seats and vehicle speed. Back-up sensors, rear-view cameras, heated seats and steering wheels, even cars that self-park, are recent but popular features with buyers.
If some of these new technologies are confusing, dealers understand that, which is why you should allow ample time for the delivery process when picking up your new vehicle. You should understand and be comfortable with all of the features of your new car.
Many dealers offer "second delivery clinics." This is a great opportunity for those interested in learning more about the functions of their new vehicles after driving it for several weeks.
Skeptics may dismiss the newest gadgets and technologies as harmful distractions, which could result in more accidents. Interestingly, when car radios were first introduced in the 1930s, critics voiced the same concerns, but drivers learned to adapt.
As complicated as the new technologies are, drivers do learn to adapt. Say what you will about the latest innovations, there is no denying that they have made the driving experience safer, pleasurable and more intimate.
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