Ford 1.0-liter EcoBoost
Tucked between an avalanche airbag and a 3D desktop printer, a Ford engine and General Motors' crash avoidance system were named two of Popular Mechanics top 10 breakthrough technology award winners for 2012.

Ford's three-cylinder 1.0-liter Ecoboost engine collected one of Pop Mech's honors by providing power through turbocharging and fuel efficiency through its tiny displacement. While the internal combustion engine has been around for more than 100 years, it's not often that it undergoes such a dramatic improvement.

"We placed the bar incredibly high when we set out to design this engine," said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president, Global Powertrain, in a news release. "We wanted to deliver eye-popping fuel economy, surprising performance, quietness and refinement – and all from a very small three-cylinder engine.

GM's crash avoidance system is a big step toward creating self-driving cars. The system, which debuted in the GMC Terrain, uses a camera mounted near the rearview mirror. It follows the lines on the road to ensure the Terrain stays between them and can detect objects that might be in the way.

While many carmakers are introducing similar systems, Popular Mechanics notes that GM's is "the first practical and cost-effective single-camera vision system for crash avoidance in passenger cars."