Car Tech We Love
Automobiles are changing at a faster pace than ever before. Consumers are pressuring automakers and aftermarket companies to keep pace with the technology they see and use in the rest of their lives. Governments increasingly want vehicles to be safe, clean, and energy efficient. And the tools and gadgets that we use in the outside world are increasingly being incorporated into our driving lives.
At Autoblog we like to report on all of the trends and new-to-market inventions that we see, but that doesn’t mean we think they’re universally cool, or that we’d care to use them. But, in getting revved up for the 2015 iteration of our Tech of the Year awards, we took an informal poll to see which wizardry has impacted the lives of our staff recently. Not everything you’ll see in this group is brand new, while some of it isn’t even on the market yet, but each item has been compelling of thought or action.
3D Printed Cars – Jeremy Korzeniewski
I have to admit to being impressed by the sheer scale of presence Local Motors proffered at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The tech/automotive company had a huge glass room on display, inside of which was a massive robotic system laying down thick lines and layers of a plastic-like substance that would, within a few days, make up the chassis of a working vehicle. While the process and the resulting vehicle were clearly in their infancy, the 3D printed car is a supremely exciting prospect and one I look forward to following in the coming years.
Adaptive Cruise Control With Lane Keeping Assist – Mike Austin
Despite my fears of the robot apocalypse, I love the idea of a car that can steer itself. More than just a novelty, lane keeping assist lowers the stress of a long commute. I travel about 50 miles each way when I go to the office, and I'm always less worn out by the drive in cars with assistance systems like lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. It's the same on a road trip - my mind, and reflexes, are sharper after hours behind the wheel when the car handles some of the mental work. When it comes to a good road, or even a decent on-ramp, I always want full control. But for the large percentage of driving that borders on drudgery, I'll take all the help I can get right up until Skynet goes live.
Self-Driving Cars (Eventually) – Eddie Sabatini
I know they don’t exist for most of the public yet, but with the opening of MCity on Monday, autonomous vehicles have been on my mind a lot lately. The possibility of being able to kick back and allow my car get me to work while I check email or read the new Harper Lee novel is nice to think about. And looking at tech in cars now as well as that promised for the future, real autonomous driving systems seem just over the horizon. Forbes seems to think that, "by 2020 we'll have cars capable of being fully autonomous in certain circumstances, most likely rural interstates with minimal variables (and no inclement weather). Think early days of cruise control." The next five years should be exciting – I’m ready to catch up on my reading.
Android Auto / Apple CarPlay – Jonathan Ramsey
I'm single, I don't have kids, I don't commute to an office every day. My daily driver is 14 years old and the car I'm about to replace it with is 11 years old, because the only thing I care about is having a great driving experience. That's all I want in-car technology to do - help me have more fun getting from one corner to the next. If I were going to buy a new car, however, I'd be looking for one compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
The cellphone is becoming more of a backup brain and remote control prosthetic device with every evolution, and tech like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is the seamless connector: those interfaces merge the the tool you use to store a healthy portion of your life (phone) and the tool you use to move between each portion of your life (car) into one integrated piece. The phone remains the brain so anything you do in the car stays with the phone, but you get to take advantage of the vehicle's more friendly interfaces - large touchscreens, excellent stereos - for the interaction. I only spent a week with it and the promise was evident on the first day. As the software evolves it will be able to offer even more, perhaps, admittedly, to the point of being a little creepy. But for now it's brilliant.
Forward Collision Alert – Greg Migliore
So I’m cruising into the office in a 2015 Chevy Silverado all decked out in the Midnight Edition. Feeling pretty tough. Sorta like Batman on the way to his day job. Anyway, I’m not being as cognizant as I should be and the Silverado tasers me. It’s the forward collision alert sending a no-so-subtle vibrational pulse through the seat. Red lights also flash on the windshield. I had drawn too close to a red Chevy Corvette Stingray in front, and the Silverado flagged me. (All I needed was Howie Long riding shotgun and this could have been a Chevy commercial). It’s been awhile since I’ve driven a Silverado, or a Chevy for that matter, and I appreciated the extra warning and reaction time this system offers.
Magnetic Selective Ride Control
Since GM first put magnetically adjustable dampers on the market, car guys everywhere have been impressed with the technology. But when we first drove the latest iteration of Magnetic Selective Ride Control in the 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06, we were truly floored. There are tons of adjustable-ride systems out there these days, but few allow you to dial up so dramatic a difference as that found in the ‘Vette. Part of the larger Performance Traction Management system, the damping settings take the hard from legitimately hardcore and hard-riding, to Buick-levels of detachment. The system’s use on the yet more practical Cadillac CTS-V – by which we mean it has four doors and four seats – promises great things, too.