By Patrick Vernon
New cars have been described as ‘tech treasure chests on wheels’ as even models in the lower reaches of manufacturers’ ranges bristle with the sort of safety and comfort equipment unimaginable a few short years ago.
More power from smaller engines, lighter weight models, collision avoidance systems and partial self-driving tech is becoming the norm as cars become ever-more sophisticated. Here’s a run down of some of the top new car technology for 2016.
The idea that inanimate objects can ‘think’ for themselves is considered firmly in the realms of sci-fi fiction, but maybe that’s about to change for good. Consider what the electric hybrid SUV Mercedes GLE can do.
It collates data from the sat nav system to select the correct drive mode for the conditions. For example, if the driver goes up a steep hill the car draws maximum power from the electric motors since it knows it will soon be able to replenish this power from coasting modes and regenerative braking on the way down.
A car that could ‘think’ and do its own hill start could be a boon for learner drivers struggling with their clutch control as they master their maneuvers and rules of the road.
Zoned infotainment systems
Ford is about to release an easy-to-use ‘infotainment’ system that switches quickly from navigation to phone and various other functions by gesture control. There’ll be no question of having to take hands off the wheel to operate it.
It’ll be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, offering the user immediate familiarity with their smartphone platform including compatibility with voice control systems such as Apple’s Siri.
Other manufacturers such as Jaguar and Land Rover are due to introduce slicker infotainment systems and Volvo, with its Sensus Connect system, offers a fully integrated infotainment and climate control system on the XC90 T8.
Hydrogen powered Toyota
Toyota’s Mirai uses hydrogen to work with a fuel cell that charges the car’s batteries; when hydrogen levels run low the driver fills up the same as refuelling with diesel or petrol.
While there are only a few hydrogen stations in the UK so far, the Mirai can manage a range of nearly 350 miles and boasts a sub ten second 0-60mph time. It’s an expensive car at the moment though at around £61,000, but shows what may be possible given time.
As we mentioned earlier, just waving your hand to switch the radio channel or making a casual finger swipe to reject an incoming phone call might sound and feel weird, but it’s exactly what drivers of BMW’s tech-crammed 7 Series can experience.
An infrared camera located by the rear view mirror picks up hand movements for the driver and front passenger and converts them into actions. For safety and convenience, it’s a remarkable feature.
Prefer the speedometer to your left? Or maybe you’d rather move it to the center so you can have a larger sat nav display as you drive through some tricky city streets? Perhaps you’re on the open road and want to see a bigger rev counter with some performance statistics alongside?
Whatever dashboard display permutations you fancy, Audi’s virtual dashboard – such as the one fitted to Audi’s desirable R8 and optional on some of their other models now – is a very desirable piece of car tech.
Gathering pace of technology
More and more technology seems to be coming on stream almost every month. It’s never been more interesting to be in the market for a new car. Whether its safety or cutting edge technology – or both – that that you’re after, prepare to be impressed by what’s on offer in 2016.