Like most aspects of life, technological innovation has played a major role in the development of the cars of today. Buyers have come to expect far more from their cars than they would have done previously. From safety to entertainment, communication, and lifestyle, technology has advanced them all.
Many of the features available on the vehicles of today would have been viewed as science fiction only a few years ago. Autonomous technology, in particular, has developed hugely in the last decade, with cars running more like computers than mechanical objects.
The range of new systems on offer can be bewildering, here are 10 must-have features for a new 2022 vehicle.
10 Autonomous Safety Systems
Few features are as important to buyers when considering their next car, as safety. This is particularly true when it comes to the family vehicle market. Safety has developed greatly since the three-point seatbelt was invented by Volvo in 1959. The cars of today are available with a plethora of autonomous systems. Once reserved for the most premium cars, even basic vehicles can now be equipped with this type of technology.
Cars fitted with "Autonomous Emergency Braking" continually scan the road ahead. Should a hazard be detected, the car will alert the driver initially, before applying the brakes if they do not respond. "Blind Spot Assist" as the name suggests helps reduce the risk of a collision occurring due to an unsighted vehicle. "Adaptive Cruise Control" helps reduce driver fatigue and the risk of a highway pile-up. The car automatically adjusts its speed to keep pace with the vehicle in front. The driver just has to select the distance they would like the system to maintain. "Lane Keep Assist" minimizes the chance of a lateral collision, the car will intervene should it detect lane drifting.
9 Apple CarPlay And Android Auto
These technologies need little introduction, they have become so popular that they are considered a must-have. Smartphone integration has come a long way in recent years, from aux cables and Bluetooth to full integration. CarPlay is a standard set by Apple, allowing an iPhone to connect with a car's infotainment system. Navigation, audio, calls, messages, and calendar among others can all be shared. The most modern iterations are wireless, simplifying the whole setup further.
Android Auto is the Google/ Android equivalent to CarPlay. Many of the same features and functionality can be found, with apps mirrored on the car's infotainment screen. Few buyers would entertain purchasing a new car without these two smartphone integration systems, hence extensive manufacturer development.
8 Digital And Activity Keys
The "car key", is a technology that has been around almost as long as the car itself. In recent years, manufacturers have been making their own interpretations, from key cards as seen on Renault vehicles, crystal Aston Martin keys, and 911-shaped Porsche keys. The car key has come a long way from being a simple piece of metal.
Manufacturers are taking technology further, and coming up with more technologically advanced solutions. Land Rover offers an "Activity Key", a fully waterproof, wearable wristband. The idea is outdoor recreation activities can be undertaken with no worry about damaging and dropping your car's key. Land Rover drivers no longer need to riskily leave their keys hidden around their vehicle while going for a surf. Other brands like BMW have developed key apps, allowing the car to be unlocked and started from a smartphone.
7 Remote Control Parking
James Bond fans will no doubt remember the film "Tomorrow Never Dies", where Bond is given a BMW by "Q" that can be controlled remotely. At the time of the film's 1997 release, the spectacle enthralled viewers.
Fast-forward just over 20 years, and you can now buy a BMW with this technology from the factory. "Remote Control Parking" enables drivers to move their car back and forward using the touchscreen "Display Key". The technology first appeared on the 7 Series but is now also available on the 5 Series among others. The feature has real-world benefits, saving you the discomfort of squeezing into a tight gap or having to climb across your car's interior to get in if you have been inconsiderately blocked. The key also enables remote engine starting, ideal for warming or cooling the car prior to setting off.
6 Wireless Smartphone Charging
Despite advancements in smartphone battery technology, with all the demands placed on them, they often need to be charged on the go. From using your smartphone for navigation, audio, and even calls, reliable power is needed. In the past, this would have involved laboriously manually plugging in a cable.
Many cars of today offer wireless charging, and the number is growing all the time. Most commonly, there is a "charging mat" integrated into the car's center console. Users simply place their smartphone on the mat and charging begins. No longer will there be a frantic search for a cable. This is especially welcome given the increasing reliance on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
5 Voice Activation
With more and more functions being controlled through tablet-style touchscreens, simple tasks can become a drawn-out ordeal. In the past, essential controls were at easy reach. Climate control settings could be changed at the turn of a dial and audio sources could be quickly cycled.
Despite providing a futuristic, clean and modern look, touchscreens can be difficult to operate whilst driving. This is especially true if they lack haptic feedback, and a driver inevitably has to take their eyes off the road. Voice control systems provide a way around this, by allowing many changes to be made via the driver's voice. "Hey Mercedes" and "Hey BMW", are examples of such systems marketed as "intelligent personal assistants".
4 Video Rearview Mirror
The rearview mirror has been a standard fixture for as long as most drivers can remember. Essentially, it is a relatively primitive design that has remained unaltered since its creation. It is not surprising some manufacturers are now seeking to bring it up to date.
Nissan, in collaboration with Panasonic, has produced an "Intelligent Rearview Mirror". One of the major benefits of this feature over a standard mirror is the fact the "view" comes from a rear-mounted camera. Consequently, drivers have an unobstructed view of the road behind, and passengers and luggage no longer block the visibility. Another big bonus is that glare from the sun and headlights is eliminated, preventing the driver from becoming dazzled.
3 360 Degree Parking Camera
More and more cars are offering a 360-degree parking camera as an optional extra. Such cameras provide drivers with the absolute best possible visibility. The images obtained by the vehicle's cameras are displayed on the infotainment screen, providing a bird's eye view.
Once the preserve of luxury models, the 360 camera is now available on more mainstream cars. The compact Volkswagen Tiguan, for example, offers this camera on all but the most basic specification models. The technology allows drivers to easily navigate tight urban environments, and can even help prevent the curbing of your rims. We will no doubt see it becoming an indispensable standard fitment in the future.
2 Cabin Air Purification
While vehicles have long been fitted with cabin air/ pollen filters, some manufacturers are taking this to the next level. For example, Jaguar Land Rover is developing future cabin air purification technology. According to their research, the system can inhibit viruses and airborne bacteria by as much as 97 percent.
The purification system utilizes Panasonic's nanoe™ X technology which releases trillions of Hydroxyl (OH) Radicals. The particles are capable of denaturing virus and bacteria proteins, preventing them from replicating. Currently, Jaguar's I-Pace provides cabin ionization with PM 2.5 filtration. This provides the cleanest air possible for occupants, and ultra-fine particulates and pollutants are removed from the cabin air. The system can even be pre-enabled, cleansing the air before you even step foot inside. Land Rover's Discovery and Range Rover Evoque employ the same technology.
1 Reverse Brake Assist
While pre-collision braking systems have been available for a number of years now, they generally only prevent forward collisions. Some manufacturers such as Ford are now introducing reverse brake assist, which will intervene to prevent you from backing into an object.
Modern car designs and styling have compromised rearward visibility. Sportier-looking sloping backs with small rear and side windows can make reverse maneuvering a challenge. Larger cars also mean space in parking lots is at a premium and scrapes are more likely to occur. Ford's system can detect vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists providing an audible warning. Should the driver fail to react, the car can intervene and bring itself to a controlled stop.