Top 10 Tech Your Next Car Should Have
In this day and age, cars certainly are getting more and more complicated. Gone are the days where brochures and spec sheets were little more than half a letter-sized bond paper. Today, there’s row upon row of features and add-ons which can make shopping for the most basic car difficult. This is especially true for the less than tech-inclined who have difficulty in sifting out the unnecessary mumbo-jumbo from the important stuff.
Compiled below are the features that you should consider looking for in your next car purchase and why you should look for them in the first place. Take note that not all cars have these features as standard (especially for the entry-level models), but it’s worth noting that there are some vehicles which are more complete than others. Therefore, this list serves as a checklist, especially when you’re comparing two or more cars in the same class or price range.
Airbags aren’t new technology. In fact, this is by far the oldest one in this list with its development starting way back in 1967. In a nutshell, airbags are supplementary restraint systems (which means they work in conjunction with seatbelts) to prevent occupants from striking interior objects such as the steering wheel, dashboard or window. Today, automakers are constantly polishing the system, making it much more reliable and safer. Some are even of the ‘smart’ variety, calculating its rate of deployment based on the passenger’s weight and seating position. Moreover, airbags are constantly being applied on just about every position from the more common front airbags to more exotic side-impact, curtain and knee airbags.
What Cars Have Them: Typically most modern cars come equipped with airbags, but there are some such as base sub-compacts that still don’t carry this technology. Shame.
Originally developed for aircrafts, anti-lock brakes or ABS forms the front-line in a car’s active safety feature; by definition, ‘active safety’ means it prevents accidents from happening in the first place, rather than merely protecting the occupants after the accident has occurred (like airbags). ABS prevents a wheel or a set of wheels from locking up during heavy braking. This allows the driver to maintain control of the vehicle, enabling him to steer out of harms way. Today, ABS is often times paired with other brake-related technology such as electronic brakeforce distribution or EBD. EBD varies the amount of force applied to each of a car’s brakes based on road condition, load, speed and so forth.
What Cars Have Them: Like the airbag, it’s typical to see ABS carried as standard equipment on most modern cars. However, they’re still far from common in the sub-compact range which usually just carries airbags.
Completing the triumvirate of important safety systems is the stability control system. The terminology may range from ESC, ESP or TCS, but the way it operates is more or less the same. The stability control system monitors a vehicle’s movement. If it detects a skid, it automatically applies the brakes to the slipping wheel to help steer the car in the direction where the driver intended to go. This is especially helpful during bad weather such as heavy downpours. In data provided by the US-based NHTSA or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 33 percent of vehicle accidents are prevented by the stability control system.
What Cars Have Them: In the US, stability control is now mandated by law. Locally, it’s more of the upscale cars be it SUV (Ford Expedition), crossover (Mazda CX-9), executive car (Hyundai Sonata) or sports car (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) that have them.
Notice those cars with bluish headlights? They’re equipped with High-Intensity Discharge or HID headlamps and they’re not just for show. Once a standard only for high-end luxury vehicles, HID headlamps offer much better illumination than a standard halogen headlamp per watt output. When used in conjunction with the proper lens, it offers better nighttime visibility, especially on highways and country roads.
Though it’s tempting to retrofit standard headlamp lenses with HID bulbs, if they aren’t designed to take in HIDs, it can result in high levels of glare. If you’re considering retrofitting aftermarket HID bulbs to improve nighttime visibility, consider having your headlamp lenses adjusted as well to avoid blinding other motorists.
What Cars Have Them: All executive and luxury cars have them and now, compacts are starting to equip them as standard as well. You can consider retrofitting a new car not equipped with HID, but take note: it may void your warranty.
Everybody likes to think of themselves as careful and attentive drivers, but the reality is everyone’s human and capable of making mistakes big or small. Embarrassingly, the most common kind of accident happens at parking lots and low speed maneuvers. Though the damage may not sound a lot, seeing a ding or dent on your front or rear bumper really ruins your day. Moreover, insurance companies rarely cover such a boo-boo. The best way to avoid unnecessary embarrassment is through the use of proximity sensors. Whether they’re just located at the back or on all corners of your car, they serve as helpful guides to bring you out of precarious and tight situations. Some even come with cameras and lane guidance. Though this is usually equipped as standard on higher-end cars, smaller ones such as sub-compacts and compacts still don’t have them. Fortunately, dealers and most aftermarket shops carry various kinds of back-up and proximity sensors. It’s the perfect weapon to combat Manila’s terribly designed parking lots.
What Cars Have Them: Larger SUVs carry them as standard equipment such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Isuzu Alterra. However, there are several smaller cars that are beginning to offer them as standard equipment. Of course, you can always ask the dealer to install them. Typically, they might throw it in for free if you haggle well.
USB / iPod Connectivity
During long distance drives, there’s no better companion than your favorite set of tunes. There maybe some cars out there that still rely on CDs to playback your favorite Justin Bieber album, but whether it’s playing via MP3 or the traditional CD format, compact discs as a medium is going the way of the cassette tape. Nowadays, you should rely on your iPod or any good MP3 player to provide hours of audio bliss on the road. They’re especially adept for life on the road since their solid-state memory doesn’t have any moving parts making them impervious to skipping on rough roads. Modern cars allow for MP3 player connectivity and if not, you can actually get an aftermarket fitment from both dealers and audio specialists alike. The most basic kind is the auxiliary jack. There are some stereo systems that go a step further by offering USB connectivity. This is far more advanced since it allows the driver to fully control their player while continuously charging it at the same time. While you’re at it, go for a stereo system that has steering wheel controls for the ultimate audio experience.
What Cars Have Them: The Chevrolet Cruze, most of the Honda line-up and the Mitsubishi Montero Sport have both auxiliary jack and USB input. The Cruze and the Montero Sport also throws steering wheel controls into the mix as well.
Hands-Free Phone System
Though it’s not stringently followed yet in the country, there are some local cities and municipalities that have been cracking down on cell phone use while driving. Some motorists still believe that a law such is a drag, but let’s face the numbers: mobile phones, whether used for calling or texting is outright distracting and dangerous. Thankfully car companies are aware of this and are starting to equip cars with hands-free phone systems. Using a Bluetooth interface, it allows the driver to receive phone calls without taking his hands off the steering wheel (or maybe for a few seconds in most aftermarket installs). The best hands-free phone systems also come with voice command technology which allows drivers to even access their phonebook or initiate calls without removing his hands off the wheel. Like USB and iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free systems can often times be installed as a dealer option. Otherwise, if you don’t mind looking like Captain Kirk, you can invest money on a good headset.
What Cars Have Them: All Ford products equipped with Microsoft’s SYNC technology such as the Ford E-150 and Expedition, the Ford Fiesta Sport and even the Subaru Legacy and Outback all have Bluetooth hands-free as well as voice command as standard equipment.
With gasoline prices hovering close to P60 per liter, it’s about time you do something about it. Next time you’re purchasing a new car, consider one that has a trip computer. That way, it’s easier for you to monitor your fuel consumption and how a light or lead foot affects your wallet at the gas station. The most basic kind offers a simple numeric display on the dashboard, showing either km/L or L/100 km. The more high-tech kind shows a graph or even averages out your fuel consumption per trip, day or even every service interval. This gives a much more accurate feedback on fuel consumption and offers an instant gratification on being fuel frugal. If your car doesn’t come equipped with a trip computer, there are some aftermarket solutions such as the ScanGauge II which plugs into your OBD-II port. After some calibration, it gives much more helpful data than a typical stock trip computer such as throttle position, engine load and so forth. Perfect for those who like to ‘hypermilers’ (drivers who focus on getting the most km/L).
What Cars Have Them: The entire Subaru line-up features a basic numeric display while the Mitsubishi ASX and Lancer offers a bar graph display that calculates consumption per day and per manual reset.
Even if you’re constantly monitoring the way you sip fuel via a car’s trip computer, there’s no way to reduce your overall gas consumption if your car’s drivetrain isn’t equipped with the latest fuel-saving technologies. Though aftermarket bolt-ons may sound enticing, they do nothing to reduce your car’s appetite for unleaded. There are different terms and acronyms that car companies use for their green technology, but all in all, they’re designed to optimize fuel consumption. Terms such as variable-valve timing, direct-injection and EcoBoost for gasolines and common rail direct injection and variable-geometry turbo for diesels, are just some key words you should watch out for. On the transmission side, car companies are working to cram as much gears or ratios as they can in their gearboxes. This allows the engine to operate at the lowest engine speed to maximize fuel efficiency. Some even employ technologies such as Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) or dual clutch automatics (known as DCT, PowerShift, TwinClutch SST and so forth) to make them even more fuel efficient.
What Cars Have Them: Japanese car makers are renowned for their dedication to fuel-sipping technology, but don’t discount the likes of Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. Cars such as the Elantra feature a light-weight engine as well as a six-speed automatic. Meanwhile, Ford has equipped their Fiesta and Focus with a dual-clutch automatic.
In the end, all this car technology is quite useless if it’s close to impossible to use without consulting the owner’s manual. The last must have car technology must be an interface that you’re comfortable with. Whether it’s in the form of a single knob, a touch screen interface or a row of buttons, it really doesn’t matter. It’s down to personal preference. Of course, it’s typical for car companies to come up with their own system be it the iDrive, MMI or COMAND. Whatever they decide to call it, it doesn’t matter. What’s more important is that you’re comfortable navigating through the different menus and personalizing the system to your liking, especially since you’re the one using the car, not the car company’s designers, engineers or marketers.
What Cars Have Them: All cars, no matter how simple they are, are equipped with some sort of interface. It’s up to you to decide what kind of button arrangement you’re comfortable and happy with.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang