Spring forward! Here comes the revolution.
By Casey Williams
If you think automotive technology revolves around tape decks and anti-lock brakes, you probably still yearn to play a round of Pac Man. But, technology advanced a long way during the last few decades. From music that changes at the swish of a hand to cars that steer themselves, here comes revolution.
The hottest new feature is wireless phone charging. It’s becoming an expected feature in luxury cars – and cars as entry-level as the Chevy Cruze. Place your compatible device on rubber pad in the console and it charges automatically.
And, automakers are making it possible to use all of your gear on the go. General Motors is putting 4G LTE Wi-Fi in most of its vehicles, allowing owners to work with laptops or their kids to watch streaming video on tablets. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, available on the latest models, turn your car’s touchscreen into an approximation of your smartphone’s.
Reaching beyond voice, BMW introduced gesture-recognition control for audio and climate in the latest 7-Series. By making specific motions, like pretending to turn a knob in thin air, sensors adjust functions. As with other technology, expect gesture controls to filter down to more affordable models soon. But, that won’t compare to the coming revolution.
Veiled as safety systems, the embryos of fully automated cars are beginning to emerge. Automakers as varied as Subaru, Acura, and Buick offer camera- and radar-based systems that creep through traffic and automatically brake when drivers don’t pay attention.
The Mercedes S-Class is nearly automated. Using radar, it automatically keeps a pre-set distance from vehicles in front, but also has a self-centering system that uses cameras to read the lane lines and gently steer the car – even around curves. Sensors require you to keep a loose grip on the wheel.
Take the cameras and radar used for automated braking, tie in navigation and full steering, and you have an autonomous car. You’ll first see “super cruise” that allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel on the highway, followed by cars that completely drive themselves. It all starts circa 2020.
CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for Gaywheels.com. He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to wfyi.org, the area’s PBS/NPR station.