Forget about self-driving cars, these 5 existing features can already revolutionise the way you drive.
In a time when many carmakers are jumping feet first into fully electric cars, tech companies are trying to get cars to drive themselves and some people think it’s a bright idea to make cars fly, it feels like the approach to innovation in the automotive industry is similar to the approach of action movie sequels in the 1990s – GO BIG OR GO HOME!! (cue fiery explosion).
Consumers however tend to appreciate the little innovations delivered more often than the big and bold every decade, as demonstrated by the obscene revenue cellphone makers rake in every year. So with your interests in mind, here are 5 minor innovations that you need in every car you own, and the best part about them – they already exist, and just need to be homaged/imitated/stolen:
1. Turn signal buttons on the steering wheel
A large majority of cars maintain the turn signal lever behind the steering wheel, either on the left or right depending on the car, and it is this inconvenient placement that could explain why so many drivers are unable to use it. Enter Ferrari, whose greatest creation may well be the turn signal buttons on the front of the steering wheel. What may have been an aesthetic to maintain the feel of a race car, the buttons are placed so that you only need to press them with either thumb to activate the respective signal; an act so easy to do that it revolutionizes driving. Just close your eyes and imagine the beautiful sight of so many turn signals on the road — I almost shed a tear.
2. Self-Parking systems
Many cars have self-parking systems, but I don’t know of anyone that uses them. When this feature was first introduced it was incredibly unreliable and felt gimmicky; the sensors were often wonky in the real world setting and you would spend more time shouting “my hands are off the wheel” than you would parking. However, the tech has significantly improved since then, even if carmakers aren’t shouting off the rooftops about it. My best experience was with the Audi Q7 Park Assist which was able to parallel park the behemoth as snug to the sidewalk as I would have myself. Just think of all the people who badly need this… I know you could name a few.
3. Button-free centre console
It only takes hearing or reading the driver’s seat being referred to as “the cockpit” to understand why carmakers place 2,584,963 buttons all over the steering wheel, dashboard and centre console. I’ve sat in cars and have had to refer to the manual because the 700th button I pushed didn’t do anything, and I can say for a fact that I’m not the only one who feels this way – Elon Musk does too. The single screen centre console in all Tesla cars does away with all buttons and gives us something we’re more comfortable with – a giant cellphone. I will say though, while the Tesla screen is a good idea, the Tesla screens themselves aren’t very pleasing to the eye; a slimmer screen and nicer housing would be better.
4. Automated Safety Features
Cars come with all manner of safety features that reduce fatal accidents, however some carmakers, like Mercedes-Benz have taken it to the next level with their intelligent and automatic systems like automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, and blind spot monitoring. Many cars, and usually costlier cars come with most of these functions, but it begs the question when saving lives will trump profits and these features come in every car. It should go without saying that even these systems aren’t perfect and accidents can still happen, but it’s hard to argue they wouldn’t happen a lot less. Another system someone should be working on: ‘Breathalyzer Start’, which will require the driver to be below the legal limit to even start their car.
5. Voice activation
I am fully aware that many cars now come equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but these systems barely scratch the surface of what we could do with voice activation and response technology in a vehicle. The current systems can complete some useful tasks – make and answer phone calls, read texts, play music, navigation – when Siri or Bixby actually understand you; but why haven’t we reached the point where you can ask you car about its tire pressure, or black oil level? Why do I have to navigate so many menus to show off the variety of ambient lights in the car when I could just tell my car to change them? Virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa continue to get better, so the technology already exists in other parts of our lives, it is time carmakers add it to this part too.
(Photos: Ferrari; Audi; Tesla; Mercedes-Benz; Apple)