In a world obsessed with technology, an automaker touting an in-car CD deck is about as relevant as last week’s news. That’s because today’s tech-savvy breed of car buyer has grown up with digital music, touch screens, hands-free audio, social media and smart technology. What’s more, they expect nothing less than to slide behind the wheel of a vehicle with these advances seamlessly integrated into its cabin.
Recognizing the demand for enhanced auto technology, major automakers have started developing innovations that would even make the most discerning “techie” feel at home in their ride. But, with offerings flooding the market from nearly every automaker, what technologies are worth dropping some coin on? Safety and performance technology aside, let’s take a look at the top 3 auto technologies worth paying for:
1) Infotainment System
Many of today’s automakers are fitting their vehicles with available touch-screen infotainment systems aimed at enriching the overall driving experience. These systems essentially allow drivers to stay connected at all times, while ensuring that their eyes stay on the road. A quality infotainment system allows access to integrated smartphone apps, music, social media, phone contacts, text messages and more via voice or simple touchscreen commands. Systems with advanced voice-recognition software, such as Ford’s MyFord Touch, allow drivers to make and receive calls, listen and reply to texts, access turn-by-turn GPS navigation, play and discover music, adjust climate and more.
Some of the top infotainment systems offered today hail from automakers such as: Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevy, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Mazda and Mercedes.
Additionally, both Google and Apple are partnering with various automakers to develop systems with streamlined user interfaces and enhanced functionality. The systems, Android Auto and CarPlay respectively, will be offered as either factory-installed or aftermarket.
2) Bluetooth Audio
Bluetooth, short-range radio technology that provides wireless audio and data transfer, syncs with the driver’s phone/contacts for hands-free calling capabilities and the option to stream music wirelessly. As a result of more than 14 states prohibiting all drivers from using hand-held cellphones and various others placing restrictions on usage, Bluetooth has become an industry standard and either comes pre-installed or is an available option on nearly all new vehicles. However, be aware that some manufacturers offer Bluetooth with only phone capabilities. While still convenient, without the option to stream music this option becomes a little less exciting.
3) WiFi Hot-Spot Technology
As a result of our shift toward ubiquitous computing, several automakers such as Audi, Chrysler and GM have announced plans to integrate WiFi hot-spot technology into their respective vehicle lineups. Manufacturers claim that factory-installed hot-spots offer increased signal strength and bandwidth, granting passengers continuous access to a personal mobile network. Through the use of such technology, multiple passengers are able to connect laptops and other portable WiFi enabled devices at once. Benefits for the driver include enhanced use of integrated smartphone apps, real time traffic and weather updates, uninterrupted GPS navigation and more. Chevy is currently the only automaker offering WiFi capabilities today on its 2015 Malibu and Impala models.
In addition to the advancements already mentioned, there are noteworthy technologies being developed every day. With manufacturers like Hyundai teaming with Google to enhance Google Glass application in vehicles, the industry’s push toward autonomous (driverless) cars, and new performance and safety innovations, this is an exciting time to be a “techie” interested in the automotive industry.