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We know innovation when we see it. And from piloted driving to gesture-controlled features, 2016 has marked a year of auto innovation. Here are five standouts from the year gone by that we’ll be watching in '17.
Auto infotainment systems have transformed from mono AM radios to touchscreen systems that can be controlled with as little as a wave of the hand. In 2016 many manufacturers have rolled out advancements that change the game. This year BMW released the first ever infotainment system with Gesture Control in the 2016 7 Series. This feature allows passengers to control selected functions with defined hand movements like swiping or pointing. Passengers can use gesture control to trigger functions such as answering or declining phone calls, controlling navigation, and creating voice recordings.
Another major advancement in infotainment systems is the rollout of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a major advancement because in the past automakers have had issues creating systems that are user-friendly. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allows drivers to connect their mobile devices to the system which allows them to utilize their apps, music, messages, contacts, and voice control, which usually provides better navigation and overall user experience.
Backup cameras and other visibility enhancements have been growing in popularity since the early 2000s. In fact, backup cameras are even going to be mandatory in all new vehicles starting in 2018. This past year manufacturers have released more visibility enhancements that have transformed the visibility available in vehicles.
This year Cadillac released their CT6 with a HD rear camera. The view that rearview mirrors provide is often obstructed by passengers, head rests, and dust and dirt on the back window. However, this camera displays video on the rearview mirror. The enhanced view offers 300 percent more vision than a standard mirror. The mirror easily switches between the digital screen to the traditional mirror with the press of a button.
Image: Motor Trend
Most vehicle manufacturers, especially luxury brands, are getting on board with autonomous driving. Volvo, Mercedes, Infiniti and more have released vehicles with semi-autonomous features such as cruise control that responds to lane intruders, lane control, lane change ability, and even parking assistance.
One of the most notable semi-autonomous vehicles of 2016 is the newly redesigned Volvo XC90. Unlike self-driving cars, Volvo’s semi-autonomous driving lets drivers stay in control of the vehicle, but with a little assistance. The Pilot Assist technology brakes, accelerates and steers the car lightly to help drivers stay in the lane. Park Assist Pilot alerts drivers if there is a suitable space and can reverse into a parking spot and even parallel park in a gap just 1.2 times the size of the car. City Safety helps drivers avoid collisions with common things around the city such as cyclists and pedestrians with the auto-brake system. Volvo’s goal is to completely eliminate injuries or fatalities in Volvo car crashes by 2020, which means they will be removing as much potential for human error as they can.
Teens are infamous for bad driving habits. Chevrolet, Ford, and Kia, as well as aftermarket manufacturers, have a solution for that. Teen driving technology allows parents to encourage safe driving habits by setting maximum speed alerts, limiting audio volume, and tracking distance traveled. Chevrolet’s Teen Driver is available in the 2016 Malibu and will be offered in multiple models starting in 2017. Teen Driver assembles a report card that informs parents how far their teen drove, how many times they went over the speed limit set, and any stability control events, antilock braking events, collision alerts, and hard braking events.
For parents who would like this technology, but do not have a vehicle with these features there are multiple aftermarket alternatives. Hum by Verizon plugs into the on-board diagnostic port, allowing parents to set an alert that sends a message to a mobile device if the teen brakes any of the rules set, such as going over the set speed limit.
The ability to manage and track your vehicle with a smartphone has gained popularity with auto manufacturers. BMW and Lincoln both have downloadable mobile apps that allow owners to lock the vehicle, start the vehicle, control temperature, and more.
Another advancement in vehicle management is virtual owner’s manuals. These have been around for a few years, but Hyundai has come out with not only a virtual manual but an augmented reality owner’s manual in the Sonata. This cool new feature provides information about specific parts, more than 80 how-to videos, 3D overlay images that appear after users scan areas of the vehicle, and more than 50 informational guides. Expect these to become more popular in the years to come.