Safety and smartphones: The latest car technology features

Car technology is constantly getting more advanced and innovative. And research shows these extra details have become an important factor for car buyers.

The latest car tech can now add safety features, connect with your smartphone and make driving tasks easier and more automatic. Here’s the technology to look out for.

Parking assistance

New in-car tech is making parking easier with video cameras to show your surroundings. Manufacturers including Volvo and BMW have created 360-degree camera coverage so you can see obstacles on all sides when maneuvering.

Meanwhile, automated parking is becoming mainstream. Volkswagen’s system takes over the steering, leaving you to simply toggle the pedals. 

And the new BMW 7 series cars can park themselves. Pull up near a space or garage, hop out and the car will do the rest.  

In-car wifi

All the leading carmakers are building technology to connect vehicles to the internet by ‘tethering’ to your smartphone’s 3G signal. 

Audi’s new Connect system uses the wifi to get live weather and traffic updates to your dashboard, plus maps with petrol station prices to find the cheapest fuel.

BMW and Bentley now offer 4G connectivity packages. And Toyota’s Hotspot wireless router can link up with five devices to create an in-car wifi hub. Hotspot is available on all new models and as an upgrade on existing cars.

Smartphone integration

The latest car technology features also focus on integrating with smartphone applications. Many cars are now able to connect with services including social media notifications and Google Maps destinations. Volvo has announced integration with Spotify so you can stream music on the move.

Meanwhile most carmakers are developing their own mobile apps to check car information and fuel levels on the go. You’ll be able to turn on the climate control remotely and locate your car in a parking lot via GPS. And Jaguar’s nifty app will even confirm that you’ve definitely locked the car.

Collision prevention

Manufacturers are also using new car technology to make more robust safety features. Many models come with radar systems to measure when other vehicles get too close and alert the driver. Toyota and Volvo also have systems that can detect cyclists and pedestrians.

And it’s not just hazards directly in front or behind of the car. Mercedes-Benz now has a Cross-Traffic Assist option that warns you of pedestrians and cars coming in from the sides – ideal for busy junctions. Toyota has also released a similar Intelligent Transport System.

Smarter braking

Autonomous braking is another great car safety feature, and popular for city cars. Radars at the front detect obstacles like a stopped car and automatically apply the brakes.

Newer technology can also prime the brakes for faster stopping. Mercedes-Benz has developed a system that heightens the brake pressure when in-car radars detect a hazard, so the car brakes hard as soon as you press the pedal. 

Intelligent night-time driving

Never blind fellow drivers again with intelligent full-beam headlights, available on a range of new cars. These use radars to detect an oncoming vehicle and automatically dip the headlights.

And BMW has also released a night vision camera that projects its display onto the windscreen. Its radars can identify pedestrians or large animals near the dark roadside and alert the driver. 

Safer motorway driving

Another big raft of car technology features are aiming to make motorway driving safer. Lexus and Volvo have released blind spot assistance with a light in the wing mirror to alert you to a vehicle hiding in your blind spot.

Adaptive cruise control, which is widely available, not only regulates your speed but can brake if a car pulls out in front of you, maintaining a constant safe distance.

Meanwhile new in-car tech from Volkswagen monitors your concentration and prompts you to take a break if your steering becomes erratic. And a similar Lexus package can even brake for you if you don’t respond to its warning alarm.

Road awareness

The latest car technology also keeps track of road conditions for you. Many cars now come with lane departure warnings that alert you when you approach the white lines. Honda also has road departure alerts if you drift towards the road edge.

Toyota’s camera systems can detect road signs, alerting you when the speed limit changes.

And a new Audi system uses radars and GPS to detect traffic lights. The technology tells you how long you have until the lights change. It will even calculate the speed you need to maintain to keep all upcoming traffic lights on green.