Taking the High (Tech) Road

In spite of what Uber and Google may claim, fully autonomous cars are still a faraway dream. but that doesn’t mean car tech isn’t making significant strides every year. here are some cool new features you can find on the market right now.

The 2019 Audi Q5, which starts at $42,950, has many of these innovations included. Courtesy Audi North America.

Head-up displays

Borrowed from aerospace engineering, this feature offers a way for drivers to check dashboard readings—speed, RPM, gas levels—without looking down and taking eyes off the road. The dashboard data is projected upward onto the lower windshield as clearly visible, but not distracting, floating numbers.

Massage seats

This one is pretty self-explanatory: the natural next step after the game-changing heated seat. Once a rare luxury available in only top-of-the-line models, this major selling point is now making its way into more affordable vehicles.

Teen driver technology

Your teenage kids will hate you for this one, but, if you have teens, that’s more or less what you signed up for. Plus, it will keep them safe—the most important thing. Many automakers, including GM, Chevy, Hyundai, and Toyota, have started to build in features that allow car owners to limit vehicles’ top speed and max audio volume, mute the stereo until the driver’s seat belt is buckled, and send alerts to parents’ phones if the car detects reckless driving.

Adaptive cruise control

Also called dynamic cruise control, automated cruise control, and about a dozen other names, this feature essentially takes the teeth-gnashing frustration out of stop-and-go traffic. Whereas old-fashioned cruise control sets the car at a single speed, this new mode allows the vehicle to slow down and accelerate based on the speed of the traffic in front of it. It’s achieved through the same types of sensors that power self-driving cars. The only (key) difference: You’ll be behind the wheel to intervene if things get hinky.

Exit warnings for cyclist safety

Biking on a busy street lined with parked cars, we’ve all played out this disastrous scenario in our minds: You’re cruising along when suddenly a car door swings open, clipping you with the force of a linebacker. Some newer cars have sensors that will detect oncoming cyclists—even after the car is parked and turned off. If the vehicle notices a biker coming, warning lights will flash, and the door may even lock itself if the driver tries to open it.