Automotive Technology & Innovation
It seems like, in just about every aspect of life, technology is becoming more and more prevalent. Just a couple of decades ago, being able to make a phone call across the country was a big deal. Nowadays, most of us have a supercomputer in our pocket at all times. It’s crazy when you really think about how far we’ve come as human beings.
And the technological innovations don’t stop there. Car manufacturers have been making their vehicles more and more technologically advanced in recent years. A few years ago, installing a high-end audio system in your car was a big deal. Being able to choose between AM and FM radio stations and just getting a steady signal was impressive.
These days, you’re able to talk to your car and have it do what you want it to without ever taking your eyes off the road.
Welcome to the car of tomorrow, today. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest car tech innovations in recent years and see how they’re changing the automotive industry for good.
What Is an Infotainment System?
An infotainment system in a car is an interface that connects drivers to their cars in ways like never before. Take a deeper look at the word itself—“infotainment.” If you break it down into its two components, it’s a bit easier to understand what it is and what it was designed to do.
Infotainment… information and entertainment.
As the hub of both information and entertainment, think of an infotainment system as an intersection of all the major systems in your vehicle that you want access to while driving. Anything from vehicle information and navigation to music and climate control—an infotainment system does it all.
Through a user interface that consists of touch screens, buttons, dials, voice commands, your smartphone, etc., you’re able to get more from your car than ever before. So, your car’s infotainment system is becoming a bigger and bigger part of your normal everyday commute.
This is why automakers have been focusing on infotainment systems lately, and why you’ll see new upgrades and innovations any time you start looking at new cars. And now, with the ability to connect to your car’s infotainment system through your phone, the possibilities are endless.
How Does an In-Vehicle Infotainment System Work?
Being comfortable with the infotainment system in your car is extremely important these days. Back in the day, you’d take a car for a test drive to see how it drove, to see if the interior was nice and comfortable, and maybe to check out the radio for a second to see how it sounded. These days, you pretty much have to make sure you like how the infotainment system works, and you have to be comfortable with using it.
So, how does an infotainment system actually work?
The infotainment system was designed to act as the central hub of many different vehicle systems. Think of it as the brain of your car. By integrating these various systems into one central, easy-to-use system, drivers are able to get information and entertainment from their cars more easily than ever before. It’s all about knowing what your infotainment system can do and how to use it.
Here are the main components of an in-vehicle infotainment system and why each one is important:
- Head Unit (Touch Screen)—Most commonly implemented as a touch screen coming out of the dashboard, this is the main interface that you’ll use to communicate with your car. Information and various controls are all passed through the touch screen or head unit.
- Operating Systems—Just like your computer at home has an operating system, the infotainment system in your car needs one in order to run. The most common operating systems are Android, Windows, and Linux.
- Connectivity Capabilities—Infotainment systems need connectivity modules to connect to (and interface with) external devices, like your phone and navigation tools. These capabilities include things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
- Automotive Sensors—The infotainment system is integrated with your car’s various systems via sensors. This is how information such as MPG, tire pressure, average speed, and fuel level gets relayed to you.
- Digital Cluster—This one isn’t necessary, but higher-end infotainment systems include an all-digital instrument cluster rather than the analog ones of old.
How Have Infotainment Systems Changed Over Recent Years?
Infotainment systems, just like all innovative technologies, are constantly changing—and at a rapid pace. Let’s take a look at two of the biggest changes to in-vehicle infotainment systems over the last few years.
Let’s start with the biggest one—an innovation that changed the automotive industry as you know it: connectivity between your smartphone and your car. And we’re not just talking about Bluetooth so you can listen to your favourite songs. We’re talking full interfacing.
Especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto becoming commonplace in most new cars on the road, it’s never been easier to connect to your car. This technology enables you to bring your apps straight to your car’s display so that you have access to everything from calls and text messages to music and GPS—all while staying focused on the road.
If you thought that being able to control your vehicle’s infotainment system with the car’s touch screen was innovative, then buckle up for this next one. Modern infotainment systems across the board are now utilizing voice commands to control them.
Take Amazon’s Alexa, for example. Imagine saying something as simple as “Alexa, turn on the air conditioning” and having your car’s AC turn on by itself. Sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, right? That’s the technology you have access to today. Voice commands in your car are able to do not only that, but a whole lot more!
Car Alarms & Security Systems
What to Look For in a Car Alarm
While we all wish the world were full of good people and you didn’t need to worry about installing security systems on your homes and cars, sadly, that just isn’t true. In today’s world, it’s important to protect what’s yours, including your car. And one of the easiest ways to deter potential thieves is by installing a car alarm (or purchasing a car that has a top-of-the-line security system from the factory!).
Here are some of the most important things you should keep in mind when you’re looking for a car alarm system:
- Ease of Installation—If you’re a DIY’er, you’ll want an alarm system that’s easy to install. Such systems typically require a lot of wiring, so be ready to look at some wiring diagrams. Otherwise, just pay a professional to do it for you!
- Two-Way Remote Control—A two-way system is able to both send and receive signals. This means that it can notify you if something goes wrong, and you can also have it do things for you (such as lock the doors).
- Sensors and Capabilities—You want a car alarm system that uses and monitors various sensors, including, at a minimum, motion sensors, glass break sensors, and proximity sensors.
- Smartphone Connectivity—If your security system is compatible with your phone, you can control it no matter where you are. This compatibility allows for remote start and lets you lock the doors if you can’t remember if you did or not, just to name a couple of examples.
- Driver’s Door Priority—This feature only unlocks the driver’s door on your vehicle, meaning you can get in your car without the risk of unlocking the other doors.
- Starter Kill—A security system that “kills” the signal to your starter means that a thief won’t be able to start your car and drive off with it.
How a Typical Security System Works
Security systems start to work as soon as you walk away from your car. Some have proximity sensors that arm the system once you’re far enough away, while others wait for you to hit the button that arms it. But once the system is armed, it’s ready to protect your car from unwanted visitors.
If the system is armed and someone tries to mess with your car, the alarm system will go off. It might emit one quick chirp, or it might go into full siren mode. It just depends on which sensor the thief sets off and how your system is set up. But when it goes off, they’ll know to get away from your car to avoid all the attention that the security system will draw to it.
Once you come back to your car, you just need to disarm the system so that you don’t inadvertently set it off yourself. If it’s based on a proximity sensor, it’ll disarm itself when you get close. Otherwise, you might have to push a button or hit “unlock” for it to disarm. But that’s it, and you’ll be good to go!
Aftermarket Alarms vs. Factory Systems
Most vehicles come with an alarm system, or at least a security system of some sort. But is the factory system good enough for you and your car?
Unfortunately, most factory security systems are pretty basic. Plus, their only real function is to prevent someone from actually stealing your car. With aftermarket security systems, you can do so much more. If you decide to go the aftermarket route, you’ll get quite a few benefits that most people who just live with their factory security systems won’t have access to.
Here are some of the biggest benefits of aftermarket alarm systems:
- New and innovative key fob remote
- Arm and disarm with the touch of a button
- Use your smartphone for limitless control
- Lock and unlock your doors from anywhere
- Check in on your car from anywhere with your phone
- Keyless entry
Electronic Safety Features
What Are Electronic Safety Features?
Thankfully, electronic safety features are much easier to understand than infotainment systems or high-tech security systems. Electronic safety features are exactly what they sound like—features of your car that were designed and implemented for the safety of you (the driver) and other occupants in the car.
With the innovations in sensors and monitoring that the world has seen in recent years, it’s no surprise that these new technologies have made it to the automotive industry. Electronic sensors are able to monitor things far more effectively than we can as humans, and automakers have taken full advantage of that.
How Electronic Safety Features Have Changed
As cars (and the rest of the world) become more tied into technology, you, as the driver, get to reap the rewards. Let’s look back just a couple of decades. What safety features did you have in your car? A seatbelt that automatically tightened under aggressive braking and some airbags? Those days are long gone. Today, you get to take advantage of sensors, more advanced monitoring, and new electronic safety features.
In the modern world, the main reason that electronic safety features exist is to protect you, your vehicle occupants, and others on the road. The biggest technological advancement that has led to these new, far more advanced safety systems is the innovation and improvement of sensors.
Sensors, especially in the automotive industry, have changed the world. And the automotive industry is taking full advantage of that. As sensors have improved, cars have been able to start sensing when other vehicles are slowing down, when you are drifting out of your lane, when the sun goes down, when you’re not paying attention, and much more.
You also now have access to more reliable information and monitoring than you’ve ever had. And the safety features of the cars you drive have increased tenfold over the past decade. Just think about all the safety features you’ll have a decade from now.
Electronic Safety Features to Consider When Buying a Car
As cars are becoming more technologically advanced, you now have access to all sorts of new features—some of which are far more useful than others. Let’s cut out all the noise and take a look at some of the best electronic safety features to keep in mind when you’re looking for a new car:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind spot monitoring
- Lane-keeping assist
- Forward collision warning/monitoring
- Automatic emergency braking
- Pedestrian detection
- Rear-view camera
- Driver attention warning
- Lead vehicle departure assist
- Automatic headlights and high beams