5 High-Tech Luxury Car Features That May Reach All Cars
By Aaron Crowe
One great thing about luxury cars, especially from a proletariat point of view, is that some of the high-tech features often eventually make their way down to more affordable models.
Luxury cars are often used by automakers to test new features in the marketplace, and since the cars already come at a high price, adding new high-tech equipment that’s sold as an option package gives them a way to test it more in real life. If successful, the features are refined more and trickle down to mid-priced cars driven by the masses.
“In 2018, backup cameras will be mandatory in all vehicles sold in the U.S. A few years back, that technology was only available as an additional option in luxury cars,” says Paul Nadjarian, CEO of Mojo Motors, an online automotive marketplace that tracks used car prices at dealerships.
Some car technology travels the other way, too, says Nadjarian, a former executive at Ford and eBay Motors.
“When most people think of luxury car tech, they think of Mercedes Benz, BMW, or Tesla,” he says. “But today, high-end manufacturers are not the only ones offering high-end technology. Companies like Kia, Hyundai and Ford are offering amazing technology in affordable cars.”
Here are five high-tech luxury car features that may trickle down to all classes of cars:
The 2015 Chevrolet Corvette offers something that fans of the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will appreciate: A valet monitor with performance data recorder to record video, audio and vehicle data to show how a valet driver is handling their car after getting the keys. Corvette calls it a “baby monitor for your baby,” meaning your Corvette, that’s set with a four-digit code that locks the storage big behind the center stack display, the glove box and disables the radio and infotainment system.
The valets who took the keys from Ferris Bueller took the car for a joy ride in the film, which would have been recorded with this valet monitor. The technology was developed for the track so racecar drivers could develop their technique. It’s a system that protects a car and an owner’s belongings from potential theft, and could be followed by other carmakers.
If you have a fear that someone is hiding in your vehicle that’s parked in an isolated parking lot or garage, the Volvo S80 sedan has a heartbeat sensor that detects if someone is in the car. The information is transmitted to your keyfob, warning you before you reach the car door. The feature was introduce in 2011 and in 2013 became a standard feature in Volvo S80s.
GPS-linked temperature control
GPS satellites not only provide turn-by-turn travel directions, but can track a vehicle’s position relative to the sun. Acura started the system with its 2012 Acura TL, and it’s now available on the 2015 Acura RDX. Now called the climate control system, it monitors the sun’s intensity and location, enabling the system to keep each side of the cabin at a desginated temperature.
The system is automatic and doesn’t require manual adjustments, regardless of outside conditions. Almost all the climate control functions are operable by voice commands.
Mercedes-Benz expects to start selling cars by 2020 that can fully drive themselves. Until then, it’s incorporating autonomous driving technology in its regular cars through what it calls an Intelligent Drive system.
“Luxury car-makers are all scrambling to be the first to incorporate autonomous features,” Nadjarian says. “In the 2000’s, the hot feature was automatic parallel parking. Now it’s all about automated highway driving technology.”
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, for example, offered an Attention Assist feature designed to detect when the driver is displaying behavior that they’re falling asleep or not looking at the road ahead. Audio and visual prompts are given to draw the eye and mind back to driving.
In Europe, Mercedes has a feature called Stop & Go Pilot that allows the car to drive itself in gridlock without the driver touching the steering wheel. The system can come to a full stop if needed, accelerate back to a preset speed and maintain a set distance from a vehicle ahead, and steer itself to stay in the lane, but only at low speeds.
In America, its Intelligent Drive system includes such features as pedestrian detection and urban braking function, assistance staying in a lane, blind spot assistance, and a 360-degree camera.
Car as a wireless hotspot
The 2015 Buick lineup has technology that you won’t necessarily find in other luxury vehicles: in-car Wi-Fi. The 2015 Buick Verano, Regal, LaCrosse and Encore all offer OnStar with 4G LTE, which connects to AT&T’s 4G LTE wireless data network, much like a smartphone.
“Each car then features an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows up to seven wireless devices — such as tablets, smartphones, laptops, vodeo games and more — to simultaneously connect,” says Evan McCausland, a spokesman for Buick and GMC.
According to Strategy Analytics, 74 percent of tablets are sold without a data connection, making traveling in a Buick a fun trip of streaming entertainment or a place to tackle work away from the office.
Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.