A car lover’s guide to the latest clever tech

Buying a new car to replace an older model or simply upgrading to the latest sophisticated vehicle, involves research. Not only do you want to the newest models in the market — you want to know whether they come with the latest, snazzy tech too.

By Joy Persaud  

As technology rapidly evolves, choosing a car fitted with features that make life easier and safer is something that car aficionados will want to factor into their buying decision.   

And, with the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars coming into effect in 2030 1, car lovers eager to sit behind the wheel of next generation vehicles may even decide to upgrade to an electronic vehicle (EV) complete with all the latest techie highlights sooner rather than later.

We take a look at some latest innovations in car tech — from augmented reality to autopilot mode — to help you weigh up whether these benefits are worth your money.

Stay in your lane

Much of the hard work when driving — particularly on a motorway — is making sure that you stay safely in your lane. Features such as lane assist, sometimes called lane departure prevention, stop drivers from unintentionally leaving a lane, even at night or in foggy conditions when visibility isn’t the best.  

It’s more than just some tech gimmick — it’s a potentially lifesaving bit of technology

When activated, Volkswagen’s lane assist system, which works via a camera installed on the interior rear-view mirror, ensures that the driver stays in lane. If the vehicle veers towards another lane when the direction indicators have not been operated by the driver, the system automatically intervenes by gently steering back. If necessary, the driver can easily override the system.

Paul Tanner, MD, Alan Day Group, says, “Lane assistance is a brilliant little feature that I personally use all the time — it’s incredibly innovative and takes the stress out of long journeys, leaving you feeling less tired at the other end. It’s more than just some tech gimmick — it’s a potentially lifesaving bit of technology.”

Seamless payments 

These systems allow drivers to pay via the car’s own tech, meaning that smart parking and buying fuel becomes much easier. This kind of technology is soaring in popularity, with studies by Juniper Research finding that the value of in-vehicle payments — where a payment is made via an embedded computer — will reach £62bn in 2025, up from £392m in 2020.

Lead analyst at Juniper Research, Sam Barker, says, “Intelligent driver systems come with a considerable number of technologies and services underpinned by cellular connectivity. This has required a great deal of collaboration between market stakeholders, such as automotive [manufacturers], software developers, and hardware vendors, to create in-vehicle solutions that provide value to end users.”

He says these services, which rely heavily on the rollout of the 5G network, are likely to develop to include third parties, such as retailers, service providers and other smart services.

Effortless parking

If you find driving a bit of a slog at times, Tesla’s autopilot and self-driving modes may appeal. While Tesla stresses that these features don’t make its cars autonomous, they can take some of the hard work out of certain manoeuvres and reduce the effort involved in getting from A to B. 

For instance, if you’ve ever struggled to parallel park, one touch of a button will let you slide into your space with ease. Similarly, if you’ve been boxed in, the car will find its way out of the space — or even take itself out from a parking spot to come and find you.  

Usefully, Tesla cars are market leading when it comes to connecting to the internet, which means updates can happen seamlessly, says Mark Barclay, GSF Car Parts

“In recent years, we’ve seen more hi-tech cars adopt a model that’s similar to how electronics work thanks to embedded connectivity,” he says. “With a modem incorporated into the body of the vehicle, it can receive updates just like a phone or laptop. Just in 2020, [Tesla’s] Model 3 received 15 safety and security improvements wirelessly, ranging from major autopilot upgrades to simple updates to car door locking notifications.”

Nifty navigation

Using the real world in conjunction with the virtual one to enhance driver safety is a key feature of augmented reality (AR), which features in many new cars. 

Jamie Buchanan, chief technology officer at Vanarama, says the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE was the first car to implement a next-level standard of AR, beyond displaying the car’s speed or petrol usage. 

“The Mercedes-Benz GLE has implemented an AR navigation screen, capable of displayed navigational instructions and information over objects in real time through the live camera view within the dashboard,” says Buchanan. “Turn instructions, street names and building addresses are just some of the mapping features that display to the driver as they roll on by. 

“These nuggets of information live track the terrain as the car passes, meaning they appear to hover over the locations no matter how fast or slow the car is moving — the technology adapts to the speed and distance of the car comparative to the object.”

AR can also help with parking, whereby a camera shows projector and distancing lines, giving the driver a better perception of where they are compared to other cars, and whether their car will fit in to the parking space.

Hands-free controls

Tipped by many automotive industry experts to become standard in new cars within a decade thanks to advances in communication networks, voice recognition — a staple in many homes — is set to make driving easier, too. 

“One of my favourite quality of life tech upgrades we’re seeing more commonly in cars is built-in voice recognition,” says Barclay. “With these systems, the driver can control elements of the car hands-free, including music, temperature, and the satnav, ensuring they aren’t distracted changing settings manually. Thanks to the more sophisticated voice recognition available now, some systems can learn the driver’s voice and speech patterns to ensure high success rates for queries, boosting reliability.”

Could car tech technically affect your insurance? 

As well as making your driving experience more enjoyable, certain tech features could have a beneficial impact on your car insurance premium too. If, for instance, a certain model has been involved in fewer accidents, or is less likely to be stolen, insurers may consider this when setting premiums.

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