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7 automotive innovations that have changed our driving experience

Every now and then, it is important to take stock of all the good things we have going in our lives. For drivers, these mean all the gadgets and gizmos that innovations in the automotive industry have afforded us. We narrow some of these car technologies and developments that have made our journeys safer, more convenient, and environmentally friendly today.

1. GPS Navigation

Gone are the days of unfolding paper maps and navigating by landmarks. Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation systems have become an indispensable part of our driving experience, guiding us with almost pinpoint accuracy to our destinations.

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With GPS navigation, drivers can easily plan routes and receive turn-by-turn directions along the entire journey through apps such as Google Maps and Waze. They can also access real-time traffic information, be alerted to traffic jams, accidents or road closures, and be rerouted to avoid congestion.

Modern GPS navigation systems often integrate with other in-car systems, such as infotainment, climate control, and smartphone connectivity. This integration has also enhanced the overall driving experience.

2. Driver Assistance Systems

In recent years, automotive technology has taken a big leap forward with the introduction of driver assistance systems. These are designed to enhance vehicle safety, improve driving comfort experience and provide assistance to drivers, for example, in undertaking corrective actions to prevent or mitigate potential collisions.

BMW Rear End Collision Warning
BMW’s Driving Assistance Systems has functions such as the Rear-end Collision warning to ensure intelligent safety especially during your drive.

Some common features in driver assistance systems include the following:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control maintains a set speed for the car but can automatically adjust the speed to maintain a safe following distance from the preceding vehicle.
  • Lane Departure Warning alerts the driver if the car drifts out of its lane unintentionally without the use of turn signals. Lane-Keeping Assist goes a step further by automatically steering the vehicle back into its lane.
  • Forward Collision Warning alerts the driver if it detects a potential collision with a vehicle or obstacle in front of the car.
  • Automatic Emergency Braking automatically applies the brakes if a collision with an obstacle, such as another vehicle or a pedestrian, is imminent and the driver does not respond in time.
  • Blind Spot Detection monitors the blind spots on either side of the car and warns the driver if there is a vehicle in the adjacent lane.

Driver assistance systems can help to improve safety, reduce driver workload, and enhance the overall driving experience. However, it is still important to understand that these systems are designed to assist but not replace the driver’s responsibility. You are still expected to remain engaged and vigilant as a responsible driver.

3. Smart Parking Assistance

Parking in tight spaces or parallel parking can be a nerve-wracking experience for many drivers. Smart parking assistance systems take the stress out by providing guidance to the driver. This may be done visually, such as displaying the parking space information on the car’s infotainment screen, and through audio prompts.

In more advanced systems, the Smart Parking Assistant can take control of the steering to manoeuvre the car into the parking space with minimal or no direct input from the driver.

BMW iX Parking Assistant

This is done through an array of sensors and cameras positioned around the vehicle to gather information about the surroundings. The system then plans the optimal path for the vehicle to navigate to the parking spot. This includes determining the trajectory, steering angles, and any necessary adjustments for a smooth parking.

The availability of smart parking features depends on the vehicle make and model. But drivers who have this technology in their cars enjoy how it makes parking a breeze and help them avoid those frustrating fender-benders.

4. Heads-Up Display

Heads-Up Display has become increasingly common in vehicles, ranging from high-end luxury cars to more mainstream models. It is a transparent display that presents information directly in the driver’s natural line of sight, usually on the car windshield. This keeps the driver focused on the road and reduces the need to glance at the dashboard or centre console.

Typically, the information projected includes the current speed of the vehicle, real-time navigation directions, driver assistance alerts, and incoming calls. Depending on the vehicle and system, drivers may have the option to customise the types of information displayed to suit their preferences.

Some Heads-Up Displays support voice commands and gestures, allowing drivers to interact with the display without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

5. Keyless Entry and Digital Key

What do you do when you have your hands full and need to dig for the key to unlock your car door? Enter keyless entry and digital keys.

Keyless entry is a technology that allows you to unlock and lock your car doors and, in some cases, start the engine without using a traditional physical key. Instead, electronic key fobs or key cards are used to communicate wirelessly with the car’s onboard computer. The key fob or card typically emits a radio frequency (RF) signal that is recognised by your car sensors, once it comes into close proximity.

An example of the use of this keyless entry is BMW’s Comfort Access System. Approach your BMW with your key (it can even be in your pocket) and the car will automatically unlock. Move away from the car and beyond a certain range, the doors will automatically lock behind you.

Some keyless entry systems also offer remote start functionality, allowing drivers to start their car engines from a distance. In Singapore’s hot climate, this is especially useful for cooling the car before you get behind the wheels.

Using Digital Key Plus, BMW XM owners can lock and unlock their cars with just their mobile phone, without even having to whip their phones out.

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Digital key systems, on the other hand, allow a driver to use a digital device, such as a smartphone, as a virtual key to lock/unlock or start the vehicle. Digital keys may have additional security features, such as biometric authentication or device-to-vehicle encrypted communication.

With the convenience they provide to drivers, keyless entry and digital keys have fast become standard features in many modern vehicles today.

6. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

The integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has revolutionised the way we interact with our cars. They connect our smartphones seamlessly to our vehicle’s infotainment system.

Once connected, CarPlay and Android Auto provide a familiar interface to users, mirroring the look and feel of our smartphones on the car display.

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Both systems are designed with driver safety in mind with an emphasis on voice-controlled functions. Using Siri and Google Assistant, for example, drivers can easily make calls, stream music, navigate, and control various apps without taking their eyes off the road.

7. Electric Vehicles

Increasing concerns over air pollution and climate change have propelled the push towards cleaner transportation options. Electric vehicles (EVs), which produce fewer or zero tailpipe emissions, are seen as a more sustainable alternative to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.

Global automakers have also ramped up their investments and production of EV offerings. This, in turn, have positively impacted our driving experience.

BMW iX2 xDrive30
New EV models such as the first-ever BMW iX2 will be making its way to Singapore’s roads (Photo: BMW Asia)

Other than reduced emissions, drivers are starting to understand and appreciate the many benefits of electric vehicles. For example, the cost of electricity for charging is often lower than that for petrol. EVs also have fewer moving parts, thereby reducing maintenance costs.

When it comes to performance and driving dynamics, drivers are discovering the joy of instant torque, and a quiet and comfortable ride with electric vehicles. In addition, electric vehicles often come equipped with advanced technology and features.

The good news is that automakers are continuing to rollout more and more electric models. Which means consumers have more choices than ever, ranging from compact cars to SUVs and luxury vehicles, when making the switch to electric vehicles.

>>READ: Making the switch to an electric car?

Conclusion

As automotive technologies continue to evolve, we can expect even more innovations that will become game-changers for drivers. As we buckle up and drive into the future, let us be thankful for the innovations that we have now become accustomed to that makes our journeys safer, smarter, and more sustainable.


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