Though it’s been around for decades, the technology known as “stop-start” has only recently become trendy with automakers hoping to attract customers who are increasingly aware of the need for fuel-efficiency. This technology automatically detects when the engine is idling and shuts it off, then restarts when you want to start moving. The effect is almost imperceptible, and won’t slow you down. It’s a simple way to keep a bit of carbon out of the atmosphere, and a bit more cash in your pocket.
Your phone is increasingly the hub of your life, for better or worse, and the auto world is finally catching up. Programs like Toyota’s Touch Life and Ford’s AppLink integrate your smartphone into your driving experience, mirroring phone displays on the dashboard’s built-in touchscreen or allowing you to interact with an array of smartphone apps by way of voice commands and steering controls. And the trend is continuing to grow, with additional offerings from BMW and other brands.
Reports on the dangers of fiddling with knobs, dials or your cell while driving keep rolling in, and finally carmakers are responding by rolling out technology that allows you to control vehicle amenities by way of voice commands or gestures that control your mobile device, send and read text messages. You can also access your music, skipping tunes or picking out the perfect album. Best of all, you can interact with your built-in navigation software, requesting directions or changing routes.
It will be a few years before this particular innovation hits the road — but make no mistake: It’s coming. We’re talking about self-driving cars. Tech firms like Google and Continental Automotive Group have already been testing prototypes with impressive success, and we could see a street-legal self-driving car on U.S. roads by the end of the year. The process relies largely on technology we’ve had for years, such as parking assistance sensors and innovative crash-prevention programs.