In honor of National Superhero Day, we’re taking a look at auto tech that gives today’s drivers their very own superpowers – no need to slide into the nearest phonebooth for a costume change.
Feature #1: Cameras that offer superhuman vision
With stricter safety standards have come higher beltlines, reduced glass areas, and thicker pillars. All of which, ironically, obscure sight lines. How can drivers continue to stay safe behind the wheel? Rear camera mirrors and 360-degree cameras to the rescue.
With a rear camera mirror, you get a view to the rear without passengers, headrests, or C and D pillars obstructing your view, which is especially useful in crossovers and SUVs. A camera mounted on the rear of your car streams its feed to an LCD screen mounted in your rear-view mirror. It sounds futuristic, but it’s becoming increasingly available, especially in GM vehicles like the Cadillac CT6 and Chevy Traverse.
Conversely, a 360-degree camera utilizes four cameras mounted around the vehicle to create a composite image that allows you to see a bird’s-eye view of your vehicle as well as direct views of the ground directly next to your vehicle on all sides. This makes it a perfect parking solution for those of us who long for X-ray vision, and it’s a feature found on vehicles like the 2017 Nissan Rogue and the 2018 Jaguar E-PACE.
Feature #2: Trunks that provide telekinetic power
Attempting to open the trunk of your car with an armful of grocery bags, briefcases, and luggage isn’t easy – unless you have telekinesis. Many manufacturers have been introducing “hands-free” liftgates over the past few years to help drivers cope. Here, motion sensors located under the rear bumper allow you to activate the electric motors on the trunk of the liftgate to provide access without lifting a finger. (Feel free to utter your own “magic words” while activating it to impress the kids.) This feature has been around since 2010 and can be found on the 2019 Volvo XC40 as well as the 2017 Audi A8. For a bit of bonus superhero cred, the Cadillac CT6 even shines it’s own Bat Signal… er, Cadillac logo… on the ground to indicate where to wave your booted foot to activate the trunk.
Feature #3: Safety systems that protect and defend
Teen and new drivers tend to feel invincible – but it’s no secret that they are at an increased risk of accident. Many manufacturers have incorporated features to limit distance and even radio volume to avoid distraction. Some safety systems even go so far as to send out notifications whenever traction and stability control or the antilock braking system is activated.
Each automaker has a different name for its own safety system. GM refers to it as Teen Driver Technology. It debuted on 2016 models, allowing parents to set limits on top speed as well as noting when the driver engages in excessive tailgating – it even disables the radio until seatbelts are safely fastened. Volkswagen’s Car-Net app with “My Rules” allows distance and weather-related limits and can remind the driver to send an “I got here safe!” text. Ford offers great control for parents, allowing them to set maximum radio volume to 44% and send reminders to fill the tank before the driver returns the car.
Feature #4: Gesture Control that gives drivers the ability to move objects
The average dashboard and infotainment system in a new car is clogged with enough lights, dials, and meters to overwhelm Tony Stark. What’s worse is when controls are buried deep in digital menus, making for distracted, and downright dangerous, driving. Gesture Control empowers you to command a multitude of systems with a simple swipe of the hand without taking your eyes off the road.
BMW was first on the scene, introducing gesture control in 2015. More European automakers have followed suit. With a flick of your wrist, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf lets you regulate the volume, while the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake lets you open and close the sunroof with a wave. But it’s cars like the 2015 BMW 7 Series and 2017 BMW 5 Series that really embrace this technology, enabling you to fully interact with the infotainment system through a relatively intuitive series of hand gestures.
Automotive tech will continue to put more power in our hands. The question is: What superpower do you want your next car to give you?
– Mike Perkins
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