Does the thought of parallel parking make you sweat? Blind spot always gets you in trouble? Worry not, there’s some nifty car technology out there which can simplify your driving.
Thanks to advancements in technology and continuous competition between car manufacturers, the driving experience has become more sophisticated and easier than ever.
What's more, recent years have seen the rise of autonomous cars and certain features available in driverless cars are making their way into normal mainstream motors.
12. Cornering lights
Recommend models: Toyota Avensis, Skoda Rapid, BMW 5 Series and VW Golf Mk 7
Also known as: “Dynamic cornering lights” and “autonomous lighting”
Cornering lights come in handy when manoeuvring at low speed. The lights increase visibility when turning into a driveway or when parking. There are two types of cornering lights - static and dynamic.
Static lights are located on each side of the front bumper and only light up when you turn. Dynamic cornering lights are your car’s main highlight beam which swivels following the direction of the steering wheel.
11. Windscreen HUD
Recommended models: BMW 3 Series, Audi S6, MINI and Mercedes Benz S-Class
Also known as: “Head-up display”
The HUD’s goal is to keep drivers’ eyes on the road. The HUD shows the most important information from your dashboard by either projecting it directly to the windscreen, or to a small transparent glass module which sits at the top of your dash. Without too much hassle you can check your speed, the time, directions and other information depending on the car and what’s available.
Now that's a feature taken straight from the RAF!
10. Road sign assist
Recommended models: Ford S-Max, Toyota Auris and VW Golf Mk7
Also known as: “Traffic sign assist” and “traffic sign recognition”
With this neat feature you’ll never miss a road sign again. The system monitors and identifies traffic signs and displays them on your dashboard. Certain models, such as the Ford Focus, would even automatically slow down your car to match the speed limit.
This is especially handy when road visibility is limited.
9. Autonomous parking
Recommended models: Skoda Superb, Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, VW Tiguan and Mercedes Benz C-class
Also known as: "Parallel parking assist", "active parking assist" and "intelligent parking assist system"
Do you struggle to squeeze into tight parking spots? Do you find parallel parking daunting? You’re in luck, because many car manufacturers now offer automatic parking. The system uses parking sensors to scan space around the car. Then it takes control of the steering wheel and manoeuvres into place.
Note that some cars offer parallel parking only, and the autonomous system can’t be used for any other parking type. So you’ll still have to put the effort in those busy supermarket car parks.
8. Rain-sensing wipers
Recommended models: Skoda Superb, Ford Focus, Volvo XC60, BMW 3 Series and Audi A6
Also known as: “Automatic front wiper system”, “automatic windscreen wipers” and “auto rain sensors”
Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with inconsistent rain that changes its intensity. If light showers turn into heavy rain, these wipers can speed up to keep the windscreen clear. Also, if you get splashed, the wipers will react almost immediately and will maintain good visibility.
If you want one less distraction to worry about, then automatic wipers could be your next favourite car feature. Just don’t forget to switch them off when you go to the car wash.
7. Lane-keeping systems
Recommended models: Toyota Avensis, Honda Accord, Land Rover Range Rover and Audi A8
Also known as: “Lane departure alert”, “lane keeping assist”, “lane departure warning”, and “lane departure prevention”
The lane-keeping system is a standard safety feature available in most new cars. It assists the driver in keeping in lane and helps prevent motorway accidents. Lane-keeping systems use cameras to scan the road ahead, registering lane markings.
If the car goes off course, some systems will only provide a warning to the driver so that they can correct the direction. Other systems are autonomous, and will take control of the car if the driver ignores the initial warning.
6. Keyless access and start
Recommended models: Ford Mondeo and Citroën C4 Picasso
Also known as: "Keyless entry"
Each car key has an ID identifier which is unique to the car. As you approach the car, the doors or bootwill unlock automatically. Once you’re in the driver’s seat, starting up the engine is only a button away. Since the key doesn’t have to be in the ignition, remember where you keep it after you drive away.
5. Remote car access
Recommended models: Volkswagen e-up, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz C-class
Also known as: “Connected drive”, “Car-Net e-Remote”, “ConnectMe”, and “remote online services”
Can't remember where you’ve parked? Unsure if you’ve locked your car? Driving a hybrid and want to check how long it’s got left until it’s fully charged? With your smartphone, you can get this data and vehicle information. And also flash the headlights, lock or unlock the doors, and even sound the horn.
This provides a bundle of convenient features which can keep your mind at rest, wherever you are.
4. Hill assist
Recommended models: Audi A3, Volkswagen Touareg and Toyota RAV4
Also known as: “Auto Hold”, “hill-start control” and “hill-hold”
If you’ve ever stopped at a traffic light at the top of a steep road, you’ll know the brief moment of panic when you release the handbrake and move your foot to the accelerator. The car rolls back a little bit and you start thinking just how close you are from the driver behind you.
Hill-start systems detect the incline of the road, and when you remove your foot from the brake the car remains stationary, so that you can easily start accelerating. This one could really reduce your anxiety when stopping on hilly roads.
3. Automatic cruise control
Recommended models: Volkswagen Passat, Ford C-Max and Nissan Qashqai
Also known as: “Adaptive cruise control”, “radar cruise control” and “autonomous cruise control”
If you’re a frequent motorway commuter, you’d be familiar with cruise control and how convenient it can be over long distances. Car makers have taken this technology even further with adaptive cruise control.
It works in similar way to cruise control - you set a maximum speed, and the car will automatically slow down or accelerate depending on the traffic ahead. It keeps the car at a safe distance, and most new cars are equipped with additional anti-collision sensors which further increase safety.
2. Blind-spot assist
Recommended models: Mazda 3, Audi A4, Honda Accord and VW Jetta
Also known as: “Active blind-spot assist”, “blind spot monitoring” and “blind spot detection”
Checking your blind spot is one of the first things you learn during your driving lessons. So we know that sometimes mirrors aren’t enough to give you a realistic idea of what’s happening behind and around your car. Yet looking over your shoulder means you’re taking your eyes off what’s ahead.
Most cars nowadays have blind spot detection as standard. The system uses sensors to monitor traffic and alert the driver if a car is overtaking and enters their blind spot. The blind spot assist is active only when your indicators are on, so you only get warned when you intend to change lanes.
1. Anti-collision technology
Recommended models: Toyota Avensis, Mercedes-Benz C-class, BMW i3, and Volvo S60
Also known as: “ActiveAssist technology”, “pre-collision system” and “collision prevention assist”
Whether you’re a city driver or a motorway commuter, pre-collision tech will keep you safe. If someone in front of you suddenly stops and you don’t react immediately, sensors (or in some cases - cameras) will detect the imminent collision and the car will brake for you.
Certain autonomous anti-collision systems will first alarm the driver and then, if no action is taken, will slow down the car. If pulling out backwards from your driveway is a struggle, then this feature will also help you avoid bumping into things.