New Car Tech Features That Are Actually Cool

There’s a lot of new car technology that impedes the driving experience. These tech features don’t.

Exterior Cameras

Backup cameras are required on all passenger cars sold in the US after May 1st, 2018, which means you’ll be getting at least one camera whether you like it or not. It makes parking a whole lot easier, and maneuvering through tough spaces safer for everyone

Radar Cruise Control

Though normal cruise control is nice, radar-based adaptive systems are where it’s really at. The system senses whether a car is in front of you, and adjusts your car’s speed accordingly to maintain a set distance. It makes congested highway cruising a whole lot less stressful.

Lots of little innovations paved the way for the self-driving car future we've been promised. Take the radar cruise control systems that began to arrive in the early 2000s. Where older cruise control systems could maintain the car's speed, these new ones could also maintain a safe distance to the car in front without driver intervention, even if that car changes its speed. Mercedes-Benz was one of the first to debut this tech when Distronic launched in the 2000 S-Class. As the technology has advanced, it has gotten more ambitious. On many vehicles, the tech behind this same radar system is used in collision avoidance systems that warn a driver they're in danger, apply full brake power automatically, or both. Mercedes-Benz added the ability to steer just three years ago, and last year Tesla enabled its somewhat controversial Autopilot with fully autonomous control. Someday in the future, when your car really does all the driving, remember that it all started with a relatively small improvement in cruise control.

Magnetic Ride Control

Magnetic adaptive suspension uses a fluid that stiffens and softens based on the amount of electricity pulsing through it. It’s incredibly clever, and used on everything from Corvettes to Ferraris.

Multimatic DSSV Suspension

If adaptive suspension isn’t your thing, a company called Multimatic has a wonderful solution—its trick spool-valve damper setup is used on all sorts of race cars and performance minded road cars like the Ford GT, Camaro Z/28, and Colorado ZR2.

Dual-Clutch Transmissions

We know nothing can beat the feeling of shifting gears yourself. But if you have to get an automatic transmission, you can’t go wrong with a dual-clutch. Shifts are seamless and lightning quick, meaning faster lap times and less jerky movement.


Electronic Limited-Slip Differentials

Mechanical LSDs are great because they’re consistent, but if you want the most high-performance differential out there, you have to go electric. Depending on where you are in a corner, they can lock, unlock, and send power to a designated wheel that needs it most.

Torque/Brake Vectoring

This works by having the car brake the inside wheel while going through a turn, simulating a limited-slip differential. It allows for a better distribution of torque across the driven wheels, and therefore, more grip. Most of the time, it works seamlessly, meaning you won’t feel it happen at all. You’ll just see the results.

Blindspot Monitoring

A side-effect of driving big, long cars is a large, hard-to-see blindspot. That’s easily remedied by blindspot monitoring systems that can sense when a car or other object is in the very spot you can’t see. Clever, and extremely useful.

Anti-Collision Warning Systems

We don’t really see a downside to avoiding a crash when possible. Anti-collision systems like Subaru EyeSight can warn you if it thinks you’re about to hit something, and even apply the brakes for you.

Heated and Ventilated Seats

There’s no better feeling than hopping into a ventilated seat on a hot day. The same goes for feeling a seat heating up in the middle of winter. If you’ve experienced it before, it’s hard to go back.

Massaging Seats

Massaging seats are one step above climate-controlled seats, and use little motors scattered throughout to give you a customizable massage while driving. Like heating and cooling, once you experience it, you’ll want to have it in every car you drive.

Heated Steering Wheel

Like seats, it’s a pleasure to feel heat emanating from the steering wheel on a cold day. No more wearing gloves when you drive to work in the morning during sub-freezing temperatures.

<p>What happens in that first mile on a cold day? You're driving with your insulated mitts and might as well be letting reindeer steer your sled. But a heated wheel! Once you have one, you will find yourself using it at every opportunity. Even pickups offer heated wheels these days, and no one has noted a decline in productivity or rugged individualism. It's just so civilized. If anyone says you've gone soft, remind them that a lot of motorcycles have heated grips.&nbsp;<br><br><br><br><br> <span class="redactor-invisible-space" data-verified="redactor" data-redactor-tag="span" data-redactor-class="redactor-invisible-space"></span></p>

Head-Up Displays

Being able to see all of a car’s vital readouts plus navigation directions is a huge help in situations where you shouldn’t take your eyes off the road. Newer head-up displays are customizable, which means you can see what you want to see, and get rid of useless info.

The question was always, "How fast did you go?" The answer was often, "I don't know—I couldn't look down." A head-up display addresses that shortcoming, projecting pertinent data two meters ahead in a height-adjustable "eyebox." And HUDs are good for more than road speed information. Full color numerals and symbols relate speed limit, navigation symbols, driver-assistance information, and infotainment lists. Even traffic signs appear. Checking the HUD takes about half the time as compared to looking at the instrument panel, and it's engaging in a whole different way.