Car Technology: Five Year Update

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It all began late Monday when I got the mail.  Among the bills was a missive from the dealer where I got my last car, saying trading it could result in a cheaper payment on a new one.  Of course, it didn’t say that all sorts of new car technology was going to be added to the new ones.  I really only expected, four model years later, to have a newer, low mileage version of the one I had.  Yes, I got the deal, a new car for less than the old one.

Why would I do this?

Well, I was going to keep my 2015.  I got it in 2014 and was all used to it.  But over the summer we went over it pretty well, and so did the garage I take it to, and it was definitely worn from five years in the human services business and North Country life.

The carpet was threadbare where I got in and out multiple times a day while working.  We got most of the mud and rocks out of the mats in front.  The suspension and wheel bearings were worn.  The summer tires needed replacing, and the winter tires were not studded–my error, but on dirt roads, ice hangs around longer so you really need studs.

I bought that car the day I got referred to a surgeon for cancer.  It’s been through a lot with me, taking me to radiation for a month over 60 miles of country roads.  But with 87,000 miles on it, and with needs, it was going to be expensive any minute now.

New car technology

The old car was smarter than I am already, with car technology of its day.  It had tire pressure monitoring, mileage computer, and plug-ins for the cell phone.  You could plug in an I-Pod and play from it on the radio.  I don’t own an I-anything but the idea was cool.

Scads of computers were all through it optimizing everything so it ran clean and cheap.  I loved the mileage it got, sometimes 34 miles per gallon over a tank.  (Thanks to country roads.)

This new car has much more car technology.  The model got a redesign while I wasn’t looking.  It’s bigger, it’s more streamlined, and it has more passenger room in back.  The lights are LED and boy are they bright!  Not only that, you can put them on automatic and a sensor turns on the headlights and running lights if it gets dark enough out.  And I know this has been around a while, but my new car also dims the brights automatically for oncoming cars.

OK, I can live with that.  It’s smart and I like the convenience.  It’s thanks to the cameras at the top of the windshield that watch the road with you.  When fully activated it will do the brights-dimming trick, let you know if you’re leaving the lane you’re in, and give the steering a gentle bias to get you back on track if you wander.  It can also, if you activate the braking interlock, slow you down if the guy ahead of you slows or stops, so you don’t hit him so hard (if at all).

This system will also work on cruise control, leaving a safe distance between you and the guy in front, and braking if you get too close without resetting the system.  I anticipate shutting this option off though.  After nearly 50 years of driving without a collision on the interstate, the only place I use cruise, I think I can control the car OK without that help.

The really crazy car technology

All very useful if you’re fiddling with the radio.  This one has a touch screen and buttons so you can get around either way.  You can also do some limited controlling from the steering wheel.  Once learned, the system might be less distracting than the old one.

You can get an app for your phone and plug it into the car, and Google Maps will appear on that touch screen.  What’s more, the Google voice will talk you through the directions as you go.  It’s just like the upscale navigation stuff my rich friends have, but it’s a system I’ve been using without a touch screen for a couple of years now.

If you like music you can get satellite radio for the price of a subscription.  Or, like me, load a bunch of tunes onto the phone and plug it in, and the radio will know them all.  For some reason this car still plays CDs as well, which is fine with me.  I have lots of CDs still, being old-fashioned.

More car technology

But that’s not all.  I have a full spare tire, and tire pressure monitoring that will tell you what pressure each tire has.  My old one only said that one of the tires was low, you got to figure it out–not that that was difficult.

This car has automated temperature control for the interior.  Set a temperature, switch it on and it will do whatever it takes to get you comfy, using the climate controls.  Or you can do it manually if you prefer.

The big surprise is a gas-saving move I’ve only experienced in a Toyota Prius I rented many years ago–the dies-at-the-stoplight engine.  There I was, at a stop light on the third of four lanes, surrounded by roaring vehicles, when my Prius died!  It was only napping and it woke up when I got off the line.  But my heart went clunk anyway.

Well, this one naps too if I sit too long at a light or stop sign.  Since I was never one to leave my car on and go do my shopping in the winter, this won’t be a burden to me, but I predict it won’t be popular in our area.

The last big improvement was in the back-up camera.  This one is wide-angle so you have some warning about people about to tear your rear end off in a parking lot.  It also gives you range and direction information.   My old camera was narrower of field, and gave range but not direction.

What I didn’t get

This being a low-end vehicle, I didn’t get the satellite service that lets you have WiFi in the car or start it with my smartphone.  There’s no blind spot assistance but I can see out of this one better than I could the last one.  Which is really really well.  I don’t know how people get around in some of these SUVs at all. And I didn’t get the system that monitors whether I’m falling asleep.  I didn’t get heated seats or a moonroof, either.  Oh well.

Overall, my newest stripper is way smarter than I am, smart enough to let me turn off some of these gadgets at need.  So for less money than the last car, and more up-to-date car technology, I guess this is a good thing.

What kind of gadgets does your car have, and what do you think of them?  Comments welcome!




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